Mmm… chocolate. Who can resist the stuff? We’ve known a few cacao-hating weirdos* in our time, but here at UG, most everyone jumps at the chance to sample nature’s most delectable treat. That’s why we got so excited when we first saw Gayle Harte’s Chocolate Truffle Champagne Bottle, now officially available for purchase at UncommonGoods. It’s pretty much what it sounds like: a dark-and-white chocolate champagne bottle, neck enveloped in a pretty pink bow, that houses nine tasty champagne truffles. Need we say it again? Mmm… chocolate. And champagne!
A master of playfully shaped treats and an entrepreneur in her own right, we knew Gayle would be a perfect subject for our This Just In-spiration series—and she didn’t disappoint. Read on for Gayle’s insights on the benefits of chocolate for both body and soul, as well as a brief history of her Royal Oak, Michigan chocolaterie and espresso bar.
*We’re kidding, of course… it’s fine if you don’t like chocolate. Seriously… it’s… ugh. It’s fine.
When and how did you first start making chocolates?
Food has always been my passion but I didn’t start making chocolate until 1979. It started as a hobby at home where I would make chocolate truffles for friends and myself to eat. When people I didn’t know wanted to buy my truffles I knew I needed a licensed kitchen. To make a long story short I had a separate kitchen in the lower level of my home that somehow satisfied all the requirements for a licensed kitchen to produce chocolates. Everything was fine until I had to hire people to help me hand dip truffles. A neighbor complained. The local newspaper picked up the story and the publicity started my business. I subsequently moved my chocolate making to a retail store in Royal Oak, Michigan, where some of the original dippers are still with me.
What was the most exciting thing about opening your own chocolate shop?
I would always have my own supply of really good chocolate.
What does your typical day in the kitchen look like?
First thing in the morning all the chocolate melters have to be turned on to temper the chocolate. When I first started making chocolate everything was done with thermometers and double boilers to melt the chocolate. Now we can melt and temper hundreds of pounds in chocolate melters. Our retail store opens after our production starts but I spend most of my time in the production part. We make hand-dipped truffles every day. The retail store has an espresso bar. It was the first in the city in 1984 when my store opened.
How do you come up with new ideas for your specially shaped chocolates?
It is really easy to come up with new ideas for chocolate. The harder part is figuring out how to package the chocolates so they stay fresh and don’t break on the way to their final destination. When I first started my business I thought that if the chocolates were sublime the packaging could be simple. I was so WRONG. I found out that packaging matters even though it gets thrown away and you can’t eat it. Packaging is really expensive and so many companies spend more on their box than on what is inside the box. I am looking for edible packaging!!
Is there any type of confection you’d like to make, but haven’t quite perfected yet?
Every once in while I start messing around with pates de fruits. I want them to be authentic and perfectly made with fresh fruit. The results are always the same—inconsistent. I haven’t given up. I would dip them in chocolate because everything is better dipped in chocolate.
Finally, what quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
Chocolate is healthy!! Finally something I always knew is being touted on social media and in print—chocolate is good for you!! Chocolate is fun. People are taking it too seriously with all the worry about percents of cocoa and origin of beans. Just make sure the chocolate is made with cocoa butter and then decide whether you like milk, bittersweet, semi sweet, or even white chocolate and just eat and enjoy.