I have the opportunity to travel often to Madison, WI for work. Madison is a great town for many reasons. An outstanding university, thriving farm to fork movement, epic farmers market and now, much to my wonder, a place to find exquisite, unique hand-crafted chocolates.
Gail Ambrosius is a master chocolatier and her shop on Atwood Avenue is pure pleasure to a chocaholic like me. Nestled in a small building, the tiny shop has a display of her luxuriant truffles, decadent hot chocolate for sampling, and a big glass window into the kitchen that gives you an opportunity to watch the beautiful truffles and other chocolate creations being made.
On a recent trip, I visited Gail to talk with her about her passion for chocolate making.
HH: So, how did you become interested in chocolate?
GA: I loved spending time with my mom in the kitchen. With a lot of kids to raise, that was one of the few places I could spend time with her. At 17, I went on a school French trip to Paris and was introduced to, and fell in love with, French chocolatiers. That did it for me.
HH: How did you get started with your business.
GA: I started out about 10 years ago with an $18,000 loan and as a sole proprietor. I did everything. Over time, I hired staff to help me and now I have 8 people I employ to supply this store and some of the grocery store chains on the west side of Madison that carry my products.
HH: You are a big believer in knowing where the chocolate you use comes from. What do you do to ensure the high quality of your ingredients?
GA: I buy chocolate from Venezuela, Columbia and Ecuador and I make it a point to visit the farms that grow and supply me my chocolate. That way, I can honestly tell my customers that the chocolate is grown sustainably and is fair trade. It’s a lot of work, but there is a lot of satisfaction too.
HH: Your truffles are amazing. They come in all sorts of exotic flavors including special seasonal varieties. Where do you get your inspiration?
GA: I’m always thinking about what to pair with which chocolate. The inspiration for my tea inspired chocolates came from a trip to San Francisco with a friend. We visited Chinatown and did a tea tasting. I was struck by the delicacy and differences in each of the teas and was inspired to come back and make truffles that reflect the sumptuousness of different tea flavors.
HH: How many truffles do you make a day?
GA: On a regular day, we make about 1,000. For the holidays, it’s about 10,000. With Easter, we started making all our chocolate bunnies too!
HH: What’s next for you?
GA: I’m looking into getting a bigger space for my operation, but it has to have the great combo of an appealing storefront and enough space for the production part. I want to take my time to find the right spot. In the meantime, I’m still experimenting and having a great time making my product.
HH: And we, the chocolate lovers of the world, are profoundly grateful you are sharing your artistry with us!
Gail’s chocolates can be ordered online. If you’re in Madison, go visit her store at 2086 Atwood Avenue, Madison, WI 53704.