Senior discovers business world through truffle making

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Senior discovers business world through truffle making

When Berger first began making chocolate truffles when he was 13 years old, the only flavors he made were milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Since then, he has expanded his menu to include more unique flavors, such as Kahlúa, toffee, strawberry, orange and mint.

When Berger first began making chocolate truffles when he was 13 years old, the only flavors he made were milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Since then, he has expanded his menu to include more unique flavors, such as Kahlúa, toffee, strawberry, orange and mint.

When Berger first began making chocolate truffles when he was 13 years old, the only flavors he made were milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Since then, he has expanded his menu to include more unique flavors, such as Kahlúa, toffee, strawberry, orange and mint.

When Berger first began making chocolate truffles when he was 13 years old, the only flavors he made were milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Since then, he has expanded his menu to include more unique flavors, such as Kahlúa, toffee, strawberry, orange and mint.

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One can imagine senior Max Berger in his kitchen, preparing ingredients for another large holiday order of chocolate truffles.  The smell of chocolate, hanging in the air. To him this is just another batch, one among many. He moves through the process easily, an expert in his industry. A perfectionist, Berger only achieved to this level after years of experience, as it took five years to build his business. From humble beginnings selling door-to-door, Berger’s chocolate business has progressed to a partnership with the Double Tree hotel. Berger has found success as a chocolatier and discovered a passion through his work.

Berger started making truffles at age 13. Dismayed that he was too young to obtain a workers’ permit, Berger combined his love of pastry making and his capitalistic intuition into one passion. He founded Zeboygan Chocolates, named after his family’s former surname, in his kitchen one evening.

“I liked cooking at the time so I thought; why not make some chocolate creation?” Berger said. “I went to the kitchen one night and just made some chocolates. It was not a very good recipe by any means. Over a period of six months I developed the recipe more.”

Berger started his business by contacting one of America’s most renowned chocolatiers, Peter Greweling, the author of Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner. His work as a pastry and candy maker has made him a leader in the industry. Berger contacted the chocolate expert with questions about his own recipe.

“I told him what I was trying to do. I knew he was a good chocolatier, very well known,” Berger said. “Through a few emails I finally was able to call him for about an hour. I contacted him a couple times after just to tell him how it’s going.”

Under the early guidance of Greweling and after months of exhausting experimentation, Berger brought his chocolates to the world. He started small, selling only to family and friends. As time went on, Berger’s interpersonal skills grew, giving him the confidence to sell to neighbors and distant contacts. At first, he only sold two flavors of chocolates: milk and dark. As his skills developed, he grew his repertoire to include more flavors. Kahlúa, toffee, strawberry, orange and mint have all been added to his rotating menu. Berger orders his ingredients from England and California and prides himself on the absence of preservatives in his truffles.

“When I have a new flavor it’s adding a certain amount of other extracts. Usually there is some sort of alcoholic beverage,” Berger said. “Like Kahlúa, our special dark, or orange, there’ll be some sort of orange alcoholic beverage. I experiment how much I should do it so the consistency is right.”

By eighth grade, Berger’s work started to garner appreciation from the community. Family friends ordered his truffles for parties, people from his synagogue praised the young man for his impressive business. No one was more aware of how far he had come than his mother, Miriam Berger.

“He learned a lot about dealing with people and finding out what people want and being flexible enough to tailor his expectations to what people really want,” Miriam Berger said. “He learned about selling, marketing, accounting and customer service, what people want. I think a lot of people were very impressed.”

Berger soon found that his truffles even had applications in the classroom. Shepard social studies teacher David Komie allowed Berger to use his truffles to fundraise for his Veteran’s Project, a project designed to allow students to use creativity to honor American Veterans.

“I found in general that entrepreneurs are independent people, that they think for themselves and they are brave so they can take an idea and run with it and persevere ,” Komie said. “He could’ve pitched me any kind of project he wanted to do to honor veterans. He predated this with the truffle business that he had. I wanted to harness his creativity.  He was interested and had a fundraiser do it and ran with it.”

Berger’s largest success came with his sales to the Double Tree Hotel. At age 14 Berger had the opportunity to sell his truffles to the hotel for weddings and other special occasions. By this time, Berger renamed his business to Max’s Chocolates, believing that the name was easier to remember than Zeboygan.

“As a fourteen year old selling a product from a business that you just made, it was a really big accomplishment for me,” Berger said. “It definitely inspired me to keep on going. If you set your mind to it you can accomplish large things.”

Around sophomore year that Berger started to see definite rise in profits. He had been making a few hundred dollars a year, but work with the Double Tree and an expanded clientele brought in thousands of dollars every holiday season.

Unsure of his company’s future following his time at DHS, Berger is confident that his experiences have improved his professional and personal skills and has left a lasting impression on him and his clients. But for now, Berger continues in his kitchen, always forming his new creations for others to enjoy.

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