“Talk about your childhood wishes/You can even eat the dishes...” --“Candy Man” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
It’s been a year and change since we first met local artisan chocolatier Chuck Siegel of Charles Chocolates. In that time, Siegel’s two-and-a-half-year-old business has bloomed both locally and nationally, and he has also realized a dream that’s been brewing for almost two decades. After opening his first permanent retail store in Emeryville on Valentine’s Day, Siegel celebrated its official grand opening this weekend with the completion of new café seating that overlooks a brand-new 6700 square foot candy kitchen.
While he has been inspired in part by chocolatiers in Paris, Siegel explains that there really isn’t a total precedent for what he has done here. Usually, at best, chocolate lovers are offered a cursory glance at a chocolatier’s production area, leaving out vital steps of procedures and hiding away key pieces of equipment. In the pursuit of what Siegel dubs “demystifying chocolate,” customers will be able to watch the creation of his confections nearly from start to finish; only the measuring and clean-up area is kept away from the public eye. In the future, Siegel hopes to bring these views online as well.
The store is the only place that offers everything in the line per piece as well as his newly introduced hot chocolate (in original bittersweet and caramelized cinnamon). He’ll soon begin pastry service, with unique bites made fresh by his lead candymakers, trained pastry chefs that formerly worked at luxe S.F. restaurants like Fifth Floor and the defunct Hawthorne Lane.
This whole concept wouldn’t mean much if Siegel’s chocolates weren’t as visually gorgeous as they are transcendently tasty. Whether something relatively simple, such as a glistening drop of candied ginger atop a truffle, or more elaborate, such as his edible chocolate boxes with multi-colored cocoa butter designs, the collection places a premium on both aesthetic and flavor. --Tamara Palmer