Occupation: Chocolatier-business owner
Where: Nilda Chocolates, 2611 E. Johnson St.
Why you should go: Don't be fooled by the low-key location. The goods at the latest haven for Mad City chocoholics are addictive.
How long have you been in this little hideaway shop?
I opened in July, but I actually started the business last year ' I got my feet wet renting commercial kitchen space and selling my toffees and truffles at the Farmers' Market.
I used to be a police officer, so it's a drastic change. I wanted to get into something new and creative. I made a list of all the things I'm passionate about. Eventually it came down to wine, coffee or chocolate. Chocolate won. I took a three-month online course to get started. Then I practiced a lot, with different techniques and source chocolates. I gave out a lot of samples to family and friends in the process.
Initially I envisioned a small storefront ' a traditional candy shop. But this space had room to create a cafÃ, so I also serve Ancora coffee and Rishi tea. Customers can drink it by the cup or buy it in bulk. I have wireless Internet and regular customers who stop in to do their work over coffee and a truffle or two. And I have room to display works by Wisconsin artists ' the exhibits rotate every month.
I hear your chocolates have magic powers.
I don't know about that, but there's some magic in creating them. The wonderful thing about working with chocolate is that once you get the basics down you can create anything.
I have a personal affinity with all of my chocolates. I start by taking flavors I loved as a child. I've always loved toffee. I knew that my signature toffee would be a little bit different ' more buttery and not as hard as the traditional kind. It took me awhile to come up with the candy of my dreams, but I kept making batches and tweaking it till I got what I wanted.
I was a very adventurous child, and I'm still that way. I've always done what I wanted without letting obstacles stand in my way. That plays into all my chocolate creations, not just the toffee. Besides the toffee line, I carry 15 different truffles right now. Some are standards, like vanilla bean and cinnamon spice. Others are seasonal. I tried out a pumpkin pecan truffle for the holidays. Customers loved it, so I'll probably keep it as a regular flavor. It's one of my favorites, along with the Black Forest truffle, which is just very rich, dark chocolate.
I also make my own bars. The dark chocolate-cherry bar's very popular ' it's made with bits of dried Door County cherries. My newest creation is the Caliente bar, bittersweet with chile powder.
Do you work magic in other realms besides chocolate?
Right now this business is my life, but I do turn my creative energy toward cooking at home, too. As a kid in Chicago I was into sports. I wasn't interested in cooking or baking. But when I left home I started missing the Puerto Rican food I grew up with. I've got a well-developed culinary sense now. And I'm looking forward to the magic of travel ' I want to visit shops around the world to see what other chocolatiers are doing.