HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) — A Midstate restaurant is taking the phrase “playing with your food” to a whole new level.
The Chocolatier at Hersheypark, the newest dining establishment in Hershey, is part of Hersheypark’s newest expansion: Chocolatetown. The expansion opened in the summer of 2020, but the restaurant, along with The Sweeterie and Milton’s Ice Cream Parlor opened in 2021.
The restaurant features fun nods to Hersheypark’s past, as well as its present. This includes a series of three fiber optic lights falling from the ceiling, which are shaped as the tracks of three Hersheypark coasters: Fahrenheit, Candymonium, and the former Wildcat.
Out on the patio, you will see pieces of Hersheypark ride history, such as the “C” from the former Flying Falcon ride, and a gondola from the Giant Wheel, which ran at the park from 1973-2004.
The menu is all about featuring classic family recipes with a fun spin and hints of chocolate. Executive Chef Rick Larsen has been with the restaurant since its opening. Larsen has worked as Chef de Cuisine at Major League Baseball stadiums and was also a sous chef to Bobby Flay in 2012 on Iron Chef America.
Larsen says that the inspiration for the dishes comes from many different areas of the company, as well as the region.
“The inspiration behind our menu is a blend of fun, family-friendly, and recognizable dishes that also add a few twists throughout the menu. We take cues from company history, utilize hints of chocolate, and pay tribute to our founder, Milton Hershey,” Larsen said.
The restaurant prides itself on using as many Pennsylvania-based ingredients as possible, and even featuring select beers and other drinks from the state.
“We use the best ingredients that Pennsylvania has to offer, such as dairy, produce, and proteins, or even select beers and spirits found on our fantastic beverage menu!” Larsen said.
Another example, the restaurant states, would be the ice cream featured on the desserts. The ice cream is made in-house at Milton’s Ice Cream Parlor, which is located downstairs from the restaurant and uses 100% local dairy products.
One of The Chocolatier’s goals is bringing fun to the table, and one of the ways the restaurant does that is by taking classic dishes, such as salmon or filet mignon, and incorporating chocolate or candy into them. Larsen says that trying to see what works with chocolate is a collaborative and team effort.
“Adding chocolate to various dishes is a creatively challenging process that involves our whole culinary team. We take all aspects of chocolate, from cacao nibs to cocoa powder to even fully finished chocolate bars, and incorporate them where they fit best. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by a great team who have solid backgrounds, palates, and creative skills that really help drive this process,” Larsen noted.
The restaurant tries to keep a core set of dishes on the menu all year, but Larsen says they like to change it with the seasons. This way, each dish can really capture the essence of what season the dish is representing, all while keeping a fun, chocolate theme alive.
“Our core menu changes 3-4 times a year. Each change captures different seasonal items and themes while still maintaining our classic and one-of-a-kind items, such as our Reese’s TAKE5 Chicken Sandwich, which is something you can only find at The Chocolatier,” Larsen said.
The Chocolatier features many dishes, such as mac and cheese with Hershey’s Chocolate Barbecue Sauce and Cacao Nib Gremolata, and one of Chef Larsen’s favorites, the cocoa-dusted short ribs, which includes Hershey’s cocoa-dusted baby carrots & chocolate porter reduction, topped with cacao nib gremolata.
But, the other favorite of Larsen’s has a little more of a local meaning.
“The other favorite would have to be our Chicken and Waffles. This is a nod to one of Milton Hershey’s favorite Pa. Dutch Meals, although we give it a more modern spin and presentation. One more fun fact is that this dish was developed alongside the students of the culinary arts program at The Milton Hershey School, which really helps highlight our commitment to the legacy of Mr. Hershey,” Larsen said.
Next time you visit Hersheypark, take some time at the Chocolatier. It’s truly an experience that allows guests to immerse themselves in all things Hershey.