As soon as people find out what Ann Czaja does for a living, she knows what’ll come next: First, “Do you have chocolate with you?” And then, “How can I get your job?”
The job is master chocolatier with Lindt Chocolate, the world’s leading producer of premium chocolate. “We are experts in the field of confectionary chocolate,” Czaja tells Glamour from her home in New Hampshire. “All of us who are master chocolatiers did classic apprenticeships as chocolatier pastry chefs. We honed our skills and have devoted our lives to chocolate,” she says, adding that there are worse things to devote your life to. She’s also the senior product developer in research and development for Lindt, as well as their brand spokesperson. “I get to create the chocolate, but I also get to teach about chocolate.”
Growing up, Czaja didn’t have much exposure to sweets. “It was a treat now and then,” she remembers. But after moving to Switzerland, she fell for great chocolate. And now of course, she is more than an enthusiast. She’s a pro. Because working with chocolate doesn’t just mean having an obsessive love of chocolate—thought Czaja definitely does. It means having a refined palate as a product developer, she explains. “It’s something I’ve been doing for a long time.”
When we reach her—approximately a week into most cities stay-at-home orders to combat the spread of coronavirus—Czaja says she’s still going into Lindt’s USA headquarters two times a week and senior management is assessing next steps. But before the crisis, Czaja would arrive at 7:30 A.M. and not leave until 6 P.M. “Usually, I’m in the lab making prototypes, or meeting with marketing, or teaching new hires and on-boarding them with chocolate knowledge,” she says of a typical day.
The constant, she notes, is tasting chocolate. “The other day I probably ate a dozen truffles while making samples of new LINDOR prototypes, but [otherwise] the secret is to spit,” she reveals. “I have to spit. I used to do a lot of quality checks, and I’m on panels that tastes the cocoa beans, plus other products, so I eat a lot of chocolate.” (For the record, she is also a two-time triathlete. Isn’t life all about balance?)
Her hard work has paid off. In fact, you’ve probably sampled it yourself. Some of her newest products include the Lindt Classic Recipe 45% and 55% milk chocolate with cocoa bars, now on store shelves. For Czaja, the real perk of the job is seeing one of her ideas come to fruition—in signature packaging. “They’re all my babies,” she says.
Here, Czaja talks the road not taken, not getting into medical school, and the power of a mid-life pivot.