Serving as a guest judge for EurekaCharcuterie’s 2020 Holidaze Charcuterie Contest will be Fritz Knipschildt, world-famous chocolatier and chef – and founder of House of Knipschildt and its acclaimed Chocopologie brand of gourmet chocolates.
Deadline to enter the holiday-themed charcuterie contest is 11:59 pm Sunday, Dec. 20. Ten finalists will be named on Dec. 22, and voting by the public to select the three prize winners will take place from Dec. 23-30, with the winners to be announced on Jan. 1. (Read more about the entry requirements, prizes, & more here.)
Nick-named the “Willy Wonka of Connecticut,” Danish-born Knipschildt is widely regarded as one of the finest “Maitre Chocolatiers” of his generation, according to a CNN report.
“By the mid 1990s, fine raw chocolate became more popular and I started to work on a plan to create a business out of it,” Knipschildt told SimplyChocolate.com. “I launched in 2000. On the first day, I sold chocolate to one store owner who absolutely loved my truffles. That store owner happened to know the founders of Dean & Deluca and he shared the chocolates with them, which led to them wanting to carry my confections in their stores. Then, three weeks later, Martha Stewart saw the chocolates at Dean & Deluca, tried them, and invited me to make chocolates for her website, Martha by Mail.”
Knipschildt grew up in Odense, Denmark, and was working in restaurant kitchens by the time he was 13. He attended hotel and restaurant school, did stints at a couple of top French restaurants, and in 1996, at age 20, came to the U.S., working as a private chef, and at Le Chateau in New York to get his green card. Even then, young Knipschildt knew exactly where he was headed. “My dream had always been to one day be cooking with chocolate,” he says.
After moving to the U.S., Knipschildt established his own chocolate house in Norwalk, Connecticut in 2000, with an avowed mission to “impress, surprise and provide customers with the ultimate chocolate and confection experiences.”
Since then his reputation has swiftly grown, his confectionery attracting widespread praise both for its quality and its unusual fusion of ingredients.
“The flavors that Fritz Knipschildt combines in his handmade chocolates sound plain weird,” says Oprah Magazine, “fillings infused with caramel and lavender, tangerine and red chili, raspberry and black pepper.
“Taste them, however, and you realize that these odd couples are matches made in heaven.”
Now, Knipschildt’s chocolates have come to define “sweet success.” House of Knipschildt’s exquisite handcrafted truffles — made with the finest quality chocolates from Ecuador, Costa Rica, Thailand and Papua New Guinea (he imported six tons in 2013) — are carried at top national retailers and just a handful of independent gourmet food stores like EurekaCharcuterie.
Each Knipschildt signature collection comes in a handmade paper box; there’s also a secondary, less expensive “Chocopologie” line – and EurekaCharcuterie is proud to offer over a dozen products from this award-winning chocolatier.
Knipschildt has won four SoFi Awards from the Specialty Food Association, including three “Gold Awards,” Oprah named him a “favorite” for sweet treats; his gourmet chocolate truffle placed in the “Top Three in the “World” by Gourmet Magazine; Forbes has featured his top-of-the-line Madeleine Truffle several times; and the Madeleine landed Knipschildt in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2018 for the “Most Expensive Truffle in the World” at $250.
Here’s a cool video where Knipschildt explains to the Guinness World Records folks how he makes his world-famous truffles:
But it’s not the price or the awards that makes Knipschildt proud of his products: It’s the quality of ingredients and the intricate work that goes into every chocolate made.
For example, the Madeleine – a 1.5-ounce, hand-crafted dollop of pure sugary indulgence – warrants the title “ultimate chocolate,” both for its sumptuous taste.
The basic ganache, or chocolate paste, is made using French Valrhona chocolate – arguably the best in the world – mixed with fresh cream that has stood for 24 hours infusing the flavor of vanilla pods, and a few drops of pure Italian truffle oil.
The ganache is then shaped around a French Perigord truffle – the latter alone can cost up to $1,000 per pound – and the whole thing is dusted with cocoa powder.
The ingredients, however, are only a part of the story. What really earns the Madeleine the accolade of ultimate chocolate is the time and skill with which those ingredients are crafted, Knipschildt told CNN.
The ganache, for example, has to be repeatedly whipped and folded by hand to make it as soft and silky as possible. So smooth does it become that Knipschildt then has to move into a specially refrigerated room to mold it around the truffle, the cold air hardening it slightly and thus making it more workable.
“It is a long and painstaking process,” he explained. “When you understand how much work has gone into it you realize that it is worth every cent.”
Even if you’ve never tasted a Knipschildt chocolate, you likely have seen him on a screen at some point, especially if you watch food shows: He has appeared on “Chopped,” “Throwdown with Bobby Flay,” “The Martha Stewart Show” and “Food Network Challenge.” According to IMDB.com, he’s appeared in 2013’s comedy film Chasing Taste in a supporting actor role, in the documentary Spise med Price (2013), as a contestant on four TV chef competitions, and as the featured guest on Throwdown with Bobby Flay’s “Chocolate” episode (2007).
Nowadays, when he’s not running House of Knipschildt production, creating new flavor combinations for his luxury sweets, or managing the Chocopologie cafe in Connecticut, or directing ideas for new CBD-infused chocolates, or writing a book, he might be teaching at the prestigious Clarke Culinary Center of South Norwalk, Connecticut and Milford, Massachusetts.
Or he might be peeping at Charcuterie posts on social media, getting inspiration for new foods to try, he says.
“As (EurekaCharcuterie owner) Scott Dobbins knows, I’m a fan of eating anything,” Knipschildt says, laughing. “I’m a very curious person and love to try new things. And I’m a huge fan of Charcuterie – all kinds! I have not seen many Charcuterie contests really, and I think it’s super fun what y’all are doing at Eureka Charcuterie… I cannot taste these entries – which is too bad because I love to try all foods! – but I can see them, and it will be fun to judge this contest and see all the creativity!”
Building a fantastic Charcuterie board – great to eat and to look at – requires good presentation, a little creativity, and variation, he noted.
“We all eat with our eyes, before we actually consume anything, so presentation matters,” Knipschildt explained. “Most foodies understand that we can taste things without actually eating them if that makes sense?”
When he first came to the USA 24 years ago, Charcuterie and gourmet food options (outside of upscale restaurants) were very limited, he recalled, but a lot has changed since then.
“Americans in general are very open to trying new things, and Charcuterie has certainly grown very popular, and it’s somewhat easier to find great Charcuterie products now than it was, thank goodness,” Knipschildt says. “We also, over the last 5 or 6 years, have seen some amazing American companies making fantastic sausages and even prosciutto – some of which you have in your store, specifically the salamis and other cured meats from the esteemed New York makers.”
EurekaCharcuterie has “such a beautiful display of products and variations including ours, the Knipschildt signature collection with different flavors, to the different flavors of truffles and the smaller Chocopologie bars,” Knipschildt added. “I know everything Scott is carrying at the store, and it is all absolutely top-notch — this is why his customers love the new store and website so much!”