When I was in elementary school in Montana, like first or second grade, I made a rewarding discovery. I could snitch some of my dad Lonnie’s large, good-as-gold Hershey’s dark chocolate bars.
That was my unofficial introduction to the world of chocolate.
It was tricky. We had one of those typical kitchen countertops that had almost-to-the-ceiling cupboards. In other words, well out of my reach! One day I noticed on the top shelf in my father’s stash, the wrapping of a coveted Hershey’s bar was peeled back. And I was duly inspired.
With the help of a stepping stool, I clambered up to the countertop. From there, the top shelf was a pretty good reach, but reach it I did. And when I saw that the chocolate bar was only about one-third eaten, I broke off a chunk.
It was habit-forming. I figured out that if a chocolate bar was open and wasn’t already nearly gone I could break off one or two of the square rows without anybody noticing (I think). I’d do it when Dad was at his work on the county road crew, and my mother was asleep.
I never got caught. (Or at least they never let on that they knew I was doing it. And, just for the record, although my sweet younger sister watched the pilfering, I didn’t share!)
That became my go-to chocolate. Later, all through high school I had my favorite chocolate bars. And I was already very discerning and knew which ones were good chocolate, like those dark Hershey’s. (I still think they’re really good.)
For instance, once a friend invited me to his house and we had something from a chocolate sampler box and it was horribly sweet. This is what we refer to now in working with quality chocolate as “marketing chocolate” (meaning it’s really candy…and that’s not to knock candy bars—it’s what we’ve all grown up on in the U.S.—but they’re not the same as real gourmet chocolate.)
Still, my favorites all through my teen years were a certain kind of peanut butter cups, a salted nut roll, and a Cadbury Caramello chocolate bar from England.
So that’s where it all started for me in the world of chocolate. Now, more than three decades into the business, I know and educate and search out and create and sell the highest-quality chocolate that the demanding chocolatiers and dessert chefs will only work with. And, that a discerning chocolate lover craves.
The bar is set very high—top shelf, if you will, and well worth reaching for. But believe me, it isn’t candy.