Interview – Bryn from the Dartmoor Chocolate Company

What got you interested in producing confectionery?Major_Series_06

I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but there’s also a long family history of working as confectioners, sugar-boilers and the like, stretching back at least five generations.

Originally, my forebears came down from Scotland to work at Tate & Lyle around the turn of the 20th century, their son (my great-great-grandfather) served in the Great War as a cook – there’s a much loved family tale about how he cured a horse carcass and made it edible to feed the men in his section of the trenches, with his commanding officer remarking that ‘it was the best piece of boiled ham he’d ever had!’

After the war, he set up a sweet shop in Canning Town and produced his own wares. After him, the tradition dulls a little – just some very tasty homemade fudges and so forth. Now I’m hoping to follow in their footsteps. It wasn’t until about three years ago that I developed an interest in producing sweets, chocolates and ice creams. A friend passed away very suddenly, which led me to re-evaluate what I was doing with my life. I decided to make the most and live more, so I started cooking more and taking sweets & treats into work for colleagues. The feedback was very positive and I quite enjoyed making things, which led to S’mores, truffles, banoffee bites and by the summer there was ice cream and all sorts!

After sixteen weeks of making sweets and ice creams, I’d put together quite a range. People had started to suggest I make a business of it, so I came back to the family home in Dartmoor, pitched the idea to a local cafe – I’d use their facilities at night and work the hours off when needed, sell some wares through them and the rest online. Just two months after, I applied for the apprenticeship that had just opened up at Badgers’ Holt.

The next year was a mixture of long nights of working on sweets, long days of working in hot kitchens and balancing a business with chef training. Several fairs, shows and competitions later, I’m here.

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When did you first make confectionery?

About three years ago now. I started off working in the small kitchen in my flat, scooping and rolling ganache in cocoa powder after work to make something nice for my colleagues.

How was your first attempt at making confectionery?

It was rather delicious and a little messy. That was what sparked my interest in researching chocolate and sugar based confectionery. The next step was creating a shell for the ganache, then getting the tempering perfect for that delicious ‘snap’ when you bite into it and next on to all manner of flavours, fillings and refining of techniques. I still can’t believe it all started just a few years ago in a small kitchen in Dorset.

How and from where do you source your ingredients?

I always strive to use the best quality ingredients I can. The better the starting materials, the finer the resulting product will be. That’s why all the chocolate I use is sourced from Callebaut – they have a great range with plenty of variation.

My dairy ingredients are sourced from producers in the South-West. I’m currently using the most local items I can get from supermarkets, but I’m working on getting a trade account with a commercial fruit, vegetable & dairy supplier that works closely with Devon farmers to supply some of the best ingredients I’ve ever seen.

As far as fruit-based ingredients go, I either use essences from Uncle Roy’s, a fantastic group based in Scotland, who use all-natural ingredients as much as possible. Where possible, I’ll use real fruit, fresh from the grocer. However, sometimes you need something stronger for that ultimate fruity-zesty hit, in which case I’ll turn to Major International, who are arguably one of the cornerstones of the culinary
sector…and, of course, the sugar comes from Tate & Lyle.

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Anything you are particularly proud of about your products?

I entered the Major Series earlier in 2019 with a display of truffles and a couple of croquembouche, earning a silver medal. I had to work on the day of the judging and results, but was told that the judges were impressed with what they’d seen and tried. Had I used different fillings, instead of just ganaches, I’d have been given a gold medal. In any case, they were pleased to see a driven self-starter and asked me to come back next year in February to see how the judging is done and hopefully to learn a few things about being the best I can in making confectionery.

I’ve also had two senior members of the Craft Guild of Chefs compliment the quality of my truffles, which is a high accolade in my books.

What’s your best-selling product?

By far it has to be the chocolate truffles – I’ve had people travel from as far as Italy to come and try them. The second best would be the Scottish Tablet, with my largest single order being fifteen kilograms.

What achievement are you most proud of?

I couldn’t pin it down to just one. It’d have to be a tie between the silver medal earlier this year and contributing towards the Taste of the West silver award at my workplace.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I’d like to take the Dartmoor Chocolate Company on as a full-time venture and grow the business to a size where I can take on one or more people to share in the fun of making these goodies. Currently, I offer chocolates, fudges, sweets and ice creams – I’d love to branch into cakes, pastries and all manner of desserts and supply as many businesses as I can in the region. I also want to keep learning as much as I can about this field, partly to keep improving the quality of my wares and partly because I find it strangely fascinating.

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What’s your mission statement?

The Dartmoor Chocolate Company was founded to make all manner of delicious sweets and treats for people. The aim is to make people happy. To be able to provide something good for everyone, at a fair price. But it’s about more than providing good quality wares and service. It’s about keeping the traditions of the confectionery industry alive – producing things by hand where possible, in the old ways. Free of unnecessary artificial ingredients and preservatives. It’s about using that skillset to provide people with a bespoke range insofar as possible. If you’d like a certain product in a different style or flavour, you should be able to have that – without the exorbitant price associated with many organisations who offer custom options. It’s about making sure that people and businesses alike can have delicious, high-quality products just how they want them. It’s about making life sweet.

What’s your favourite type of chocolate?

I’m a terrible chocolate fiend, I love all kinds. That said, I must confess that I do love a bar of Dairy Milk now and again. Callebaut makes gorgeous Belgian chocolate, but sometimes you can’t beat the sweets you grew up with.

You will be able to get your hands on Bryn’s handmade chocolates and treats at the Exeter Chocolate Festival. If you would like to contact the Dartmoor Chocolate Company before then, click here.