Artisan chocolates debut in Pittsburgh

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A chocolatier is a person who transforms already-made chocolate into luxury confections such as truffles, bonbons, caramels and bars. These artisans often work in small kitchens, preparing and packing each batch. These small-batch handmade pieces, which often boast innovative flavors, are referred to as artisan chocolates. According to Amy Rosenfield, owner of Mon Aimee Chocolat in the Strip District, there is only one chocolatier making fine artisan chocolates in Pittsburgh.

Meet Shelby Ortz. She was a student majoring in culinary management at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 2008 when she landed a job as a pastry cook at Eleven Contemporary Kitchen. Turns out Ms. Ortz has more than a knack for desserts.

She soon was promoted to Soba Lounge pastry chef. For two years, she tweaked Asian-leaning desserts with her special spins: Sichuan peppercorns in ice cream, perhaps, or jasmine-flavored creams. At Soba, she met her future husband, who was working as a sushi chef.

Another transfer landed the new bride back at Eleven, this time as pastry chef. "The dessert menu usually has a creme brulee, something seasonal, something fruity and always something chocolate," she says. "I loved working with chocolate."

And then, little Mia was on the way. Enter, a dilemma. First baby, both parents working, what's a new mom to do? No problem.

Ms. Ortz turned her talents to making artisan chocolate. She began working at home, tempering chocolate, adding ingredients, and tinkering with formulas. She rented space in a professional kitchen. She bought molds and boxes. A friend designed a logo. Lux Artisan Chocolates was launched this past March.

Ms. Ortz got up the nerve to drop off a box of her chocolates at Mon Aimee Chocolat. The candies are enrobed in both light and dark Guittard chocolate: salted caramels, toffee and peanut butter. Bars of chocolate include figs and pistachio in bittersweet chocolate; macadamia, almond and coconut in semi-sweet chocolate; and pistachio toffee and sea salt in milk chocolate. Owner Ms. Rosenfield loved them, and the entire chocolate collection is now sold at Mon Aimee.

Right now, Ms. Ortz is a one-woman band -- crafting, boxing, making sales calls and delivering her confections. But with her track record, she'll soon be growing her business

There is a tasting of Lux Artisan Chocolates from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, at Mon Aimee Chocolat, 2101 Penn Ave. in the Strip District. Meet Shelby Ortz and taste her artisan chocolates. Twelve-piece box, $21; 4-ounce bar, $7.95.


Marlene Parrish: or 412-481-1620.


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