When Ingrid Laederach Steven’s boutique shop of fresh cream Swiss chocolate truffles caught the attention of Swiss television, it was lauded for its authenticity in promoting Swiss product in traditional Swiss style. Steven has also been recognized by the New York-based Women of Distinction magazine, which featured her on their cover. For 34 years she provided Toronto with “beautiful chocolates for beautiful people”.
“Being Swiss, it was a given that I would do something that would tie me to my homeland: cheese or chocolate. My great uncle was a manufacturer of chocolate, so I thought that might not be a bad idea,” shares Ingrid. “We have some amazing products from select family-run chocolatiers across Switzerland like Laederach and Aeschbach.” They say Swiss chocolate comes from happy cows that roam and graze in the Alps. Their milk is superior, and we can taste the difference. “Our chocolates are from domestic lines sold within Switzerland.” They’re shipped in the morning and arrive at her shop that very same day. “I package all of it here in Canada.”
Ingrid’s sparkling personality is reflected in her unique products and packaging. Chocolate pizza made of chocolate and nuts for the dough, and toppings of white chocolate and assorted truffles bring smiles of delight. The Eight Days of Chocolate Chanukah calendar with a different truffle for each night of the holiday has become the definitive gift. Each truffle is unique. “In our champagne line, we have the dark chocolate champagne, the classic champagne and the Late Harvest, in which a fully ripe grape soaked in champagne is then blended with chocolate, and it is divine.”
At Christmas a sleigh-full of confections includes Chocolate Boots brimming with truffles; chocolate Santa in milk or dark chocolate; giant Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer truffle; Sweet keepsakes on milk chocolate circles; four piece chocolate sets of Santa, Frosty, Rudolph and Xmas Trees; Advent Calendars; duo-chocolate truffle table settings. Adorable snowmen with chocolate wafers and nut-truffle filling are set in golden boxes. Party trays with golden garlands are bejewelled with 56 assorted fresh cream-filled truffles. There’s a whole array of chocolate truffles in the showcase: from seasonal, to stars, to magic mushrooms!
Valentine’s Day is choc-full of solid milk chocolate hearts and roses; heart-shaped boxes of truffles, draped in velvet and decorated with rhinestones or hollowed, halved and filled with truffles like the almond butter cream dome; Swiss kiss of praline and a white chocolate heart with nut truffle filling. Everything is so beautifully wrapped, you’d think there were a group of elves in the back working round the clock to decorate each package. It’s almost too pretty to eat.
“It takes time and care to build up a relationship with people,” Ingrid smiles. Now we have second generations coming to the store.” She believes that chocolate opens the door to a relationship. “I give people a chocolate because it gives them time to stand back, enjoy the chocolate and enjoy a moment.” She adds, “I’ve been extremely fortunate in my life, and that was never a given. If I can give back a little bit, that’s what it’s about. It’s so important to communicate with people, to interact with people, and show that we care.” It’s as simple as that.
“I like to respect people’s privacy, and I think that is one of the reasons they keep coming back. When Prince first came in, he had a huge entourage—until he saw that he was being treated just like anyone else, and then he started driving up himself. I show every customer who comes in, that to me, they are VIPs. When Dr. Roberta Bondar asked me for some chocolates before she went up into space, I gave her a box to take with her to NASA for their going away dinner. Each of the astronauts signed the box and returned it to me as a thank you. President Clinton sent a driver to pick up some chocolates from me while he was here. How he knew about me, I have no idea. The most important thing is when that one person comes into the store and seems unhappy, to make them feel a little bit better. That is the key: to make people happy.”
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.