First Person Singular: Christopher Blume, chocolatier

Sunday, December 19, 2010; W04

I remember my grandfather making these beautiful wreath-shaped breads around the holidays; my grandfather was a master baker. He got his master diploma from Germany; he came over in the 1950s. When my grandmother passed, my mother was cleaning out the attic, and she found my grandfather's apprentice books with all of his recipes from when he started at 15 years old. He numbered every single recipe from the beginning to the end, and toward the end, in big block letters, it said "AMERICA." Unfortunately, he never got to see me do any of this.

A chocolatier is basically a very specialized part of the pastry world. People think of Willy Wonka -- it's all just fun and games. And it definitely is fun. I can't deny that. [But] it's not that much fun all the time. Sometimes you're just really trying to get it done, and get it done on time so you can get it delivered to the shops. Especially now, when I'm taking care of my daughter, every hour matters.

I never felt that I was very artistic before, and I actually just started adding color about a year ago. Personally, I like my chocolates brown and dark [or] white. But I saw all these colors, and I was told by people at the store that people were really enjoying that, and so I thought, I can do that, too. It is artistic. And people, when they are buying the high-quality chocolate, there are some things they look for: They want it to look nice.

I bring my daughter in to turn on the chocolate melter the day before I start doing it or to go in quickly to do inventory, and she goes in there and she goes right to the box of chocolates. She was doing this before she could barely speak. She's become a little chocoholic. I was on the phone in the kitchen yesterday doing inventory, and I turn around and one of the workers in the kitchen had given her a huge chocolate chip cookie. I had just given her some bittersweet coins of chocolate. I am looking down, and there are chocolate chips from the cookie all over her face. At some point, she'll be able to see how it all works and do it with me.

It's so different here, the way things are in America vs. Europe. I think of my grandfather, who basically had to pick a trade at 15 and was starting his apprenticeship. Here, it just worked out that I was able to give this a try.

Interview by Robin Rose Parker

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