Madame Chocolat’s Blog:
‘HER’STORY – My Path to a Sweet Chocolate Destiny
Happy New Year! What a way to start a new year! I am running around like a crazier woman than I normally would be with all that is involved in opening a new business. I’d like to begin by sharing some of my story with you and how my beloved Piece, Love & Chocolate began. Do forgive me! I won’t be so long winded in the future, but this “blog” thing takes a little gumption to get used to. Just let me write so I can get warmed up. If nothing else, this will give my kids something to laugh about when they are old a grey!
Honestly, I am cheating a smidge! I’m stealing bits and pieces from “Bodacious Bertha”, my business plan that tremendously helped me to focus this whole endeavor into a reality.
Okay, (knuckles cracked, deep breath) here goes…
You know, I am always amazed at how chocolate finds people… and this is what I believe really happens; chocolate finds you – you don’t find chocolate. I know of so many other chocolatiers who do not have years of a professional culinary history, training and experience in chocolate, but wake up one day with a passionate desire to share their love of chocolate with others.
These kindred chocolate souls take their passion and what skills they have, perhaps enhanced with culinary courses of some sort, and set out on their driven journeys to touch you with their craft. I know of chocolatiers that come from such rigid, left-brained other worlds that once were cartographers, accountants, lawyers and military officers but found in chocolate a more intuitive lifestyle that they have grown to embrace and love… Chocolate plays the tender strings of their hearts and they are emotionally thriving like they haven’t ever before.
My own story is not unlike these other chocolatiers; only I have always been a right-brained artist. Like my father, I am also and always have been a round peg trying to fit into a square hole. On my journey, I learned a lot about our square-holed world. I still don’t really fit in, but chocolate has allowed me to embrace and love where I am and who I have become. In a way, creating and sharing my chocolates is a socially acceptable way to make love to the world around me. For me, it is a sensual and deeply satisfying experience. Please, reserve your judgments until you get to know me a little better.
My beloved chocolate boutique – Piece, Love & Chocolate, a quaint little chocolate shop on the West End of Boulder’s historical Pearl Street, has chronological roots that can be traced back almost thirty years. I have often said that where my experiences and education have collided in an explosion of chocolate, destiny discovered me…
When I was thirteen years old, my father started a delivery only retail bakery based on my step mother Lu’s family recipes – it was called Aunt Lu’s Pastries. Up until that time, he was a contractor, but the economy was not kind to his trade at that time.
When we started, it was just the three of us. Dad handled the sales and delivery for this door-to-door bakery. Mom was the baker and the buyer. She baked from several ovens in our garage. When I wasn’t in school or attending to homework, I assisted in the kitchen, washed a whole lot of dishes, and regularly rode shotgun with Dad on his delivery routes or went shopping with Mom to get the best deal on milk or eggs.
Aunt Lu’s Pastries continued to grow and flourish for over twenty years. At one time, the company employed more than forty people, not only to fulfill many wholesale accounts, but also to sustain the bakery-to-office-door service and a small retail shop. We sold cookies, breads, sticky buns, rolls, cakes, specialty-order wedding cakes, and pies of every flavor, including Aunt Lu’s Chocolate Pecan Pie, my favorite. It was a lot of work and an amazing experience, even for an emotional teen-ager who would have rather spent time with her friends at the mall.
In 1988, I graduated with a degree in Advertising and Graphic Design and moved to Amsterdam in the Netherlands with my fiancé, Greggo (did I mention the 15 lb box of chocolates he courted me with?) and worked as an art director for a tiny studio off the Beethoveenstraat. Gerhardt Tiggeler, my boss, introduced me to really exquisite Belgian pralines from Antwerp, Belgium.
Every chance we got while living in Europe, Greggo and I would travel to Belgium, France, Italy, and Switzerland, making sure to visit as many patisseries, confisseries, and chocolatiers as possible. On one such memorable visit to Zurich, I found myself downtown on the Paradeplatz, just outside the original Sprunglii shop. I had already made my purchase and stood outside on the cobblestones in the crisp fall air to consume it: my very first Truffe du Jour, or “Truffle of the Day.” However, for this unassuming Colorado country girl, it was the Truffe de Ma Vie, the “Truffle of My Life”!
I gently held the small and delicate treasure made from fresh, un-pasteurized, full-fat cream and dunkel (dark) chocolate up to my nose, and the intoxicating smell wafted up into my brain, numbing me to all the busy, big-city surroundings.
My heartbeat quickened and my breathing slowed as saliva started to flow. I put the truffle to my lips, and with the slightest pressure of my teeth, I cracked the delicate double-dipped shell of perfectly tempered dark chocolate. A creamy, ethereal explosion of heavenly, smooth, rich ganache filled the confines of my mouth. My eyes rolled back into my head as that truffle danced a tango with my tongue and a deep, primal moan, barely audible, welled up from within me. A handsomely dressed Swiss businessman brushed by me, smiled, and commented, “Goot, ya?” Suddenly jolted back into that space and time, I merely blushed and nodded.
Ya! Really good chocolate is like that, and from that moment on, I knew it.
When we moved back to Colorado in 1992, I really tried to continue to work as a graphic designer, but I was always drawn to chocolate and pastry. I started I DO… Love Chocolate! Cake Company and began creating chocolate wedding and sculpted event cakes for friends, family and charity. People began calling me “Madame Chocolat”. I found this to be very rewarding as an artist, baker and a chocolate lover. As I could and when my life allowed for it, I backed up my experience with a formal culinary education with a “major” in chocolate.
That was some time ago…