There`s An Art To Fine Chocolate: Business Is Sweet For Local Chocolatiers

ORLANDO, FL | Thursday, November 24, 2005

Scott Huckestein has created his own version of Candyland, surrounded by such dreamy sounding confections as Key Lime truffles and champagne ganache.

This world of fine chocolate has little in common with mass-produced candy bars lining the shelves of grocery stores. This is chocolate as art. Pedestrians passing his downtown Ann Arbor Schakolad Chocolate Factory shop at 110 E. Washington can see the molten chocolate ready for dipping and catch of glimpse of novelties such as a chocolate chess set through the large store window.

But it is the aroma of warm chocolate that swirls inside that lets customers know they are in the company of gourmet chocolate. Huckestein makes European-style chocolate - less sugar with a higher cocoa content. It also doesn`t contain the hydrogenated oils and preservatives found in assembly line chocolate, he said. "There`s a health value to chocolate. Which do you think people want to eat? Their broccoli or their chocolate?" The soft-spoken Huckestein from Schakolad took the unlikely leap from aircraft mechanic at Northwest Airlines to chocolatier two-and-a-half years ago. He wanted to leave the airline business and become part of the Ann Arbor business community.

"We searched for four years for the right business opportunity," he said. He owns the franchise along with his wife, Dianna. Baruch Schaked and his son Edgar started what became the Schakolad Chocolate Factory franchise in southern Florida in 1995.

Today, there are about 30 stores around the nation, but Huckstein owns the only Michigan franchise. The Schakolad name, which combines the Schaked family name with the German word for chocolate (schokolade) was serendipitous. All of the chocolate at Schakolad is hand-made on site with natural ingredients, Huckestein said. Its shelf life is three weeks, not the six months for mass-produced chocolate.

Fresh chocolate has a distinct sheen to it, Huckestein said, along with a crisp snap when it is broken. It also contains about 70 percent cocoa, vastly more than mass produced chocolate. At $28 a pound, Schakolad customers create their own boxes of chocolates from an assortment of truffles (a soft ganache center enrobed by a hard shell of chocolate), clusters (where the fruit or nut is mixed with the chocolate) and dipped fruit such as orange peel or pineapple.

While he makes 70 different types of truffles, raspberry is the best seller and one of Huckestein`s favorites. And while dark chocolate accounts for more than half of the sales, he also offers milk and white chocolate. Huckestein also does a brisk business in custom orders, from chocolate bars carrying corporate logos to weddings. He made a chocolate trophy, complete with chocolate stock cars for NASCAR. He`s made a chocolate Eiffel Tower, a chocolate farm scene and chocolate tennis racquets. One couple substituted a wedding cake with a chocolate fountain where liquid chocolate is used for dipping.

Fine chocolate is gaining respect, winning a place next to fine wine: Huckestein has done a number of chocolate and wine tastings at restaurants and wine festivals, he said. At the same time, the chocolate maker extols the virtues of dark chocolate and its role as an anti-oxidant.

"I eat dark chocolate all day long," Huckestein said.

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Schakolad Chocolate Factory
5966 Lake Hurst Dr.
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Phone: (407)248-6400
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