The Secret Is In The Small Batches
Chocolate and Valentine’s Day go hand in hand. But have you ever thought about what you’d do if you had access to scrumptious chocolate 365 days a year? Three area chocolatiers face this happy dilemma every day.
Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company is an award-winning business that originated in St. Louis. Before its opening in 1981, the founder spent years training with the finest candymakers across the United States. Some of the recipes used today were passed down from candymaker to candymaker, dating back to 1904.
Tyler Tschannen owns the Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate franchise at 1743 Clarkson Road in Chesterfield, as well as two stores in Illinois at Edwardsville and Shiloh, along with his brothers Eric and Austin.
While Tyler says he’s always been a fan of sweets, it was the quality of the chocolate that attracted him to this business.
“It’s a locally made product that supports what we believe in: supporting local,” he says. “It doesn’t hurt that I get to play in chocolate each day.”
He adds that their products are all-natural, fair-trade chocolates.
Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate offers corporate gifts. However, Tyler promises that given enough time, they can create other, unique products for any occasion. The brothers also plan a fresh offering of chocolate covered strawberries, made fresh daily in their stores.
One of the funniest, and most notable, stories someone told Tyler about chocolate was that it saved a marriage.
“A man would buy his wife a small box every few weeks and take them home for her,” he says. “He may, or may not, have forgotten their anniversary, and happened to walk in with a box of strawberries that day. He came up the next day, and let me know how lucky he was.”
Tyler declines to share how much chocolate he consumes.
“My brothers will read this, so no comment,” he says, with a grin.
“I think people associate chocolate with happy times from their childhood. It takes them back to when life was simple. That, plus it tastes delicious!”
Belief In Power Of Chocolate Authenticity
Conor VanBuskirk already owned a chocolate franchise in 2004 when the itch to create customized chocolates took hold. After securing recipe books and becoming obsessed with combining various flavors, Conor realized he had the makings of a new type of chocolate experience.
VB Chocolate Bar was launched in 2012. Now it’s a thriving business at 5326 Highway N in downtown Cottleville.
“We’re collaborating with local businesses to create special confections that represent both fun and creativity,” Conor says. “We’re sourcing our ingredients from all over, starting with things such as handpicked peaches from Hermans Farm Orchard, and ranging to a special whiskey from Michigan. And we’re serving our customers with high-quality chocolate, pastries, ice cream, cocktails and craft beer.”
Conor always enjoyed a Snickers or Reese’s but says he was only into chocolate on a basic level.
“Growing up in Elsah, Illinois, I didn’t have access to what is considered ‘good’ chocolate,” he says. “I ate way more ice cream because my dad managed a college cafeteria, and sometimes brought home 5-gallon containers of Prairie Farms ice cream. I would go nuts for ice cream!”
He explains chocolate wasn’t prevalent in his life until he met his wife, and her mother introduced him to it via her jobs at candy stores.
Everything at VB Chocolate Bar is handmade, right on-site.
“If it’s in a VB’s box or pint, I made it here in Cottleville and created the recipe, from our truffles, to our ice cream to our drinking chocolates, down to our marshmallows and pop tarts,” he says.
Because they are a small operation, they stay nimble and can experiment.
A new development Conor says he’s excited about is their bean to bar collaborations with Coma Coffee in Brentwood and the STL food blog We Eat Stuff.
“Chocolate appeals to so many people because it’s romantic, creative, delicious and in its infancy in the United States — just like craft beer and third wave coffee. Chocolate’s got so much room for creativity.”
Artisan Chocolate Grown Locally
Rick Jordan Chocolatier is St. Louis’ first chocolatier who was given the honor of Top 10 Chocolatier in North America by Dessert Professional magazine. He says the “alchemy of chocolate making” is part art, part science.
Rick’s bold and inventive flavor combinations are complemented by making artisan chocolates from the bean. He even grows his own cacao plants indoors.
“We control the entire process from roasting, grinding and refining the cacao beans to craft our beautiful house chocolate,” he says.
Many RJC customers indicate these St. Louis-based craft chocolates are better than the ones they’ve had and coveted in France. No doubt Rick incorporates his own French flair in his chocolates after training in Paris with a man he references as a “chocolate god.”
In Chesterfield, RJC products can be purchased at The Smokehouse Market. RJC items also are found at Frisella Nursery, Palm Health, Larder & Cupboard, Sugar Cubed, Socials Cafe, Solera and Cahokia Mounds. They are preservative-free.
Look for RJC’s new packaging, starting with the honey foam. Rick says the next on-deck item for relaunching will be the English toffee. RJC’s chocolate sculptures also keep people smiling.
“You have about 2 degrees of forgiveness with chocolate before you can’t do anything with it.” —Rick Jordan, Rick Jordan Chocolatier owner