Sunday, January 13, 2013

Heidi Ash, Caramel Knowledge and 185Chocolat

I first met Heidi Ash at a Flood Relief fund raising event at JJ Astor in late summer. Her sweets were a delectable delight for everyone there who came to bid on photography by John Heino. I discovered first-hand that these are no ordinary confections. She urged great care when taking that first bite for the heart of each contains sensations to be savored, not dripped onto your chin.

The business she founded is called 185Chocolat, and it had a story. Because I like sharing stories I  wanted to share hers with you here.

EN: How did you come to be making chocolate candy for a living? 
Heidi Ash: After a series of events including a heart transplant and earning a Masters in Counseling Psychology. I realized that all my various jobs were a perfect training ground for my true calling-Chocolate.

After my heart transplant, probably due to the medications, I enjoyed sweets more. Chocolate was especially enticing but not the preservatives and corn syrup, which affected the taste. My solution was to start making my own hand-rolled truffles then alternate the basic recipe for more variations.

I got bored with that quickly and started learning more about chocolate. I also bought a home tempering machine, some professional chocolate moulds and… a few 11 lb. blocks of chocolate. This is how I taught myself how to make Truffles.

Long story short of how my business got started… I gave a lot of Truffles away and brought them down to Rochester when I’d visit the Mayo Clinic. I became friends with a woman who owned a beautiful Italian import shop across from the Clinic. One day she told me that once I moved into a Commercial kitchen she would carry my Truffles.

I'd been planning in my head to officially start the business for quite some time and this was the nudge I needed. She led me to her amazing import foods wholesaler, now mine. My chocolate got much better and in a matter of months the dream became reality.

Since April 2008 185Chocolat, LLC has been professionally a company. I now play with chocolate and caramel in a Commercial Kitchen with a lot of music and dancing. Each Truffle is individually made and painted.

Caramel Knowledge
EN: What did you learn through your experiences living in Las Vegas?
HA: The Las Vegas most people see is not the real thing. I lived there for years and worked on both sides of a bookstore/coffeshop much like Barnes & Nobles. The Strip, Downtown and buffets are for visitors and tourists.

The real beauty of Vegas is the mountains, desert and off the tourist spots. Some of the best food is off the beaten path, too. Rent a car, discover the people who call Vegas home and grocery shop with Elvis.

The city attracted a lot of people looking for something new, better. It was growing fast when I was there. Visit a few times first. For me it was just too far from my family. Elvis told me that in a grocery store.

EN: Why is your business called 185Chocolat?
HA: Choosing the name for my company was not difficult. I wanted it to express the core of why I started the company, it is more than chocolate (gasp!). 185Chocolat, LLC got its name because I was the 185th recipient of a heart transplant at the Mayo Clinic. The transplant was a joyous event in my life. It allowed me to follow my dream of making beautiful chocolates in a world that is not always predictable or beautiful. The company also allows me to be a voice for heart disease and organ transplantation. 185Chocolat is a blissful celebration, just like life ought to be.

EN: What is the most interesting event you’ve made chocolates for?
HA: Really treasured the wedding where the Bride and Groom decided on having 400 Truffles (Caramel Knowledge and Triple Chocolate) and no cake at the Greysolon Ballroom. The Groom built ten stands for me to arrange the Truffles on. The passion they put into the details of the planning and the setting made it special.

EN: Where do the names come from?
HA: The Truffles flavors come in dreams or from other foods I have made or tasted (“How would this be as a ganache?”) Sometimes I just look around the kitchen I work in and wonder how amazing would this ingredient taste with that blended in this great chocolate?

From the creation of the Truffle, sauce or Chocolate bar the names and descriptions come easily. Speaking of creation, all visual material and website has been designed by the beyond talented Kris Grant. She has made 185Chocolat, LLC look beautiful from the beginning. If you have ever seen a photo of a 185 Truffle or in person, the gorgeous plates are from Sheri Murray’s company Glass Matrix.
185Chocolat has begun making Chocolate bars including a joint venture with the Duluth Coffee Company. Watch for more specialty bars from this collaboration.

EN: Which is your personal favorite and why? 
HA: Everything is a favorite because when I am in the kitchen I always think of the people who will enjoy the beauty and flavor of their confection. Each hand-painted Truffle or bar is locally hand made for one purpose, to… Amuse your Mouth

February is just around the corner. If Valentine's Day is still something sweet for you, make it sweeter still with 185Chocolat. Or share 185Cocolat delights at your next social event. Visit her website at

Photo credits: Heidi Ash at JJ Astor, taken by Crystal Taylor. Product photos by Matt Carr of

1) Caramel Knowledge on a plate by Glass Matrix
2) Caramel Knowledge in front of pink box
3) Caramel Knowledge and Triple Chocolate on plate by Glass Matrix  
4) Espresso Roast Truffle with Duluth Coffee Company coffee

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