Elizabeth Schmitt is no stranger to styling beautiful food. Before moving to Atlanta, she lived in Connecticut and made her own chocolate bark as gifts for family and friends, ordering some of her chocolate from Alpharetta-based Chocoley. When entertaining, she made grazing boards filled with cheese, charcuterie and vegetables.
These projects satisfied her love of styling, her love of food and her love of fashion. Moving to Atlanta two-and-a-half years ago, ready to tap into the entrepreneurial spirit she cultivated while earning her MBA, she considered her options and decided to do something completely different.
She decided she would make “charcuterie” boards of candy.
“Life is supposed to be sweet,” Schmitt said. “Candy boards make people happy. They’re fun, festive, and they can be tweaked to work for any occasion.”
And, so, ATL Boards was born.
She started by making boards for friends and family, and sharing the photos on Instagram. Clients started coming to her. They needed boards as get-well gifts. Or, they wanted unicorn-themed or “Frozen” candy boards for a daughter’s birthday. They wanted boards for soccer team parties, with foil-covered chocolate soccer balls and candy in team colors. Grown-ups needed candy boards to match the team colors of their favorite football teams.
“It’s the kind of thing a mom would do, but most moms just don’t have time to deal with it,” she said.
Most moms also don’t have the styling chops to put a board together the way Schmitt does.
A rainbow board with stripes of six colors of candy is not just rows of jelly beans lined up in a rainbow pattern. There might be jelly beans in there, but they’re layered with Skittles and candy-coated chocolate chips, fruit slices and Swedish fish, all in the same color palette. Rows of color-matched gummy bears (each color-separated out of a bag of mixed-flavored bears) might separate each stripe. Candy Legos, jelly rings and chocolate-covered dried fruits provide bigger accents, while sticks of marshmallow poles and Twizzlers add height to the arrangements.
And, arrangements these are. A single board can take an hour to assemble. Schmitt hand places every piece of candy, nestling pieces together, carefully considering the colors, textures and shapes, so the visual interest of the board meets her standards.
Schmitt makes sure her candy boards include sour flavors, too, to contrast with the sweet. Sour Airheads and gumballs are mixed in with the fruity gummy bears and sweet ice cream cone candies.
“I don’t have a formula,” she said. “You’re taking something that’s kind of chaotic, and making it look perfectly imperfect. That’s the tricky part, and there is definitely a method to the madness.”
The careful layering of candy means that, as people begin grazing on the board, it doesn’t turn into a disorganized mess. And, the fact that it’s candy means that, as a centerpiece, it will look good throughout the party, and even until the next day.
Also, don’t be surprised if there’s a bit of licorice on her candy boards. It’s there because licorice is Schmitt’s favorite. “I do love a Good & Plenty,” she said with a smile as she showed off the wide range of licorice candies available, including wheels, cut licorice sticks, allsorts and pastels.
She orders some bulk candy, but generally sources her candy in local grocery stores and party shops. Her boards are assembled on either 10-inch square clear acrylic trays or 15-inch square wooden ones. She estimated a 10-inch board would feed up to a dozen people, while the 15-inch board could serve up to two dozen. She sends clear acrylic scoops along with the 1/2-inch deep boards, so partygoers can select just the candy pieces that appeal to them. A 10-inch board starts at $90, and a 15-inch board at $130.
Her candy stash is organized in clear bins, but she doesn’t like to segregate things by color. She finds that just looking at the colors altogether often is a source of inspiration for a board.
Because she knows people do not live by candy alone, Schmitt also makes snack boards (with vegetables cut into tiny shapes; finger-friendly fruits, like berries; halved cherry tomatoes; bread sticks; and chips) that are a big hit at kids’ parties, and as classroom snacks. And, she makes grazing boards for those practicing the F-Factor diet (with dairy-free “cheese” and fiber-filled vegetables).
Yes, she styles cheese boards, too.
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