Passion is an important ingredient in many careers, but in the chocolate industry, it’s essential. From running a small artisanal shop to making candy for an international audience, patience and creativity are essential.
If the Valentine’s Day displays have gotten you in the mood to focus on your fondness for cocoa, check out how these chocolate lovers turned their passion into paying careers.
Chocolatier to the world
Thierry Muret, executive chef at Godiva, wasn’t thinking about chocolate when he was studying chemistry in college. But when his sister asked him to start a chocolate shop in Chicago, he went back to his native Belgium to learn confectionery. There, he “literally fell in love” with the process. In 1989, he joined Godiva, where he develops truffles and caramels for chocolate-lovers worldwide.
Muret’s tips: Muret “passion and patience” are the most important characteristics for a chocolate maker.
Prospective chocolatiers should be creative, too. Muret is constantly reinventing the contents of those heart-shaped boxes.
Godiva chocolatiers attend culinary school. Afterwards, they join Godiva as junior chefs.
“We coach them and acclimate them for at least six months. We take them on market tours in Asia and Europe. We want them to understand the brand internationally
The SoHo sweetshop owner
Kee Ling Tong spent years in the corporate world before opening her chocolate shop, Kee’s Chocolates at 80 Thompson St. She graduated from culinary school in 2000, and after a series of internships, spent five months in her apartment making chocolates “and my friends were my guinea pigs.” About six months after opening her store in 2002, her handmade chocolates really took off and the business was in the black.
Tong’s tips: If chocolate is your passion, follow your dream, she said, but not without getting the right training first. “If you have the financial means, definitely go to school.” The cost of culinary school varies, but a diploma from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, which takes about six months to a year, is just under $30,000. Individual classes are available.
Tong also suggested working in a patisserie or chocolate shop to learn the entire process.
The chocolate tasting host
Six years ago Dina Cheney was teaching a cooking class when she had an “a-ha” moment. She led the class through what she calls a “deep-tasting”, bringing out chocolate flavors for the students they had never fully experienced.
Now Cheney hosts chocolate tastings in Manhattan (past clients include Merrill Lynch and Columbia University). “Most people haven’t tasted chocolate in this way before and they love it. It’s like they are kids again,” Cheney said. She charges anywhere from $30 to $55 per person.
Cheney’s tips: Hosting chocolate tastings isn’t a full-time job. Cheney also writes for magazines and advises on specialty food shows. Her book, Tasting Club, discusses how to taste ingredients such as honey, cheese, and, of course, chocolate.
She recommended beginners diversify into other types of food tastings to help establish themselves in the business.
Roald Dahl once worked as a chocolate taster for Cadbury chocolates in England. The author of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” He and his schoolmates would receive boxes from the company, and the boys would fill out comment cards and send them back to Cadbury. These days, most testing is done in the stores. Customers are given a new chocolate to try and asked to give their imp