Chocolatier Ginger Elizabeth Hahn ’03, Julia Child’s Guidance
CIA Alumni Bio
From an early age, Ginger Elizabeth Hahn was curious about cooking but it was a summer camp at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone that really struck a cord. “I was 16 and it was a week-long program,” recalls Ginger, chef/owner of Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates in Sacramento and San Francisco, CA. “I got to stay on campus and it was an amazing experience. I knew from the first day there that I wanted to go to the CIA.”
After graduating from Santa Barbara City College with a certificate in Hotel, Restaurant, and Culinary Arts, Ginger joined the Women’s Santa Barbara Culinary Guild and met Julia Child. “She gave me advice on scholarships, especially the one offered by the International Association of Culinary Professionals,” says Ginger. “It took me three years but I finally got the scholarship and that enabled me to go to the CIA in Hyde Park, NY.”
“I knew the CIA was the best. I pinched myself every day thinking I must be dreaming,” Ginger remembers. “The campus had great energy. The chef-instructors brought years of experience to the classrooms and kitchens. I wanted to achieve pastry excellence and the CIA gave me the skills to reach for my goal.”
Training with the Best
After graduation, Ginger apprenticed under World Pastry Cup gold medalist En-Ming Hsu ’92 at the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago. “It was an amazing, intense learning experience. We would test dishes 10, 15, even 20 times before they made it onto the menu,” says Ginger. “Without the CIA I wouldn’t have worked with En-Ming. My degree helped me get my foot in the door at great establishments where I continued to learn and grow as a chef.”
A Business of her Own
In 2005, Ginger opened the wholesale chocolate company Couture Chocolates by Ginger Elizabeth. The new venture allowed her to showcase the skills she acquired, while continuing to explore new ideas. In 2008, she opening her first retail location in Sacramento under the company’s new name, Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates. A true family affair, Ginger’s husband Tom handles finance, ordering, technology, and permitting. Business had grown steadily ever year and in February 2018, Ginger opened her second chocolate boutique in San Francisco.
Ginger is committed to purchasing her chocolate from producers who pay at or above fair trade prices to growers and invest in improving farming communities. “We make our own jam in house using fruit from local sustainable farms, use organic dairy products whenever possible, and about 90% of our packaging is made in the U.S.,” says Ginger. She also makes sure her employees are treated fairly and receive health care benefits.
“You have to work really hard in the industry, always striving for perfection, making good hiring and managing decisions, and being fair with customers and purveyors. It’s hard owning your own business, but absolutely worth it,” Ginger says.
Ginger Elizabeth Hahn majored in baking and pastry arts at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. She is the owner and chocolatier at Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates in Sacramento and San Francisco, CA.