Chocolatier Tom Block Makes Passionfruit Truffle

Culinary influences?
I've always loved Julia Child, and now I've been consulting her for inspiration in desserts I'm trying to come up with for our brand new store at 18th and Walnut in Philadelphia. Small, artisanal chocolate places really fascinate me —a lot of places in New York particularly. Obviously they've always been in parts of Europe, Paris and Vienna.

Where did you learn to cook? --are you self-taught or did you have formal training?
I'm self-taught in chocolate, but I've been in the business for about 35 years. I should have been teaching political science, but I never got around to doing that!

Favorite cookbook?
Though they have nothing to do with chocolate, I have two. I really like Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And I love, and refer to a lot, Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen. It's a great Cajun cookbook.

What's the one ingredient you could not live without?
I'd say good wine. It pairs with both food and chocolate, which is perfect.

Favorite Microbrew beer or wine?
I enjoy some of the beers from Vermont, like Magic Hat. Sam Adams is coming out with a chocolate lager that I've sampled and I really like.

Favorite music to listen to while cooking?
To everybody's distress, Frank Sinatra, and the American songbook, the standards. That's my favorite music. But I realize I'm living yesterday. That's the biggest fight I have with my daughter and everyone else at Naked Chocolate.

What is your favorite type of food?
It's a toss-up between Italian and Chinese —but it would probably end up being Italian.

Most memorable meal?
I look for each meal to be memorable! But probably the most memorable meals I've ever had are meals that I've cooked, or cooked with people. Almost every Sunday I cook for between 25 and 70 people. For about six years now we have a big gathering almost every Sunday at my mother's house or wherever, bring a lot of people and have live music. Now my staff gets very annoyed if I don't bring a lot of food Monday morning for them to eat.

Most irritating celebrity chef?
That seems a little unfair! Could be Paula Deen —not sure!

What makes indie food better?
I don't think there's any question that indie food has more passion. I think all of it is cooked with more passion, and caring. It's not formulaic or cookie-cutter. And that's what I love about the chocolate business, too. There are a number of really small, wonderful —I call them artisanal, you call them indie chocolatiers that bring a lot of passion and real interest. Whether it's savory food or sweet, I just love that.

—Rebecca Troutman, Associate Editor, [email protected]