Big Kyle’s Little Truffles is fusing the passion and talent of a young chef with autism with the entrepreneurial spirit of a supportive family. The tasty, whimsical treats are handmade, beautifully decorated, and artfully packaged, making for perfect gifts.
“Everybody is motivated by something, typical people and people on the spectrum,” says Valerie Mapp Palma, mother of Kyle Palma, the namesake confectioner behind the truffles. “We all have hidden talents. Hone in on that something special you can all work on and you will get a lot more joy.”
Kyle’s treats have become a huge hit. Valerie says sales were strong for Christmas and Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day orders are steadily arriving. Kyle has donated truffles to essential workers at Montefiore Medical Center and to his local firehouse in the Bronx. It’s not just tasting them that has become all the rage—Emily Hirst, Assistant Director at AHRC NYC’S Camp Anne, said that Kyle hosted a cooking class last summer during virtual camping activities. “It was a real treat for everyone,” Emily says.
A Life in the Kitchen
Valerie says Kyle has always been intrigued by cooking. “It started with Kyle following his dad [Wayne Palma] who is the cook of the house,” she explained. “Kyle would give him supplies, the cutting board, things like that.” His earliest experience with creating original flavors came from his love of steak.
“We used to call him the Steak Man,” Valerie laughs. “He used to mix seasonings and make his own to try steak with. They were pretty good!”
Valerie worked in the hospitality and entertainment industry, which required her to frequently travel. Kyle has always loved accompanying his mom on trips, especially “anywhere with a pool or a beach,” as Valerie says. “He is a self-taught swimmer.” Traveling opened all of Kyle, further refining his sense of taste.
Kyle continued to exhibit enthusiasm in the kitchen as he grew. His high school offered an opportunity to work on his skills and continued develop culinary interests, especially baking. His work in the kitchen allows him to broadly apply his knowledge.
“We’re incorporating math through measuring, counting and, mixing,” Valerie explains. “Packing his boxes and putting the paper cups with truffles inside the slots is good for his hand-eye coordination. Sometimes Kyle physically writes out his own thank-you notes while other times we type them.”
The origin of Big Kyle’s Little Truffles was a serendipitous culmination of Kyle’s culinary interests. Valerie attended a luncheon where an attendee mentioned creating non-baked pastries.
“Every holiday we’d bake together and give cookies or brownies to his classmates and teachers,” Valerie says. “I found a truffle recipe on Pinterest and thought it would be easy to make. They weren’t as pretty the first times we made them, but they were delicious.”
A little more trial and error and Little Truffles were off and running. Valerie came up with the endeavor’s name as a play on Kyle’s noticeable size. “He is 6’5”, 330 pounds, and absolutely a gentle giant,” Valerie says.
Making truffles and other food together has allowed Kyle and his parents to bond despite how autism affects Kyle’s speech. “One of the reasons we did this is because Kyle is considered nonverbal,” Valerie explains. “Cooking is one of the ways we can communicate and spend time together. Whatever that thing is they like to do, try to join in on it.”
Valerie and Wayne hope that Big Kyle’s Little Truffles can provide for the namesake chef for years to come. “We hope it can be a business one day that can take care of him for the rest of life. There are so many talented skilled kids on the spectrum and we want to employ them too.”