Meet the Deli Detail: Chocolate Specialist

Meet the Deli Detail: We’re introducing you to our passionate team of experts. Today’s featured Deli crew members is our Chocolate Specialist

Meet the Deli’s Chocolate Specialist

When it comes to covetable careers, “chocolate specialist” is a title that’s hard to top.

The Deli’s chocolate specialist puts her obsession to work curating the chocolate corner at Zingerman’s Next Door Cafe. From keeping tabs on the most innovative artisan chocolate makers and chocolatiers to staying up on the latest cacao processing science and acting as the Deli’s resident chocolate tasting guide – she cultivates the Deli’s chocolate offerings.

“In a nutshell I buy, sell and taste chocolate – it doesn’t really get much better than that!” she said. “Zingerman’s Next Door Cafe has an evolving selection of over 100 different chocolate bars at any given time. I am most proud of the range of chocolate represented on the chocolate shelves. I feel it covers a wide range of options for any chocolate lover.”

Giving the Gift of Chocolate

A large part of the role of being a chocolate specialist is planning ahead for retail chocolate’s high holidays: the November and December holidays and Valentine’s Day. 

“Beautifully wrapped chocolate bars already look like a gift-wrapped item. You can gift a bar as is, or put it in a Zingerman’s bag and you’re good to go,” she said

During the holiday season, guests stream into Next Door Cafe’s chocolate corner to purchase chocolate bars for everything from hostess gifts to stocking stuffers. For Valentine’s Day, Next Door Cafe experiences a 2-3 day period where truffles are the big seller! From classic creamy ganache fillings with herbs, fruit and nuts to non-dairy vegan selections and unusual flavor combinations, Next Door’s truffle case selection is unrivaled and is packed with delicious options. Next Door’s truffle customers can even build custom truffle boxes which hold 1-36 truffles.

Curating a Chocolate Collection

To keep the Deli’s selection of chocolate bars varied, exciting and new, our chocolate specialist looks for new trends in flavors, techniques in making bars, new regions and producers of high-quality chocolate. 

“A new trend I am interested in are chocolate producers using locally-grown or region-specific flavors to mix into their inclusion bars. Or chocolate bars that are produced in the country the cacao beans are grown in,” she said.

While she has a special interest in seeking out new products, she knows stocking fan favorites is just as important. Some of the best selling chocolates at Zingerman’s Deli Next Door Cafe are the Zzang candy bars from Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory. Other favorites include Askinosie Chocolate’s collaboration bar with American Spoon that features Ecuadorian dark chocolate with Michigan-grown raspberries and Fruition Chocolate Works Browned Butter Milk Chocolate bar. 

When it comes to exotic chocolate, the Deli has something for everyone. Next Door’s chocolate corner recently expanded to include products from Hungary, Iceland and Singapore made with out-of-the-ordinary ingredients like matcha, barley and activated charcoal. The chocolate haven also stocks chocolate with varying percentages of cocoa. 

“I have been surprised by the interest in our 100% cocoa chocolate bars. These bars contain zero added sweeteners of any kind. Some people are looking for them because they are avoiding added sugar, and other people tell me 100% cocoa percentages have the chocolate flavor they like best! I have tried several 100% chocolate bars and I will say they are tasty, if somewhat of an acquired taste.

How to Taste Chocolate

The Deli’s chocolate specialist’s job description includes the important role of serving as a trusted tasting tour guide to Deli guests. From guiding a guest’s experience of a new chocolate flavor with the Deli’s “how to taste” guidelines, to recommending the perfection pairing to a chocolate bar, consider our chocolate specialist your sensory sensei. 

A classic pairing with chocolate that is hard to beat is chocolate and wine. Expanding on the idea of chocolate and [blank], I also enjoy pairing chocolate with bourbon or other spirits, mixed drinks, beer, mead with Blom Meadworks, fresh fruit like melons and berries or cheese,” she said. 

Above all, when tasting chocolate she recommends focusing on what’s important: the flavor, “less talking and more eating is never the wrong choice!” she said.