As soon as people find out what Ann Czaja does for a living, she knows what will follow: first, “Do you have chocolate with you?” And then, “How can I get your job done?”
The work is master chocolate maker at Lindt Chocolate, the world’s leading producer of high-end chocolate. “We are experts in the field of confectionery chocolate”, says Czaja Charm from his home in New Hampshire. “All of us who are master chocolatiers, have had classic learning as pastry chefs. We have honed our skills and have dedicated our lives to chocolate,” she said, adding that there are worse things to spend to your life. She is also a senior product developer in research and development for Lindt, as well as a spokesperson for their brand. “I can create chocolate, but I can also teach chocolate.”
Growing up, Czaja didn’t have much exposure to candy. “It was a treat every now and then,” she recalls. But after moving to Switzerland, she fell in love with good chocolate. And now, of course, she is more than passionate. She’s a pro. Because working with chocolate doesn’t just mean having an obsessive love of chocolate – thought Czaja. It means having a refined palate as a product developer, she explains. “It’s something I’ve been doing for a long time.”
When we reach it – about a week in most cities to stay home to fight the spread of the coronavirus – Czaja says she always goes to Lindt’s U.S. headquarters twice a week and that management assess the next steps. But before the crisis, Czaja would arrive at 7:30 am. and not leave before 6 p.m. “Usually I’m in the lab to make prototypes, or meet marketing managers, or teach new hires and integrate them with chocolate knowledge,” she says of a typical day.
The constant, she notes, is the tasting of chocolate. “The other day, I probably ate a dozen truffles while making samples of new LINDOR prototypes, but [otherwise] the secret is to spit, “she reveals.” I to have to spit. I did a lot of quality checks, and I’m on panels that taste cocoa beans, as well as other products, so I eat many of chocolate. “(For the record, she’s also a triathlete twice. Isn’t life just a question of balance?)
His hard work has paid off. In fact, you probably sampled it yourself. Some of its new products include the Lindt Classic recipe 45% and 55% milk chocolate with cocoa bars, now on store shelves. For Czaja, the real advantage of the work is to see one of his ideas come to life – in signature packaging. “These are all my babies,” she says.
Here, Czaja talks about the unexplored route, the failure to enter medical school and the power of a mid-life pivot.