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One of the biggest challenges of owning a chocolate company is always having to stay on top of what is trending in the market and creating a future trend. When I travelled to Paris, a few years ago, I was amazed to see every boutique chocolate shop showcased Single Origin chocolate. It was smooth rich delicious chocolate with nothing added but just the flavour of the cocoa from the beans in which country it was grown. I was so impressed that I found out whom the suppliers of these Single Origin chocolates were and decided to import it back to Canada. My trip to Paris started a whole new brand within the company called the Wild Boar; “Wild” as in the countries and forests that the chocolate was grown and “Boar” because the boar is the crazy side of our truffle pig, our other brand. But, when I launched the Wild Boar chocolate bar with its Single Origins it seemed the Canadian market was not ready for amazing chocolate for different countries but rather a current trend of blended chocolate featuring outrageous flavour infusions. I must admit I was really disappointed because I thought quality of the chocolate would be good enough. I started to question myself thinking maybe I had made a mistake, is our society so over stimulated and now we have to over stimulate our pallets, or am I getting old fashioned?
With that being said, I have decided to embrace the flavour concept and use an Organic chocolate for my next line of Wild Boar bars but still keeping my Single Origin chocolate bars because the chocolate is soooo good. But I have a big problem; while my intentions to have certified chocolate my factory is not certified therefore I cannot label my bars certified organic . I have also decided to work together with small farmers to create some unique flavours in the market. I have found an Indonesian family that produces an amazing cashew nut and uses a traditional recipe to spice them. The farm is small and I pay a big price to use their nuts therefore I am using fair trade practises. My big problem is that they are not organic certified because they cannot afford the certification. I have chosen to not claim the certification on the Wild Boar bar because I still want to support the farm and the family that runs it and I need to have my factory certified. My concern is that when consumers shop for chocolate are they only going to look for the certification labels of organic and fair trade?
Please remember there is a story behind every product you buy please take the time to look at the companies you buy from and what their story is, you might realize you just supported someone from across the country who really needed your help! When you enjoy our new Wild Boar bars please take the time to view the farmers on our web site coming in December 2012!
One of the best parts of being a Chocolate Princess is travelling. In June we participated in two trade shows, Chicago and Washington DC, displaying our chocolates to the industry. Although these are working trips and can be very exhausting I absolutely love doing them. After all our work at the trade shows is done, I always try to add a few days in each city to tour.
Since I had never been to Chicago we decided to soak in the complete Chicago experience. We went to a Cubs game at Wrigley stadium, ate deep dish pizza and Chicago style hot dogs, went to the Navy Pier and took a water taxi through the canal gazing at the mesmerizingly tall skyscrapers and my favourite tourist activity, we rode the tour bus.
At the trade show we met a lovely couple, who we now do business with, they live at the top of the Hancock Building on the 90th floor. They invited us to their suite for a drink, the experience was mind blowing. One of the craziest parts of this building was the fact that they had an old building by-law that required every floor need a window that fully opened. Therefore I couldn’t resist and on the 90th floor I opened that window and took pictures of the tiny streets below, it was such an adrenaline thrill when I stuck my head out the window and felt the breeze against my face on top of Chicago!!! Chicago has now become one of my favorite cities!!!
Washington DC is a beautiful city with its manicured streets, beautifully sustained heritage buildings and green grass parks. We didn’t have as much time to enjoy the city as our trip was getting a little long but we managed to visit the American History museum, National Zoo and rode the tour bus that took us by all the spectacular monuments. Every night we took in the culture and ate fun ethnic cuisines! The weather was crazy as they were having a heat wave and the temperatures were 98 degrees F. Washington is a fantastic city full of history with lots to do and by the way, all the Smithsonian Museums are free!
Next stop is Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City for meetings and chocolate school again! I can’t wait to share some of those adventures with you!!!
Being a Chocolate Princess sure can be busy! Over the winter we launched our first retail store and filled it with very fancy chocolates made from the recipes I learned from Chef David Capy in France!! It has always been one of my dreams to open my own cute little retail store and be able to showcase our playful brand. I can’t believe we actually did it!
Since the store is our first “test” store, I wanted to create it in the building we currently occupy, it’s not the ideal location because there is limited parking and it’s not brick and beam, but the fact that it’s 20 feet from my desk, it has enabled me to keep up with the rest of the kingdom while piecing everything together. The best part of building the store is the fact that all the Chocolate Princesses and myself worked diligently painting, flooring and piecing together all the furniture. I think the only issue we had was that Princess Brooke broke a nail and maybe some of our wood finishing pieces aren’t exactly straight!!
Opening another chocolate shop in the Lower Mainland needed something unique therefore I decided to create different flavoured super fancy smores!! Each smore has a tiny butter wafer cookie holding a truly gourmet marshmallow drenched in the highest quality chocolate imported from France, it’s a true delight! Along with the fanciful smores we make 13 different exquisite Parisian bon bons. Each chocolate is filled with a ganache flavoured with Kalamsi fruit, crunchy hazelnuts, Blood Orange and many more!
Next month I am going to make real vanilla bean gourmet soft serve covered in our Single Origin Chocolate, I just bought the machine last week!
I would have never thought that doing all these crazy things would fill my soul so much but it truly delights me to see our customers in the store enjoying our products. This year I have one more chocolate adventure that takes me to chocolate school in Montreal. Next year I am planning to visit an Italian chocolate maker in Italy; I can’t wait to see what influences these trips will bring for Hagensborg Chocolates!
After flying to France last year and Montreal this year to learn the art of making chocolates, I finally put my newly learned chocolate making skills into practice. These last two days Rose and I made hundreds of bon bons and molded chocolates from the recipes we learned on our travels for our new Wild Boar product line. Everything from passion fruit to simple dark chocolate ganache bon bons will become a part of our fall collection. Now with all my samples complete it’s time to get to work on the new packaging and the store front to sell them in.
For the month of June and July I plan on putting the store together so we can open before the summer ends! I have wanted to open a store to showcase our whimsical brand for five years. It seems that people know about us and our products but they have never been to one location that has the whole product line surrounded by the “kingdom” of Hagensborg Chocolates. To me it’s another dream come true. We plan on showcasing our Truffle Pig chocolate line, Single Origin Wild Boar line, and our new collection of candies, brittles and gourmet chocolate dipped candies. We also have a fun surprise up our sleeve; a little taste of summer, which I don’t want to tell you yet.
Let’s cross our fingers and hope I can get everything done in time before the end of summer and be able to open the new store and showcase the new product line!
Last month I went to the Callebaut Chocolate Academy in St. Hyacinth, Quebec to study chocolate and bonbon making with their school Director Derrick Tu Tan Pho.
*Fun Fact* about Callebaut: The company was founded by Eugenius Callebaut as a brewery in Wieze, Belgium, in 1850, and began producing chocolate bars in 1911. (Who would have thought a chocolate company started as a brewery?)
At school we played with various Single Origin Chocolates. Single Origin chocolates are grown in a single region or country whose distinctive flavors are directly influenced by that territory (or environment). This means that the taste of the chocolate could be more fruity, earthy, bitter, acidic, smokey, taste like tabacco because of the soil, rain and vegetation. This is very similar to the way wine is grown and why the flavours change from Chardonay to Sauvion Blanc. Most of the chocolates we consume in North America are a blend of chocolate from various countries therefore it would be like a table wine made with a few varieties of grapes.
What makes Single Origin chocolates tend to be more expensive? I like to tell people that it compares to the coffee industry, why a cup of coffee at Starbucks is so expensive compared to Nabob and other large coffee suppliers. We purchase the coffee because of its unique tastes. We also learned about the roasting techniques and how each taste differed from each country. Before we even knew it Starbucks became a flavour addiction and now a daily routine! I truly believe that once you sample some unique flavours of chocolate from different countries it opens your mind to a quality of Chocolate that is relatively new to North America and truly incredible!
When I open my showroom in the front of our company this year I hope to showcase these amazing flavours and educate our already super smart consumers about all the fun flavours you can experience from many different countries.
Wish me luck opening a retial store is a BIG job getting the space ready but I am so excited!
This month I am packing my suitcase full of chocolate and heading to the Callebaut Chocolate Academy in Quebec. I will be working with the School Director Derrick Tu Tan Pho who is a Master Chocolatier and Pastry Chef, to develop some new and refreshing recipes for the Truffle Pig Bars. I have to admit, since my trip to France last year to train with David Capy, I have not made as many handmade “bon bons” as I would have liked to. But now that I want to create new flavours for 2011, I really need to put my apron on!
On my journey to learning how to become a Chocolatier, one of the hardest things I have learned is the chocolate tempering process. There have been so many frustrating times where I have tempered the chocolate to the wrong temperature, or the chocolate had bloomed or become a strange texture. I would like to blame it on the thermometer… but I think it was just me.
In preparation for my trip, I decided I would attempt to make some very unique flavoured Pig bars to bring with me. I tempered dark, milk and even white chocolate and created a shell of chocolate in the pig bar molds.
Fun Fact: When chocolate liquor is pressed, the fat can be removed from it. This fat is called cocoa butter, and it is the primary ingredient in white chocolate.
My next step was to create the ganache using one of my recipes from France, but I decided to change the original recipe to include some fun flavours from my childhood! Due to the fact that I did not have natural flavorings available at the time of creating the chocolates, I used alcohol liquors. Not only was this fun to put in the recipe, but also fun to drink while creating my masterpieces. The one thing I didn’t count on when using alcohol was that you need to use A LOT to actually flavour the chocolate! The only problem with this is, is the fact that it changes the consistency of the chocolate! I guess too much alcohol is not a good thing – who would have thought!
My last step was to seal the chocolate with a layer of chocolate over the ganache. I have to say, the machines that we use for our Pig Bars do a fantastic job. Since I was doing it by hand, I filled my little piggies too full and the ganache and outer layer smushed and made some crazy swirl designs. It’s a good thing this is just for research!
The new recipes are top secret and will launch in the Fall. But if you have a fun flavour recipe that you think is perfect for our Pig Bars make sure you send it to us at email@example.com.
You never know… your recipe might turn into a Hagensborg Pig Bar!
Last month we launched our new chocolate bar called the “Wild Boar” at the Fancy Food show in San Francisco. If you’re not in the food industry and you are reading this blog, you should know that the Fancy Food show is a huge convention full of gourmet food from all over the world on display for three days. There is cheese, salami, olives and prosciutto that you can taste to your heart’s desire as well as hundreds of chocolate, candy and snack companies! So much delicious food you feel like you have died and flew up into food heaven!
The Wild Boar chocolate bar we launched at the show took ten months to create. In the first month we had to eat A LOT of chocolate – I know, it’s a rough life. We must have tested 80 chocolate bars and even our Sales Manager told me, “no more chocolate!” Since some of the chocolate we tried had come from my trip to Paris, we decided on the Single Origin chocolate processed in France since it had the strongest cocoa taste. Did you know Europeans eat twice as much chocolate than North Americans? Who would have thought us chocolate diehards didn’t eat enough!!! Inspired by its flavour and due to the fact it came from the various jungles of Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Madagascar, we decided on the name Wild Boar. (Our Truffle Pig was too cute for this wild beast!) Since then, the Boar’s character has been brought to life and is displaying its wild nature by having a food fight with his friends on the packaging.
After the show was over, my Boyfriend and I rode the on/off bus around the city. On the bus you get a narration from a tour guide and you get to see all the parts of the San Francisco that you wouldn’t normally see. It is our favorite thing to do when we go travelling. This trip, we had a blast and took the bus over the Golden Gate Bridge. It was so cold and windy our sunglasses were going to fly off, but the view was soooo worth it! The bus crossed the bridge right as the sun was setting; and the sun actually set the length of time it took to cross the bridge – it was absolutely beautiful. If you ever get the chance to ride the bus in San Francisco we highly recommend it…we did it three times!
In 2004, my first year in the chocolate business after leaving the Four Seasons Hotel, I read a quote by William Feather that changed my life. The quote read as follows, “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.” I was so moved by its simplistic message that I copied it onto a yellow sticky note and stuck in on my telephone so that whenever I received a sales rejection I would be inspired to pick up the phone and try again. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this quote would become the definition of my entrepreneurial spirit.
One of the most important things I have had to learn on my journey was the true definition of success. When I first started I would call success just picking up the phone and making the call. After a while I called success creating a product that people enjoyed. Later on in my career success was getting my product into a National retailer. From then success became hiring a team of Princesses to help me sell my chocolates. This year felt even more successful because I was able to fulfill my dream of going to Paris and train with one of the World’s most amazing Chocolatiers.
Every day I wake up feeling I have been blessed and enjoy what I do and what I have come to realize, that is the definition of success. I owe my happiness to all the people around me that have lifted my spirit and stood behind me holding up the quote that once was just a sticky note on my phone encouraging me to hang on. This month, I had the honor of being published in November 2010 Chatelaine magazine as Ms. Chatelaine and I want to say thank you to all the people who have joined me in what originally started as my dream but has become a part of all of us. Rose, Constantine, Lena, Les, Garnie, Lyndsay, Brooke, Alley, Laurie, Bernie, my boyfriend Flavio and my wonderful children Fynn and Piper, I couldn’t have done all this without you!
You tell me!!!
I have cut myself off eating chocolate and sugar (except for in my tea) for one week now and I think I am ready to eat anything in the office that even looks like chocolate or is sweet. I am ravenous for chocolate!!! I don’t think, other than the time my mom made us eat Carob, I have ever stopped eating chocolate. I am going to see how long I can stand this, can you tell me your chocolate addiction stories?…I would love to hear them. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I need to know I am not alone!