The family-run business in Charlotte originally started at farmers markets, with head chef Bill Dietz operating under the pseudo, The Secret Chocolatier. Today, it’s a successful business that successfully maintains humble beginnings.he family-run business in Charlotte originally started at farmers markets, with head chef Bill Dietz operating under the pseudo, The Secret Chocolatier. Today, it’s a successful business that successfully maintains humble beginnings.Across the country, Americans consume 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate per year. It is safe to say our chocolate addiction is very real. Of course, there is your general chocolate easily found in the grocery store, then there is the chocolate handcrafted by a master chocolatier and just as tasty as every ounce of love that went into making it. The artisan chocolate, the one-of-a-kind chocolate, is chocolate so good that it should almost be a secret.Located in Charlotte, The Secret Chocolatier is just thattrue to its namesake. A complete family-run business, Bill Dietz is the “secret chocolatier” himself, his wife Karen is the friendly face at the storefront, daughter Robin does business management and marketing along with her husband, Andy, who does the technological backend. Each member has a place that makes the business run, even the youngest, Logan, when not in elementary school enjoys visiting the shop (he was basically raised in) to spend time with his Grandpa.If you were to meet Bill, his friendly demeanor, ease at instructing assistant chocolatiers, and perfect fit at his second home in the kitchenyou’d think he’d been in the chocolate business all his life. Well, sort of.”Most people do this their entire career, I somehow wound up making chocolate at the end of my career.” Bill said, noting his background as a pastry chef with the Sonoma Group.Cream, butter, and chocolate are all it takes to make a simple ganache, a bit more simplistic than Bill’s background of delectable desserts and homemade ice cream. Yet, creativity is very much alive in the chocolate business. Since humble beginnings at the farmers market Bill has always been adamant about using locally sourced ingredients. Summer sees fresh herbs, like a basil truffle, while winter gets hearty, like chocolate-covered strips of ginger, hollowed-out Santas, and peppermint bark made with white chocolate. There are no oils or extracts, but instead flavors like orange are naturally infused with garnish.This time of year, the kitchen is packed to the brimeven volunteer packagers (Karen’s in-laws) come yearly to help meet the supply and demand of corporate orders. Karen notes both Christmas and Valentine’s Day are their busiest times, yet Valentine’s Day “comes all at once, with a week to prepare.”The original Secret Chocolatier, located off Providence Road, opened five years ago. Amidst the corporate buzz and easy access mentality of the Queen City, Bill said, “Regulars still don’t believe we make everything here, because that just doesn’t happen anymore.”Bill learned his craft and the importance of supporting local businesses from his grandfather who owned a bakery in Pennsylvania. Everything in the shop is handmade in small batches, the mixers are for large batches and kettle for mass production of toffee (Bill’s favorite). The shop is simple in concept with a small storefront with glass display and direct view of the kitchen. Their Ballantyne location, which opened two years ago, is the polar opposite. A large, airy store has tables, espresso machines, and a place to relax or take a cooking class hosted by Robin. Everything is made at the Providence location then shipped to Ballantyne and worldwide for online orders. The Secret Chocolatier has large orders around Christmas and more individual sweet treats the rest of the year.While many people set out to start their own business and think they have the ingredients for success, it does not always work out. What makes the Secret Chocolatier so unique is that each family member fits perfectly into what they contribute, which Robin notes is crucial for entrepreneurship. While perhaps “secret” in namesake, this handmade and artisanal chocolate should remain anything but.
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Lionel Vatinet is a master baker and owner of the popular La Farm Bakery in Cary. He has been recognized by the James Beard Foundation as a semifinalist for “Outstanding Baker” in 2015 and 2016. […]