Students flocked around the “Tschudin Chocolates” table at the WSA Fair last week, which showcased owner Rob Tschudin’s ability to create delicious desserts. We sat down with Middletown’s own Willy Wonka to learn more about the art (or science) of chocolate making.
Argus: Why did you decide to open a chocolate shop in Middletown?
Rob Tschudin: I had no reason for opening a chocolate shop. I was working as a pastry chef, and when things started getting slow after Christmas, I decided to take a course in chocolate. I took the class, went and bought chocolate, but I couldn’t get anything to work. I suspected I had no idea what I was doing. So I took up an apprenticeship with the old shop owner here [and] three weeks later the owner offered me the opportunity to take over the shop. At first I wasn’t sure [if I was going to take over], but I decided it was put up or shut up time.
Argus: So, making chocolate is not as easy as one might think?
RT: Well, I’m much more comfortable than when I first started—I’m learning the art. It’s like firefighting. Your first time out on the job you learn to connect the hose. Your next step is lining to the second floor, and then cutting a hole in the roof. You gain experience and knowledge as you grow more comfortable with the subject matter.
Argus: When you’re not making chocolate, what do you do with your time?
RT: I have a split day—I’m working at my law practice while I get the chocolate shop going. Half of my time is at the practice, the other half at the shop. I’m also a firefighter—I work and teach classes.
Argus: How do you find time to do all of this?
RT: For me, it’s all about schedule juggling. I juggle things and try not to miss deadlines. I have a huge to-do list for life, law and shop.
Argus: How has business been so far?
RT: My main priority when we first opened was good quality chocolate. I knew our reputation would be made or broken [by this]. People like our quality, and we have a lot of repeat customers. I like interaction with people. It’s not just the chocolate but also the experience of being here. When we first opened, some skateboarders came and sat down at these tables, and I didn’t shoo them away. I invited them in and built them a chocolate skateboard.
Argus: What are your plans for the future?
RT: My primary goal is to build on the support we’ve been receiving. I want to develop our Wesleyan relationship. I already have a Wesleyan student working for me—Diana Hubbell [’10].
Hubbell: What is your favorite chocolate?
RT: I love the chocolate-dipped marshmallows. We make our own marshmallows using honey, and they’re dipped in either French milk chocolate or dark chocolate. I also like the Boriqua Bars, which are filled with marshmallow, caramel (which is also home-made), candied orange peel and fresh-roasted almonds. And Guerilla Bars (which are a mixture of everything that is leftover) are perfect for college students. There are 16 squares for $15 dollars, so everyone can pitch in a dollar and buy them together.
Hubbell: Anything in particular you want kids from Wes to know?
RT: If you want to learn about science, come down here. You can learn about the chemistry and physics of chocolate and sugar—for example, there are six different crystal stages for sugar. You have to achieve a certain stage to make it possible for chocolate to stay dry and not liquefy until it hits your mouth. Cocoa butter helps drive that equation.
Hubbell: Maybe sometime in the future you could be a Visiting Professor of Science for Wes, and teach a class on “The Chemistry of Chocolate”?
RT: Sure, why not?