Credit: Kelly Doering

Markus Candinas, , Candinas Chocolatier

Markus Candinas learned about good food in Switzerland. Both of his parents are Swiss, and while he grew up in Madison, he's visited Switzerland nearly every year. That's where he completed a three-year apprenticeship with a confectioner, and where he caught a lucky break immediately after his training.

"After my apprenticeship, I have to admit, I was in the right place at the right time, and I was doing the right things," remembers Candinas, 42. "I was thrust into a position where I was the head of the pastry and chocolate division for a 125-year-old business."

He honed his skills and developed his recipes for two years in that position. And after traveling the world, Candinas brought those recipes back to Madison, where they evolved with his business.

When he opened Candinas Chocolatier in 1994, it focused on a fresh product packaged in recycled materials, and that resonated with customers in the Madison area.

Through its website, the company expanded sales beyond the stores in Madison and Verona. Candinas remembers the website going up around 2000 but admits it took a few years for online sales to pick up. The business now ships throughout the United States.

Media and trade organizations have lauded Candinas for the quality and value of his chocolate over the years, including numerous accolades from Consumer Reports.

Candinas has embraced the use of science and technology in the production of chocolates at his Verona factory.

"Why shy away from technology?" he asks. "We've really looked at what makes a fine chocolate a fine chocolate, on the molecular level."

But each chocolate is finished by hand, drizzled carefully with a different garnish for every variety.

Candinas rotates among the different positions at his company, from marketing to storefront.

"There are elements to everything that I like," he says. "I genuinely love working in the store."

- Nora G. Hertel