[REMEMBER] Joseph Schmidt Confections
When Joseph Schmidt talks about his chocolate, he says with pride “It’s what I was born to do”. Seventeen years ago, he started experimenting with chocolate in his kitchen and today his small factory in San Francisco’s Mission District produces over 200,000 chocolate Easter bunnies and 10 million chocolate truffles a year.
Every one of his creations is a work of art – glistening chocolate, beautifully decorated and packaged in equally beautiful containers. Tender loving care is evident everywhere and Schmidt says it’s the ingredient that makes the chocolates so beautiful.
Schmidt’s signature product is the egg-shaped truffle, but his real genius is in shaping chocolate in ways mere mortals would never dream of. One of his newest creations is the chocolate bowl. Glistening white chocolate layered inside dark, airbrushed with heart-shaped designs, they look more like fine porcelain than something edible. When I visited in December 1999, the bowls were for sale only in the San Francisco retail store, but they were such a popular item that they will likely make their way into other retail outlets soon.
I was surprised to find that such beautiful creations are produced in a very industrial-looking setting (albeit a clean one). The building is a former bread bakery and its exterior gives no hint at the magic that goes on inside. Most of the factory space is used to store mountains of Belgian chocolate and cartons of finished products. Huge mixers stir fillings that boil and bubble away in giant vats. Nearby, chocolate is heated and stirred to just the perfect temperature. Joseph says heating process is critical to the quality of the end product, and the reason why Schmidt chocolates are so shiny and delicious.
There is only one really big piece of equipment in the factory – a machine that spits out truffles dozens at a time. Just down the conveyor belt, production line workers process the chocolates in a scene that looks like it came right out of the classic I Love Lucy episode. The chocolates are all hand-decorated and the slightest flaw is reason for rejection.
The end result is chocolates that are almost irresistible, at least to this chocoholic. Joseph says when people first see his rather large truffles, they often comment that they’re too large, but after one bite they find them so delicious that they ask for three more. In fact, the only thing better than the beauty of these confections is their taste. When someone comments that the chocolates are too beautiful to eat, Joseph responds: “Don’t be afraid” and to that I add but one word “enjoy!”
Schmidt has only one retail store, the same one he started at 3489 16th Street in San Francisco in 1983. The rest of his creations are sold through high end department stores such as Macy’s and Nieman-Marcus.
Joseph Schmidt Confections was closed on June 30th, 2008. You can read what people say about this event on Yelp