A Valentine’s Day visit to a New Jersey chocolate factory

BY Lauren Wanko, Correspondent |

It’s a chocolate lover’s paradise. There are small, chocolate waterfalls of sorts and pools of the sweet treat at David Bradley Chocolatier in Robbinsville.

When asked what it’s like working in a chocolate factory, Production Manager Anthony Corsi replied, “I kind of feel like Willy Wonka sometimes. We just don’t have any Oompa Loompas!”

Everything’s handmade at the family business. It all starts with giant bars. David Bradley purchases blocks of Wilbur chocolate bars. They melt down different blends to create their signature taste. The chocolate then oozes into pitchers. It’s poured into machines called enrobers.

“We have two of them, one is in milk and one is in dark, they run constantly throughout the day,” said Corsi.

Pieces of crispy bacon move down a conveyor belt on which they are showered in chocolate. Once covered, they’re pushed through a shaker.

“That’s so it comes out not too thick, not too thin,” explained Corsi.

Then, the chocolate covered bacon or pretzels pass under a cooler where they harden and are packaged immediately.

“Valentine’s Day is a hectic 4-day rush. Guys, I love you, but even though they’re planners, they are a little bit last minute! We do get bombarded the last couple days,” said the co-owner of David Bradley Chocolatier, Christine O’Brian.

David Bradley Chocolatier sells nearly 1,500 pounds of chocolate covered strawberries just for Valentine’s Day, and hundreds of other products like edible heart boxes, that are filled with all sorts of different candies, Valentine’s treats for kids and truffles. Staffers are already gearing up for the next big holiday, Easter.

“Before you know it, when August comes around, we’ll start Halloween,” said Corsi.

Another popular item? Nonpareils. Chocolate is poured into a funnel, and pushed through the other end onto a tray of colorful candy seeds. At the same time, another worker dips fruit in pools of milk, dark, or white chocolate. There are also dozens of different candy molds like hearts or race cars to create those. Chocolate is funneled out of a machine into the mold, then it’s placed onto the “shaker” table.

“That gets all the air pockets or air bubbles out of the chocolate,” Corsi explained.

Customers can watch the process through a window.

“Working in a chocolate factory is incredibly dangerous. We skip a lot of lunches, we have a lot of treats when we’re here! But the most important thing is we’re always happy. How can you be sad coming to work at a chocolate factory every day,” O’Brian exclaimed.

Staffers insist the work is as sweet as the chocolate.