There are few things as beloved as chocolate--it can change moods, please crowds, make an otherwise forgettable event suddenly memorable. It's magical. And it can concern us sometimes, as with recent local chocolatiers selling operations to the big boys.
Among the folks still doing it locally--and well--is Chuck Siegel of Charles Chocolates. Talk about a community business: he, in fact, is currently using a kitchen at the JCC to make his product ().
A few weeks ago, we checked out Charles Chocolates' mocha java bar --and we liked it (and we want another one. Not to mention some of his other products.).
The man behind the brand got in touch with us shortly thereafter, both to give some positive feedback--but more so to set us straight on a few things related to the chocolate business, namely the straight dope on chocolate percentage versus intensity. And it's interesting stuff (more on this below as well).
We saw this as an excellent opportunity to open a dialogue with a local chocolatier, and Mr. Siegel agreed to be the subject of an SFist interview. Read on for the story behind the man with what we think must be the coolest job in town. And maybe have something to snack on handy--because, boy, this made us salivate.
What is your history in the chocolate industry? The impetus for your start as a chocolate maker?
I was trying to impress a girl I was dating in college. She loved chocolate and complained that there was no good chocolate in upstate New York, the quality of the chocolates that were available there at the time were mediocre at best.
I moved to San Francisco in June of 1986. Shortly after arriving, I was asked to make something chocolate for a potluck holiday party here in town. I ended up making what would become the first product offered by by my first chocoate company, Attivo Confections. It was a large Granny Smith apple coated with a soft cream caramel that was then dipped in bittersweet chocolate and coated with macadamia nut pieces.
I sold Attivo after 7 years, and spent time working at several start-ups around the Bay Area. I would occasionally work as a consultant to other chocolate companies, keeping my toes in those waters as well. A little more than a year ago, I started developing the line of chocolates that became Charles Chocolates. After about 6 months of development work, and many tastings with friends and family, I started selling my new products.