Enamored With All Things Chocolate? Consider Being A Chocolatier

The majority of us appreciate a bite of chocolate, but others are a bit obsessed with the treat made from cocoa beans. Do you track the latest innovations, such as the 2017 introduction of ruby chocolate, have stockpiles of fine chocolate in your kitchen, or find yourself on a first-name basis at the local specialty shop? If you excitedly answered "yes" to any of those questions, then you might want to pursue a job as a professional chocolatier (if you need a new career path, of course).

A chocolatier is a professional who makes and sells chocolate creations. Responsibilities include creating and developing recipes as well as selling the final product, so it takes more than just loving a bite of chocolate candy. "While a passion for chocolate is essential, success as a chocolatier requires a combination of creativity and dedication to mastering the craft," Nicole Patel, Master Chocolatier and Founder of Delysia Chocolatier located in Austin, Texas, told Tasting Table. "It involves a deep understanding of ingredients, flavor combinations, and customer preferences," she explained.

How to become an expert chocolatier

If you want to become a chocolatier by trade, don't expect to just walk in and apply on the spot at your favorite chocolate shop, especially if it's one of the top-tier chocolatiers in the U.S. It usually takes some sort of training, either in the form of a culinary arts degree or an education at a specialized school — such as The Chocolate Lab at the Institute of Culinary Education in Los Angeles and New York City. Or, you can explore a self-taught route in which you spend lots of time getting to know all facets of chocolate. 

"Practical experience is crucial, and many chocolatiers undergo apprenticeships or work in established chocolate shops," Nicole Patel explained. "Qualifications may include a culinary degree, specialized courses in chocolate making, and a strong understanding of flavor profiles and confectionery techniques." That doesn't mean you have to attend culinary school to make it happen if you can teach yourself, though. 

For example, Patel doesn't have formal culinary training but holds a Master of Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University instead. "I taught myself, through research and experimentation, how to handcraft chocolates," she said. "After 18 months of making chocolates for family gatherings, work potlucks, and neighborhood friends, I decided to turn my hobby into an award-winning business." That means it will still take serious dedication if you prefer to skirt a formal education.

A day in the life of a chocolatier

For a chocolatier, the office is the shop and its kitchen, but that doesn't mean it's all about taste-testing chocolate prototypes all day. "The day-to-day job of being a chocolatier involves a combination of creativity, precision, and business management," Nicole Patel said. For her, this means a mix of experimenting with flavors, ingredients, and textures while also preparing orders. "This may include creating new recipes, tempering chocolate, molding shapes, and decorating the final products," she explained.

But creation and experimentation are only part of the job, because there's also the business operations, especially if you work for yourself. "I'm often handling business aspects such as managing inventory, marketing, customer interactions, and hosting tastings," Patel said. In fact, those aspects of the trade, such as dealing with social media and marketing, can be as challenging as working with delicate chocolate. "Balancing creativity with the business operations aspects of entrepreneurship can be demanding while at the same time very fulfilling, she explained. "Additionally, the business side of being a chocolatier, including marketing and managing finances, is often underestimated." 

But all of that hard work pays off when she sees customers enjoy her creations and she gets the chance to experiment with new flavors. Are you intrigued by Patel's insight into the career of a chocolatier? Consider reviewing famed chocolatier Jacques Torres' chocolate tips and tricks and diving into these chocolate-tasting tips while you contemplate a career change.