A chocolatier is someone who makes chocolate confectionery such as truffles. The term “chocolatier” is also used to describe a shop or business which specializes in the sale of chocolates and candy, and as an umbrella term for prestigious firms which manufacture high-quality chocolate. Most of the world's best chocolatiers can be found in France, Germany, and Switzerland, although a rising movement in the United States is also worthy of attention.
In the sense of someone who physically makes chocolates, a chocolatier is a professionally trained cook who has chosen to specialize in chocolate confectionery. He or she is very knowledge about chocolate formulations, the procedures for making chocolate candy, and the history of chocolate. It is common to apprentice at a chocolate-making firm to learn more about the trade after being educated in culinary school, and some chocolatiers also study fields like psychology so that they can get inside the heads of their customers.
A chocolatier is not the same thing as a chocolate maker. A chocolate maker specializes specifically in the formulation of chocolate itself, working with the raw ingredients to produce chocolate which is sold to chocolatiers and cooks to be turned into chocolate confections and other foods. Chocolate makers are schooled in the chemistry of chocolate, the process involved in turning cacao beans into chocolate, and the many types of cacao beans which can be found around the world. Major candy firms employ their own chocolate makers who also enforce consistency standards, while smaller companies source their chocolate from other firms, with in-house chocolatiers turning the chocolate into a final product.
In the sense of a store where candy is sold, a chocolatier typically stocks a range of chocolate confections, and a smaller array of candy. Hand-made truffles are commonly on offer, along with things like fudge, chocolate bark, bar chocolate, chocolate-dipped fruit, and novelty items. The shop may make its own chocolate, or source products from companies which produce chocolates.
Many prestigious chocolate firms also refer to themselves as chocolatiers, out of a desire to stress the idea that they produce artisan products in-house with highly trained staff. These firms produce chocolate confections on a much larger scale than a small shop, which requires the services of talented chocolatiers to ensure that the products are uniform, and of the highest quality possible.