Dana Taylor Davenport, founder of Dilettante, is a chocolatier and pastry chef, whose culinary heritage traces back through three generations of family tradition. The story begins with his great uncle, Julius Rudolph Franzen, who was graced with great talent and determination to become a master confectioner and pastry chef.
Family journals indicate that in 1898 Julius Franzen left his home in Mediasch, Hungary, (now Romania) to begin a confectionary apprenticeship. He had remarkable success in this first period and he excelled in his craft. Next, he undertook a Journeyman-ship, which led to further work and studies in Vienna, Paris and Russia. Among the many accomplishments of his European career, he considered his greatest achievement was his service to the Imperial Court of Emperor Franz Josef I, Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, at a time when the Holy Roman Empire -- as it was called under the Habsburg Dynasty -- was at the peak of its ascendancy as the gastronomic capital of the western world.
At the turn of the century, the Franzens, like many of the day, responded to the allure of the New World. They planned an orderly migration. Julius’ stepfather went first, taking a job in Bull Run, Oregon, at the lumber mill owned by Dana’s great grandfather, Jeremiah Franklin Davenport. Next, Julius’ sister, Ottilia, and his mother, Anna, left their beloved Vienna, joining Julius en route from his most recent confectionary position in Moscow. They made that famous sea voyage to Ellis Island, and then boarded a train for the Pacific Northwest. These two brave women, with Julius Rudolph Franzen, Master Confectioner, made their exodus across the wide expanse of America, arriving in Portland, Oregon in 1910. Shortly thereafter, Dana’s grandfather Earl fell in love with Ottilia. They married in 1912, and these two enterprising families were enjoined.
A European master confectioner was a very welcome addition to the humble cultural scene of the still rather “wild” Northwest frontier. Julius quickly established a reputation and viable business. His new brother in law Earl was trained in engineering, but few career prospects had developed. So, in 1918, at Julius’ invitation, Earl began a new profession as a candy maker. Under the skillful tutelage of Julius Franzen, Grandpa Davenport became a Master Confectioner.
These events shaped the future destiny of these two creative families. Here, in the Pacific Northwest, half a world away from the Royal Habsburg Court, Earl Remington Davenport had the good fortune of becoming privy to the exquisite recipes of an Imperial European confectionery. This was also the beginning of the life-long collaboration of two gifted artisans, for even though they did not always pursue their craft in the same venue; they kept in close touch throughout their careers, and shared the best of what each created. Julius, accustomed to the urban elegance and refinement of Vienna, Paris and Budapest, was destined to take his craft to the more cosmopolitan community of the San Francisco area. Earl stayed in Portland to establish the Davenport Chocolate Company. Meier & Frank and Lipman & Wolf department stores were among his first customers.
In 1927, Earl received a very attractive offer for him and his family, as head confectioner at the Bur-bee candy company in Walla Walla, which was at the time, a thriving cultural and economic center. It was at Bur-bee Candy Company that the family tradition passed to the next generation. As soon as they were able, two of Earl’s sons, Irving and Jerome (Dana’s father) received their confectionary training under their father’s watchful eye.
Both Irving and Jerome ultimately chose other professions. But they formed the bridge --passing down the recipes and techniques to third generation confectioner, Dana Taylor Davenport. The old tattered notebooks surfaced again in the spring of 1976. In Seattle’s trendy Capital Hill district, the master formulas that once pleased the crowned head of Europe became the inspiration for the Dilettante Chocolate Company. Seattle enthusiastically embraced these European-style chocolates, pastries and coffees. Many friends and family supported the enterprise. Then 1985, Dana’s brother Brian Davenport, with degrees from Harvard and the University of Washington School of Business, joined the company as head of operations.
Inspired by the loves and dedication of their grandfather Earl, and their Great Uncle Julius, Dana and Brian have created one of the country’s premiere chocolate brands. Dilettante fine chocolates are now available throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico and parts of Asia. Under their guidance, the company continues to expand, adding new confectionery items every year. In 2005, they opened five, decadent chocolate-coffee-pastry shops called Dilettante Mocha Cafes. This led to the addition of a full-scale coffee roasting facility, to create the specialized coffee blends for their signature mocha beverages and chocolate-coated coffee beans.
To answer the demands of expansion, Dilettante joined the Seattle Gourmet Foods family in May of 2006. The synergies of this exciting new partnership with Kathy and David Taylor have produced boundless creative possibilities for Dilettante. In keeping with Dilettante’s legacy, Kathy and her family are committed to continue the tradition of creating premium confectionary products fit for the most discerning of palates.
In 2013 Dilettante reemerged as an independent business with Kathy in the leading role of President. With the help of Kathy’s insightful leadership and the dedication of her team of skilled confectioners, Dilettante continues to grow. Our robust product line includes high-quality chocolates, premium coffees, bakery items, and more available at retail locations throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Now, firmly grounded in the 21st Century, the Dilettante family legacy approaches its 115th year. With talent waiting in the wings, there is high anticipation that new creative successes are poised to emerge. Successes worthy of the early faith and vision of Grandpa Earl Davenport and Great Uncle Julius Franzen, Master Confectioner to the crowned heads of Europe.