Chef Anne Shaeffer may have grown up in what she calls the “candy Mecca of the world” — Chicago — but that doesn’t mean she didn’t take a few detours before becoming a chocolatier.
In fact, she had two careers before opening Sulpice Chocolat, one as an artist and the other in finance.
“Completely opposite sides of the spectrum, but when you think about it, they sort of work well together,” says Shaeffer. “It was my strong background in art that gave me the idea to make beautiful hand-painted chocolate bars and it was my career in finance that helped me realize that achieving my dreams could be possible.”
When she decided to pursue her dream, she enrolled at the French Pastry School. After graduating, she had a stint at Chicago’s very own Cakegirls. Eventually she wanted to branch on her own though, and she and her now-husband Bill Shaeffer founded Chicago-based artisan chocolate house, Sulpice Chocolat.
They claim to be the first to specialize in designer, painted chocolate bars. Each one is individually decorated with their signature splatter-painted or marbleized designs.
But the chocolate bars aren’t just fun look at. They come in a variety of exotic flavors, such as the epice-cinnamon, chipotle and cayenne pepper dark chocolate bar, and the noisette-hazelnut milk chocolate bar.
“The flavors pop in your mouth creating a total sensory explosion that changes depending on where the chocolate and or spices hits your tongue as you eat it,” Anne says.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?
I would probably choose the Sulpice Chocolat Gingembre. The combination of dark chocolate, ginger and lemon would pair perfectly with all the coconut, fish and island fruit that I’d probably end up eating.
What’s the last cool thing you saw online?
An article about the Himalayan honey trade. These honey hunters not only battle the largest bees in the world, up to 1.2 inches in length, but also have to climb Mt. Everest in order to harvest the honey.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an astronaut. I was going to be the one to meet the first alien. A lot has changed since them, but I still love to gaze at the stars.
What issues concern you most about the confectionery industry and why?
The rising costs of raw materials.
What’s the last book you read?
A Feast for Crows. It’s the fourth book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, which HBO based its seriesA Game of Thrones on.
What is your pet peeve?
We have to keep our office really cool so that our chocolate can be stored at the optimal temperature.
If given the chance to choose anyone, whom would you like to collaborate with?
I would have to say Bethenny Frankel. She seems to know her stuff when it comes to the food and beverage world.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Someone told me that things always take longer than you realize.
What excites you most about your job?
I get to create fun and exciting chocolate flavor profiles. On a more personal note, I get to work with my best friend and husband. We truly are a love story written in chocolate.