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Q&A with Lindt Master Chocolatier, Ann Czaja plus Lindt Giveaway (ends 2/22/13)

LINDOR Truffle

I am a big fan of Lindt chocolates. We used to have a store in our local mall but they left. My family misses having them there, especially my kids. They loved to visit the store because they always gave out samples of their Lindt LINDOR Truffles. I also used to let my kids create their own bags of their favorite varieties. Talk about being a kid in a candy store (LOL). They had fun selecting their favorites – Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Peanut Butter and my daughter’s personal favorite, Stracciatella.

I don’t know if I could have worked in the Lindt store. Being around all those flavorful chocolates would drive me bonkers because I’d want to indulge in them in day long. They are like potato chips – you can’t have just one. :-)

Could you imagine making a living surrounding yourself with one of the finest, yet affordable, Swiss chocolates? Not me.

Lindt chocolates aren’t just created by anyone. They are developed by Master Chocolatiers, such as Ann Czaja.

I found Ann’s profile on the Lindt website.

Swiss-trained American Maître Chocolatier Ann Czaja worked for Lindt & Sprüngli in Switzerland before returning to the U.S.A. While living and working in Zurich for nearly 14 years, Ann had the opportunity to study pastry and chocolate from the world’s foremost authorities. It was a very intense but rewarding experience. Her advice to anyone interested in entering the profession is to treat the chocolate with respect, because it can be extremely temperamental.

Ann Czaja

I had the wonderful opportunity to ask Ann a few questions about being a Chocolatier, as well as working with Lindt. Here is my interview;

What kind of degree or qualifications do you need to become a Chocolatier?

As a Lindt Master Chocolatier, I’m an expert in all things chocolate, which is the result of years of experience and extensive training.  After I discovered my passion for the culinary arts, I completed a 3 year apprenticeship program in Switzerland and earned my credentials as a licensed Pastry Chef/Chocolatier.  At Lindt, I use my past experiences and training when I am investigating flavor trends, creating new products in our research and development lab or giving chocolate themed classes and demonstrations.

What did you want to be when you grew up? When did you realize that you wanted to become a chocolatier?

I wanted to be a doctor!  When that didn’t happen for me, I took advantage of an opportunity to travel to Switzerland for a year (…and stayed for 13). There I discovered my love of pastry, baking and of course, chocolate.  The Swiss have an amazing chocolate culture.  I feel very fortunate that I was able to learn my craft from the very best.  After I completed my training, I knew that chocolate was my calling.

The new Wasabi Lindt chocolate is an unusual combination. What is the most unusual chocolate combination you have heard of and what is the most unusual chocolate combination you’ve ever tasted?

The new EXCELLENCE Wasabi bar certainly is unique, and it was inspired by the current trend in Asian flavors.  Wasabi’s earthy sharpness partners well with the bittersweet dark chocolate to deliver just the right amount of heat.  It is important to remember that the chocolate must be the protagonist in a recipe.  I’ve tasted many different unusual pairings and believe that when an ingredient is added to chocolate, it should be a harmonious experience not a combative one.

Lindt Heart 3

What is your favorite kind of chocolate to work with – milk, dark or white?

I enjoy working with all different types of Lindt chocolate to create new products.  Lindt products are often inspired by current flavor trends and we work to create the best innovative flavor combinations using our milk, dark and white chocolate.  In fact, Lindt recently introduced three new products, the EXCELLENCE Wasabi and EXCELLENCE Strawberry bars, as well as the LINDOR Caramel truffles.  The two new EXCELLENCE bar flavors – Wasabi and Strawberry – paired well with our 47 percent dark chocolate, while the LINDOR Caramel truffles feature a milk chocolate shell infused with caramel and smooth caramel milk chocolate center.  I enjoy working with all types of chocolate.  Some are more challenging than others, but that’s what keeps my job interesting!

What is your favorite Lindt product and why?

As a Lindt Master Chocolatier, I am fortunate enough to enjoy so many different types and flavors of premium chocolate.  I love working with chocolate and the Lindt products are all so delicious, it would be hard for me to choose just one.

Do you ever create recipes that utilize Lindt products?

Of course!  Using premium Lindt chocolate is a great way to elevate any recipe.  One of my favorite Lindt recipes is a rich chocolate Pot de Crème made with our Lindt EXCELLENCE Chili bar.  I also like to add our EXCELLENCE bars to cookie recipes.  I actually collaborated with my Lindt Master Chocolatier counterparts around the world on the “Lindt Chocolate Passion” recipe book, filled with a unique collection of delicious chocolate recipes.

Are you working on any new kind of chocolate for Lindt right now?

As a Lindt Master Chocolatier, one of the most exciting parts of my job is developing new product innovations and flavor combinations.  To keep up with the increased demand for premium chocolate, we continually track consumer preferences and research current trends as we create new products for 2013 and beyond.  This means that I’m constantly exploring new ideas, creating new samples and eating  a lot of premium chocolate.  It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!

In Ann’s interview she mentioned the new EXCELLENCE bars – Wasabi and Strawberry. I had the opportunity to try both of them. Of the two, Strawberry is my favorite.

The Strawberry EXCELLENCE bar has tiny pieces of strawberries mixed in the the chocolate. Each bite is like eating a strawberry dipped in chocolate. You get the sweet fruity taste of the strawberry mix in with the creaminess of the chocolate. Mmm… I’m salivating just thinking about it.

My whole family enjoyed the Strawberry EXCELLENCE bar too. There is plenty to share. Each bar is pre-marked making it easy to break off a perfect square.

The little "bumps" are strawberry pieces.

The little “bumps” are strawberry pieces.

Notice the bits of strawberries embedded into the chocolate.

Notice the bits of strawberries embedded into the chocolate.

I was a bit hesitant to try the Wasabi. I like Wasabi, depending on how it’s presented. The Wasabi you get with Sushi is just way to hot for me. I was concerned that the Wasabi EXCELLENCE bar would be too hot too.

I finally gave in and tried some. I tried one piece and to be honest I wasn’t very keen about it. You can definitely taste the Wasabi. There is no way you can miss it. The Wasabi is the first taste that you experience. The chocolate is only a background flavor.

I didn’t like it on my first try. No one else in my family was willing to try it so I tried a second piece. Sadly the second piece didn’t change my mind. It just wasn’t a flavor for me. I think it’s more of an acquired taste. Like my mom used to say “one man’s meat is another man’s poison“, meaning just because one person doesn’t like something doesn’t mean someone else won’t, and vice versa. Just because it wasn’t for me doesn’t mean that you won’t think it’s the best chocolate ever. I’m just giving you my honest opinion from my personal experience.

Lindt EXCELLENCE Wasabi Bar

Ann also mentioned LINDOR Caramel truffles. Oh my goodness!!! They are so good – too good in fact! I had to hide the bag because my family couldn’t get enough of them. If you love Caramel then you will go crazy for the LINDOR Caramel truffles. They are bite size pieces of “Caramel Heaven“. LOL!

I love Sea Salted Caramels. I wonder if LINDOR is considering adding some Sea Salt to the Caramel truffles? Oh! That would be amazing! Of course keep the non-salted Caramels too. My husband doesn’t like Sea Salted Caramel, but he loved the LINDOR truffles (especially because they don’t have salt).

Lindt LINDOR Caramel Truffles

Valentine’s Day is coming up. If you are looking for something special for your sweetheart you should check out the Valentine’s Day LINDOR Gift Heart Box. This lovely heart shaped box is filled with LINDOR truffles. Each truffle is individually wrapped which makes them the perfect on-the-go treat. I have some of these truffles and I’ve been tossing one into my kid’s and my husband’s lunches. It’s just my way of giving them a special little treat. I know they appreciate it.

Lindt Heart 1

Lindt Heart 2

Lindt chocolates are available at many retail locations, as well as Lindt stores across the country. You can also make purchases online at www.LindtUSA.com.

You can also check out Lindt on Facebook and Twitter. They even have a Pinterest page that is worth checking out too.

Lindt has generously offered to give a lucky reader the following prize package;

  • Strawberry EXCELLENCE Bar
  • Wasabi EXCELLENCE Bar
  • Package of LINDOR Caramel truffles
  • LINDOR Gift Heart Box

Thank you Lindt!

This giveaway is open to US residents only and will end on February 22, 2013 at 11:59 PM (EST). The winner will be chosen at random using a random number generator from all eligible entries. The winner will be notified via e-mail and will have three days to reply or a new winner will be chosen in their place.

To enter please leave a comment on this post and tell me which one of the chocolates in the prize packge you are most excited to try?

For extra entries you can use the Rafflecopter widget (below) but you must complete the initial entry requirement or the additional entries won’t qualify. Extra entries are optional.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Kimberly

*I received free product samples in order to do this review. There was no compensation. The opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced in anyway.

 

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About Kimberly

Kimberly Vetrano resides in the suburbs of New York City with her family, five cats, dog, a tank full of fish and snails. She is also a freelance writer and photographer.

Comments

  1. I am most excited about the gift heart box!

  2. I’d love to try the Strawberry EXCELLENCE Bar…looks delicious!

  3. Debbie Welchert says:

    The LINDOR Caramel Truffles.

  4. LINDOR Caramel truffles

  5. Lisa Hackney says:

    I am excited to try the caramel truffles!!

  6. Definitely the strawberry excellence bar i love strawberries and chocolate!

  7. I love truffles! Thanks for this wonderful giveaway.

  8. I am excited about the package of LINDOR Caramel truffles

  9. I’m really interested to try the Strawberry EXCELLENCE Bar. Or all of them, really, but you said ‘which one’.

  10. I’m anxious to try the Strawberry EXCELLENCE bar. Thanks.

  11. Amanda Dobarro says:

    That Strawberry Excellence bar looks divine!

  12. Winning would be great.

  13. the strawberry excellence barr

  14. Sandy VanHoey says:

    I am excited about the Package of LINDOR Caramel truffles

  15. Caramel Truffles !!!!!

  16. John Hutchens says:

    Caramel truffles

  17. alyce poalillo says:

    I love caramel and truffles so the Package of LINDOR Caramel truffles would be my pick

  18. Monica Nuss says:

    milk chocolate

  19. Margaret Smith says:

    I’m excited about the Lindt chocolates. Thanks so much.

  20. I would like to try the Strawberry