Chocolatier Eric Bochner Takes a Rational Approach to Sensuous Confections

Eric Bochner
Eric Bochner says making upscale chocolates is more work than he ever imagined, but, oh, what delicious results! (Photo by Michael Kreiser).

An afternoon with Eric Bochner, owner of the Iowa City-based Bochner Chocolates, is nothing short of a dizzying affair. At 38, the frenetic Bochner conveys an enthusiasm and passion for the art of his business that left this writer convinced he may well take over the confectionary world. Through the problem-solving process of making delicious and elegant gourmet chocolate available to anyone who might enjoy it, Eric is bound to make us all a bit happier in the equation. His chocolates are exquisite.

A family man, Bochner is the father of two young daughters with his wife, Melinda Bochner, a UIHC physician. Trained as a scientist, with an undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa in physics in addition to a law degree, he considers problem solving to be one of his greatest strengths. His conversation is rich with the topic—from how to deal with packaging a new Venezuelan cocoa bar to the art and subsequent benefit of mechanized chocolate production as opposed to the more costly made-by-hand process preferred by many afficionados. It’s a logical approach to any endeavor—observe a process, see what works and what does not, and then fix what isn’t cooperating within one’s parameters of experience and expectation.

This rational approach is apparently working. Since first opening its doors at 1419 Waterfront Drive two years ago, Bochner Chocolates has steadily grown. His headquarters in southeast Iowa City, in a space that formerly functioned as his retail store, house the impressive Swiss equipment Eric imported to produce his candies. Presently, Bochner has a gorgeous new retail shop at 2445 2nd Street in Coralville. A peek inside and one sample explain why this Iowa-based business is thriving.

While glancing through the pristine glass shelves in the Coralville location, it occurs to me that Bochner’s truffles resemble small paintings. Some are brushed with long fine lines and others are spattered with bright colors in random patterns, which ultimately lose their randomness by virtue of their inherently small size.

“Other people have, on occasion compared them to gemstones,” Bochner has said, “because they glisten and have many colors in them.” Besides having spectacular visual appeal, Bochner’s confections are, again, exceptionally good. His chocolates have a clean, chaste, and yet almost carnal quality which is unique in today’s confectionary industry. The small staff works together to come up with a wide variety of creations, and there are many—from the more exotic Blood Orange (blood orange-flavored chocolate cream in a cream chocolate shell), Earl Grey (Earl Grey tea-flavored chocolate cream in a cream chocolate shell), Pistachio (pistachio white chocolate-flavored cream center in a cream chocolate shell and rolled in roasted, salted pistachios—one of my favorites!) to the more traditional Paris Cocoa Powder Truffle Ball with its dark chocolate cream center and dark chocolate shell rolled in cocoa powder. With the exception of an Eggnog Truffle, which was not exactly up my alley, all the other samples I had were yummy and definite spirit lifters.

The news that eating chocolate stimulates the part of the brain that releases endorphins, those pleasure neurotransmitters which create a runner’s high and function as the body’s natural opiates, has been circulating for some time. Fortunately, nutritionists keep discovering more reasons for us to moderately indulge. It’s now believed that chocolate consumption has heart-healthy benefits as well, due to its high flavonoid content. Consuming foods rich in flavonoids appears to also boost our “antioxidant” power.

More rationalization for us to do something we love? If this is the case, then I’m all over it.

As a matter of fact, dark chocolate (my favorite) contains the highest level of flavonoids and, thus, antioxidants. One of the great things about Eric Bochner’s wares is that their dark chocolate is not at all bitter. Given his renegade and trendsetter status, that’s not at all surprising. Bittersweet is something every other chocolatier on the block is doing right now but Bochner doesn’t feel the need to follow the herd, of course. There are decently manufactured bittersweet chocolates already on the market.

Speaking of the market, in addition to the new retail shop in Coralville, Bochner Chocolate can also be purchased at Westies Ice Cream in Des Moines. After my time with him, his competent staff, and the goods he’s got going, if the company ever goes public, you can put me down for 100 shares. That would be, say, an almost logical, creative, and innovative approach to the art of solving problems.