In which a nice man offers Jill candy.
The scene has played out a dozen times in my professional life, and here it is again on my flight to Chicago. I hurl myself into a window seat, mentally tapped from a conference presentation, looking forward to throwing open In Style magazine or staring blankly at the in-flight movie with no headphones on or doing something equally mindless.
A guy sits down next to me. Handsome, extroverted, and chatty. Obviously in sales, I think. He starts peppering me with questions. This time—and probably a few other times—the salesman’s name is Dave. Dave is returning home from a business trip. He’s been a sales executive for several high-end consumer firms, and he and his wife have recently moved to Chicago, the headquarters of his new company.
I tell him I’m a V.P. at a software company, and he asked which one. He’s heard good things about us. I reciprocate, asking him where he now works, thinking that the question is the culmination of a polite professional exchange where we each appreciate the other’s accomplishments then get back to our reading.
“Vosges,” he says.
“Vosges?” I say.
“Yes,” says Dave. “Have you heard of us?”
“I have,” I said, summoning all the sangfroid I can manage.
But what I’m thinking is: Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, thank you, Jesus. And I’m not religious.
You see, Vosges is my favorite chocolate company. On. The. Planet. I lived in Paris and tried all the high-end whoop-de-doop confectionaries and they’re all formidable. But they can’t deliver the taste-meets-branding that Vosges delivers. Vosges was started by an entrepreneur named Katrina Markoff who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu and traveled the world learning about indigenous ingredients and flavors.
The result? The Red Fire Caramel Bar studded with dried chiles, thank you very much. The Goji Bar, with pink Himalayan salt. Two words: Cherry Rooibos. And, with all the deserved buzz, the bacon-flavored truffle. BOOyah! They don’t call it “experiential chocolate” for nothing.
Dave and I chat about how to take a boutique brand to the next level. He tells me which retailers stock Vosges, and which don’t. (Hello, Gelsons? Wake up and smell the Ceylon Cinnamon!) He tells me about how Vosges is rolling out its new mainstream brand, Wild Ophelia, which sources organic ingredients from American farmers.
Then he offers to send me some. Did I say thank you, Jesus?
After a few more business trips, I return to the office to find a package from Vosges, including a Dark Chocolate Exotic Bar, a Naga Bar, a Black Salt Caramel Exotic. And from Wild Ophelia, the new brand, there’s a Peanut Butter Banana Bar, a Beef Jerky Bar, and—true to its locally-sourced roots—a Texas BBQ Potato Chip Bar.
So thank you, Dave, for being so affable, and a raving fan on behalf of your own firm. A shout-out to Vosges, for hiring the personification of your brand, exclusive and informed. And thanks Katrina, no doubt far afield in search of the next outlandish flavor. And to you, too, Jesus, for whatever hand you had when God created chocolate.