Judith Antelman has taken on the truffle business—one batch at a time. Specializing in handcrafted, organic, and locally sourced truffles and bark, Antelman makes decadent treats to order, ensuring that her customers get the best product possible. She makes organic dark and milk truffles, and offers vegan versions of all her truffles as well.
JERSEY BITES: How did you get started?
JUDITH ANTELMAN: I love dark chocolate. Fifteen, twenty years ago, dark chocolate was not as iconic as it is today. The first time I went to France, I tasted my first truffle. I was in a little village and I tasted a chocolate truffle. That was pure truffle—just dark chocolate, cream, real cocoa, and that’s it. I came back here and I didn’t taste anything like it. I always like my food very pure, simple, and clean, so I started experimenting. It took me a while to find the right balance between organic dark chocolate and organic cream. Over the years, I started taking classes at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. I finessed and perfected my product and I would just bring them to parties. Friends would say, “You know, you should sell them.” I didn’t really take that seriously until 2009. I worked on Wall Street and after the mortgage crash I really just took it seriously. I had someone build me a website and I started selling my truffles.
Did you have an “Aha!” moment?
It was at a party and I put out a lot of truffles, different flavors. Everybody was reaching for them, and they said, “Where did you buy these?” I thought, Aha!
Where do you get your ingredients?
I want organic, fair trade, and local—I currently use a Brooklyn-based chocolatier. They are fair trade, organic, best practices, not using slave labor, and they go to the source. The chocolate is pure and clean. I do not make my own coconut cream. I buy it, but it is organic and it is pure. There’s not all kinds of garbage in it.
Has coming up with a new flavor ever surprised you?
I love cardamom. I had cardamom on my counter, and I was doing something else. Then I decided to try it with chocolate, I know it’s a strong flavor. So I made a batch of cardamom truffles and I had brought it to a party. Everybody loved them, and actually somebody who tasted my cardamom truffle was so excited about it that he built my first website for me. Cardamom was the last flavor that I would think anybody would like because it’s an acquired taste.
Have you ever had a huge fail experimenting in the kitchen?
I don’t eat salt but everybody else loves salt and it’s a big thing with chocolate. So, I put this Himalayan pink salt and I thought, I’m going to try salted almond. For me, everything tastes saltyeven if you put a pinch in it. So I kept putting another pinch and another pinch and another pinch and I remember bringing them to a party. Then somebody tasted them, and they made this face and asked, “What’s in this?” It wasn’t even in my kitchen—I actually brought them out. I actually brought them to a party. Everybody made these faces saying, “Ewwww.” So I don’t make truffles with salt anymore.
Do you keep truffles on hand?
The truffles are made to order. I don’t make batches and just keep them around. Somebody contacts me and I make them 48 hours [out] so they’re perfectly fresh. I’ve gone into stores and I could tell that the truffles have been sitting there for days.
What advice would you give to budding foodie-preneurs?
Practice, persistence, follow through! If you have a passion, practice and be persistent.
What New Jersey restaurants do you enjoy dining at?
MishMish Cafe, Marcel Bakery & Kitchen, and The Corner in Montclair. I love Dough Artisan Pizza in Caldwell—it is amazing pizza. Everything is locally sourced, and they have their own garden—it’s delicious.
If you could have dinner with any three people, living, deceased, or fictional, who would they be and why?
Richard Holbrooke. He was an American diplomat, an ambassador to Germany and the UN, a Peace Corps official. I want to hear his stories about working internationally and domestically. I want to hear his life story. He was the one who helped broker peace in the Balkans as chief negotiator of the Dayton Peace Accords. I’ve always been an admirer because of his audacity and persistence. A living person would be Bruce Springsteen. The last would be Madeleine Albright.
Check out Bark & Truffle’s website.