Dude, Sweet Chocolate Needs Your Vote to Win Martha Stewart's American Made Contest

American Made is a Martha Stewart project that spotlights local purveyors, crafters and bakers and, in the end, one of those small business owners will receive $10,000. The selection process isn't what you might think though: The American Made group actually traveled around the country visiting many of these spots, including Oak Cliff's Dude, Sweet Chocolate.

"A while back they just walked into the store one day," says Katherine Clapner, owner of Dude, Sweet Chocolate. "I actually wasn't even here that day, but they left a card and called me back a few weeks later, said they liked my stuff and asked if we wanted to apply."

Clapner got her start in the pastry business at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and then traveled to London for an externship at the Savoy, followed by the Windsor in New Orleans. Eventually the North Texas native landed a position as executive pastry chef at Stephan Pyles. In 2009 she opened her little shop of dark chocolate in the Bishop Arts District, and the adventures began.

Dude, Sweet concocts strictly dark-chocolate goods. Crack-in-a-Box has been a long-running fan favorite, although her chocolate almond salumi has recently (and surprisingly to Clapner) given it a run for its money. She and her crew work outside the norm with their creations and focus on quality. Case in point: they forgo florescent pink bows and sparkles for packaging and instead use a bare bones brown-bag approach.

Running a small business is tough though. So even just the national recognition is great for Dude.

Public voting for six category winners lasts through September 13. That's the first step and the one that Clapner needs your help with. After that, winners from the six categories (garden, style, crafts, design, food and technology) will be whittled down to one grand-prize winner. The grand-prize winner gets $10,000 cash plus a bunch of other "good things" from Martha and company.

To vote, yes, you have to register, but it's quick and painless and you don't have to sign over your car.

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