By Judy Steffes Special to Published Jun 17, 2008 at 10:34 AM

GUNDELSHEIM, Germany -- I had an 8 a.m. interview this morning with Eberhard Schell. He is a master chocolatier from the small, small community of Gundelsheim.

Schell's brochure, which is the color of chocolate, opens with a passionate saying from Judith Olney.

"Chocolate, of course, is the stuff of which fantasies are made. Rich, dark, velvety-smooth fantasies that envelop the senses and stir the passions. Chocolate is madness. Chocolate is delight."

And that explains my two hours with Schell who lives by his own saying. "Chocolate makes you happy; wine, too. So, why not be twice as happy?"

The entire chocolate and wine experience was overwhelming, so what follows are some highlights.

  • Schell's grandfather began a bakery, where Schell's current chocolate shop stands, in 1924. Schell's father then took over and produced tarts and cakes and when Schelll and his wife Annette started their business in 1990. They focused on manufacturing the finest chocolates and pralines.
  • Schell and his chocolates are known around the world. He is at the forefront of the experience "to find perfect harmony between exquisite wines and fine chocolates."
  • The experience is not as simple as sipping wine and tasting chocolate. Under Schell's guidance you first smell the wine and then taste it. Now the same with the chocolate. Snap the chocolate in half -- good chocolate has a high sound or a click. Taste the chocolate; don't chew but let it melt in your mouth. Then taste the wine and let the two unite on your tongue and you will be rewarded by a variety of tastes.
  • Schell sets up four different wines and four different blocks of chocolate. After every taste test he describes the flavors from fruits and salts to ginger and pepper and chili.
  • High quality chocolate and cacao beans are used only in Schell chocolates, which are individually crafted by hand. The beans include Criollo, which make up only four percent of the worldwide cacao harvest as well as beans grown in Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Tanzania.
  • Schell is 45 years old. He's 6-foot-2, with a flat, thin face dotted with freckles. He wears a clean white chef's jacked with a bright blue collar and lettering that says Euro Toques Ches. There's a gold Euro with a chef's hat sewn where a left top pocket would be.
  • Using the best ingredients means spending money. Schell pays €4,000 for a kilo of Iranian saffron, which looks like small, red twigs and smells flowery. Schell's precious spice is used in his white chocolate Blanche Saffron Curry. Blended with a "whisper of Mumbai curry" it's the best I've tasted, and probably the most expensive.
  • The glass showcase at the front of the store features small trays full of neatly stacked, exquisitely decorated pralines. Small round candies, the size of a quarter, are shaped in gold covered cones or delicately topped with a spiral swirl.
  • Schell has over 1,200 recipes for pralines and over 200 recipes for block chocolate.
  • As non-insultingly as possible I ask him if he's ever had a Hershey bar or a Snickers, Three Muskateers, M&M's or a Kit Kat. He shakes his head. Ambrosia chocolate, made in Milwaukee, draws a similar response.
  • The best season for selling chocolates is from August to Easter. "When the weather's not too warm," said Schell, advising never to store chocolate in the refrigerator since the cocoa butter instantly takes on foreign odors. It's best stored in a dark, cool and dry room.

For more information on Schell chocolates log onto the Web site at

Judy Steffes Special to

Judy is a Milwaukee native who is ever exploring the country. Her favorite mode of travel is her 21-speed, blue Centurion bicycle, which she bought after high school. Judy has worked in the local media for the past 20 years. "I need to do something to support my biking habit."

Judy has an extensive history in radio news, having worked at WISN, WUWM, WTMJ, WKTY in La Crosse and WBKV in West Bend. A strong interest in sports also had Judy reporting for ESPN Radio covering the Packers, Buck, Brewers and Badgers. "One of my first Brewer games at County Stadium the security guy yelled as I walked into the locker room ‘LADY IN THE LOCKER ROOM.’ Now it’s so commonplace. But that story makes me sound really old."

Judy is currently working at WISN-TV in Milwaukee. She is a freelance writer and her pieces have been seen in The Small Business Times and The Business Journal. Her travel journal has appeared in Minnesota Trails Magazine, The Statesman and the West Bend Daily News, to name a few.

Aside from biking, running and being active in her community, Judy is known as someone who is "very, very thrifty." "I get candles for Christmas. My friends call them my space heaters because I normally keep the heat in my house at 40 degrees during the winter. It’s not that I can’t afford to turn up the thermostat, I just hate paying for heat."

Judy said her "conservative attitude" plays a part in her bike tours ... not needing to pay for gas and frequently spending nights camping inside churches. "First of all, it makes me feel safe since I’m traveling alone and second all you’re doing is sleeping, so why pay for that. It’s no wonder I can’t ever get someone to travel with me."

Judy grew up in Whitefish Bay and graduated from Dominican High School and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Judy is the second oldest among seven siblings and spends a lot of her time working as a "park tester" along with her eight nieces and nephews.