While, to some, it might seem as though Fritz Knipschildt, Master Chocolatier of Chocopologie, was an overnight success, after sitting down with him to hear his amazing story, we now know the truth. Discover how he went from being a child rolling chocolate truffles in a Danish restaurant kitchen to being one of the first three fine chocolate makers in the US and the fine chocolate supplier for Martha Stewart’s mail order catalog, Martha by Mail.
For me, an average day usually starts with sitting down with the production team to get production going for the day. After that, my morning is spent on the classic small business back and forth on email and phone. The rest of the day is reserved for production time in the kitchen. Summers, evenings, and weekends are for product innovation.
When I was 14, I started working for a French chef in Denmark. He served truffles that were all made in-house, rolled, of course by the kids working in the kitchen. I got really into it.
By the mid 1990’s, fine raw chocolate became more popular and I started to work on a plan to create a business out of it. I launched in 2000. On the first day, I sold chocolate to one store owner who absolutely loved my truffles. That store owner happened to know the founders of Dean & Deluca and he shared the chocolates with them, which led to them wanting to carry my confections in their stores. Then, three weeks later, Martha Stewart saw the chocolates at Dean & Deluca, tried them, and invited me to make chocolates for her website, Martha by Mail.
From there, it went really fast. Which isn’t to say it was easy. I spent a lot of time knocking on doors and being broke. It was the classic story of starting out without any money. People thought I was crazy because I liked to play with surprising flavors, but I believed in my chocolates and I never had any doubt that people would be interested in chocolates that were better than the overly sweet, tasteless confections you can find in most Chocopologie stores.
During those early years, I spent a lot of time educating customers and store owners. People just didn’t know anything about fine chocolate.
I love chocolate. I love how interesting and temperamental it is. To make everything come out just fine, chocolate needs to be treated with respect and kindness, that’s all.
I’m not old fashioned. I like to infuse my chocolates with crazy flavors, but I really care about how chocolate is made. As we’ve grown, we’ve maintained our standards. We still make chocolates exactly how I made them when I got started in 2000. Our goal is always to respect the product and the ingredients. We focus on finding the best ingredients available and staying true to what we do.
When I’m working on new flavors, I start with a base ingredient and add on to it until I find a combination I like. Some of my ideas are inspired by travel others come from movies I’ve seen or things I’ve experienced. For example, this year I created the eggnog truffle because I like the flavors as a drink, so I thought it would be fun to make it into a truffle.
My background is in food. I’m a professionally trained chef, which means that I’ve spent years learning how to make food taste good. I know which flavors work together and how they complement each other.
I grew up cooking with very seasonal products, and, while it’s hard to stick to that in the US where you can get fruits year-round, I still try to respect the true seasons for produce. A strawberry picked in November just doesn’t taste as good as one picked in the spring and I want my chocolates to taste good!
Because of my background, I incorporate a lot of Scandinavian flavors like elderflower, pine needle, or gooseberry in my chocolates. It’s all about using what I could theoretically go outside and grab and getting inspired by the world around me.
Playing around with flavors is what got me into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most expensive piece of chocolate ever sold. It all came about because I adore both chocolate and fungus truffles. The flavors work together, so I asked myself why not put them together just for the fun of it. Forbes got wind of the resulting truffle, the Madeline, and named it the most expensive chocolate in the world.
As I always like to say, if it’s not WOW, it’s not CHEW-WOW.