Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Magic and Mayhem - Working with my Mum

As Mother’s Day approaches and I started thinking about Mums, I asked my staff if they had stories they would like to share about their Mothers such as fond memories or lessons learnt.  As I was talking to my Mum about Nana and the stories we had about her I realised I had a pretty big story about my Mum to share so I thought I would right a blog about what it is like to work with your Mum.

Mum and I have worked together collectively for around 15 years, my current stint in the family business has been nine years!

When people ask me what it is like to work with my Mum I tend to  start with “Well, it has its moments”.  I mean that too, lots of moments, fabulous and not so great ones all rolled into one.

One of my favourite moments I shared with Mum was winning the Top Shop Award for ‘Best New Store’ the year after we first opened our store in Devonport and the next year we won 'Best Shop' in the food category.  
Those awards happened because when I said to my Mum “I could open the chocolate shop for you” she put her faith in me and let me do it.  That is what I love about working for my Mum.  The huge amount of support when I choose to put myself out there and try something new, even when it isn’t business related and I need to reduce my hours at work to do it.
Mum and I many years ago after a Top Shop win

One of my least favourite moments is Mum and I having a complete barney at each other (something we very rarely did anyway, even as I was growing up).  I can’t even remember what it was about but I can remember the argument and feeling like I was a teenager again.  I would not concede and neither would Mum (clearly I get my stubbornness from her!).  We’ve since done personality tests and found we have the same type (Myers Briggs) and once I got over the horror of finding out we did have the same personality, it explained a lot.

Through the years we have learnt to have more clear divisions at work so it is clear what area each of us looks after.  I tend to look after retail, the website and marketing.  Mum looks after the factory, sales and pretty much all the bits and pieces that come up when you run a chocolate business.  We both work on seasonal ranges and projects like our re-branding.  The re-branding has certainly been a project that has seen many a 'sparky' conversation between us.  Mum makes decisions based on gut instinct and emotion, I like facts and logic this is probably where we come most unstuck.

A lesson that I have learnt from my Mum through working for her is how to be brave.  I admire my Mum enormously for taking on a chocolate business with no chocolate experience.  Mum had lots of business experience and had run her own business but chocolate was new to her.  Lucky for us when we purchased Devonport Chocolates in 1999, it basically had one product range, the Truffle Logs.  Making these involved a lot of arm work and hand dipping but at their core weren’t too hard to make.  Of course my Mum, being who she is, could not just take over a business and keep running it as it was and she took herself off to chocolate school to learn how to make the chocolates and truffles we now have in our range.  As I slowly start setting up a business of my own (in the music field) and I start to get nervous about it, I think back to how extraordinary it was for Mum to take on Devonport Chocolates and turn it into what it is today.

So what is it like to work for your Mum?  It is like being wrapped in a hugely supportive and comforting blanket one day and then the next day being kicked out of it and being told to fend for yourself.  I read this quote the other day on a card we have just brought in for Mother’s Day and it is so very me.  “Every now and then I open my mouth and my Mum comes out”, I’m learning that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Summer Chocolate Milkshake

Summer is here and what better way to enjoy the hot chocolate mix you have left over from winter than in a summer milkshake.

250ml milk
2 large scoops of icecream (I used vanilla)
3 x heaped dessert spoons of Devonport Chocolates Dark Hot Chocolate mix

80g Devonport Chocolates 55% cocoa solids dark chocolate callets (chocolate buttons or drops)
Cream (i used cream in a can for ease of use)
Chocolate spoons, chocolate frogs, brittle to decorate.
Place milk, ice cream and hot chocolate powder in a blender or milk shake maker and blend until smooth. (See it is really easy).
If you would like to decorate your hot chocolate like the picture:
Put the chocolate callets in a microwave bowl, place in microwave on medium power for one minute and stir well, repeat this until chocolate is melted.  Place melted chocolarte in a zip lock bag, cut the corner and drizzle around the inside of the glass you are serving the milk shake in.  Pour the milk shake in the glass, top with cream and an assortment of goodies if you choose.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries Tips and Tricks

Summer is here and we often get asked if there is anything in particular you need to know about chocolate dipping strawberries, and yes there certainly is.

Chocolate dipped strawberries are (in our opinion) one of the best things about Summer, and here is what you need to know.  These tips and tricks are for using coverture chocolate (chocolate with cocoa butter, not vegetable fat).

1.  If you want your chocolate to look lovely rich and glossy, and you want to dip the strawberries in advance (like the day before), you are going to need to temper your chocolate.  Now don't be frightened, you can do this using your microwave at home, a digital thermometer will make it easier.  For instructions on tempering chocolate click here.

2.  Make sure your strawberries are washed and dried then left at room temperature (we recommend this for eating too, you get much more flavour from the strawberry).

3.  Prepare a baking tray (oven tray or cookie tray) with baking paper on it.

4.  Hold the strawberry by the green leafy part and dip in your tempered chocolate.  Gently shake the excess chocolate off and place on your baking tray.

5.  Once you have completed your tray of strawberries place in the fridge until the strawberry comes off the baking paper easily.

6.  Keep in cool dry conditions until serving (not your fridge as the strawberries will sweat), around 18-20 degrees is perfect, normally a pantry.

If tempering your chocolate is a bit too scary or you don't have time you can just melt down your chocolate and dip without tempering.  The chocolate won't look as glossy and the trick is you need to dip the strawberries as close to eating as possible, at least the same day, by the next day the chocolate will look very cloudy and dull. To melt chocolate you can put the chocolate in your microwave in a microwave proof bowl, power must be on medium (or the chocolate will burn), and heat up in one minute increments stirring well between each increment until melted.

Here are some ideas for decorating:

Use white chocolate (still needs to be tempered) and divide into three bowls.  Colour it three different types of pink.  You need to use powdered colouring you can get from cake stores not liquid colouring.

Decorate with stripes.  Just place chocolate in a small piping bag and cut a tiny hole in the piping bag, no need for a nozzle.

Dip one half in white chocolate and the other in milk or dark chocolate.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

25 Years old and still passionate about chocolate

Devonport Chocolates turns 25 years old this year, and like all major birthdays it comes with a lot of reflection and looking to the future.

The original Devonport Chocolates range,
photo taken when we took over the business in 1999.
Devonport Chocolates started in a humble kitchen with a Mum and Daughter wanting a business challenge.  Gayle MacDuff and her daughter Joanne had the fabulous idea to start a small chocolate kitchen in 1991.  The core product was to be what was called the Truffle Log.  A fairly chunky piece of chocolate that you are meant to slice, perfect as gifts or presented as a dessert on a cheese board. Gayle's selling prowess saw them quickly stocked by Devonport Pharmacy and then they went from there.  After a few years and a move out of the kitchen and into a small industrial unit in Glenfield Gayle and Joanne sold to Linda & Kay who ran Devonport Chocolates as well as having full-time jobs at Air New Zealand.

While Devonport Chocolates was unfolding, my Mum Stephanie was feeling the need to end her long career in publishing.  Stephanie mentioned to _ & _ that if the ever wanted to sell the business she would be interested, she could already see the potential of this exciting business if it has someone to focus on it.  In 1999, Stephanie sat down for her first cup of tea of semi-retirement and the phone range Linda & Kay were selling Devonport Chocolates and would she be interested.  Mum has never looked back.  As a uni student my part-time job quickly became the family business and Mum and I found ourselves working together again, I didn't realise until today what a great circle for the business to have started off with a Mum and Daughter and to have ended up there too (plus a Dad and a brother in the mix too).

Circa 2003, our little chocolate shop in Devonport
Never to sit still for long within the first three years Stephanie had brought Devonport Chocolates back to Devonport by buying an industrial building in Wynyard St, Devonport and building the chocolate kitchen within the building.  We built our own website and opened our little chocolate shop, and somewhere in those crazy few years Stephanie also took herself off to chocolate school in Melbourne to the William Angliss Institute, after recognising that the business would only go so far with Truffle Logs and we now had a little shop that we needed to fill with chocolates.
One of our earlier Christmas ranges, probably around 2000

The first few years of owning Devonport Chocolates are a blur of late nights, early mornings and heaps and heaps of amazing staff.  I remember dreaming decorating holly truffles after doing it for days on end one Christmas.  We have had 2 complete re-brands, I've lost count of how many website rebuilds,  hundreds of amazing staff, thousands of incredible customers from around the world and goodness knows how many new flavours.

There are two groups of people that have been essential to Devonport Chocolates.

The first group are the incredibly loyal Devonport locals.  They were quick to adopt us as there own and proudly give a gift that was made in Devonport, a huge thank you to you all.

Our second group is our fabulous staff.  We have had experienced chocolatiers who have shared their knowledge and trained our staff, we have had people who have started packing chocolates after school and haven't left until they finished uni, some have even since come back to work for us again. Our staff are passionate about our chocolates, they really care about every single one being an amazing experience for our customers and their standards are incredibly high.

So where to from here for Devonport Chocolates.  We have been thrilled with the success of our bean to bar Samoan chocolate, and I'm incredibly proud of my Dad, this has been his baby for a couple of years now and we are looking at what else we can make with these beautiful beans we get from Nusi in Samoa. We never sit still for long so there are a few changes you will start seeing in Devonport Chocolates stores over the next few months as we keep racing forwards.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

World Chocolate Day Thursday 7 July 2016

Woo hoo, World Chocolate Day is nearly here, and like all celebration days World Chocolate Day gives you the perfect excuse to indulge in delicious chocolate themed activities.  Of course you can eat chocolate, that is a given but here are some other ideas, or things that you can do and use the fact that you are celebrating World Chocolate Day as the excuse.

  1. You can watch a chocolate themed movie!  Bundle up with your favourite chocolate treat and watch Chocolat, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  
  2. Cook a chocolate themed dinner.  There are two savoury recipes on our website, pork with orange chocolate sauce or cocoa and horopito crusted lamb, both delicious and both perfect for winter evenings.  Pop on over to our website to have a lookie.
  3. Say 'cheers' to chocolate and have a chocolate martini. For children and folks who are not keen on alcohol, we have delicious hot chocolate recipes too.  Click here for recipes.
  4. And finally, the piece, d'resistance a chocolate themed manicure.  I was personally inspired by milk chocolate as I was digging through my nail colours, and of course a bit of glitter.

I look forward to hearing cry's of 'chocolate made me do it' on Thursday as chocolate lovers around the world enjoy the day!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Chocolate mascaras, grenades, dog biscuits and chainsaws: One-of-a-kind chocolate gifts

At Devonport Chocolates we love helping our clients create truly memorable promotional gifts and with the festive season quickly approaching I thought I would share a couple or the more unique items we have made.  We often get emails or phone calls that start with "we were wondering if you could make....." and we love answering YES!

Earlier this year we were tasked with creating a chocolate mascara as part of a Maybelline Great Lash promotion.  Maybelline provided an actual mascara and our fabulous mould maker produced the mould for us to turn into chocolate mascaras.  Delicious chocolate and some hand foiling later and beauty journalists were presented with a mascara they truly had never received before.

Stolen Girlfriends Club launched a flagship store this year and for a memorable gift gave guests a chocolate grenade with Stolen emblazoned across it.

The tricky thing with promoting dog biscuits is that you are promoting them to humans.  Give a biscuit to your dog and apart from a wagging tail you can't really get any feedback from them and if your dog is anything like mine you are likely to get a wagging tail from most food you present to them so the folks at tux decided to get chocolate ones made so dogs and their owners alike are happy.

Chocolate chainsaws were one of the more challenging items we have had to make.  Our mould maker hand carved the mould off an actual chainsaw.  Small and large chainsaws were made for this promotion.

And finally last but certainly not least everyone thinks of flowers for displays but The Langham thought of chocolate and commissioned us to create a chocolate display for them at Easter.  This was displayed on the centre table in the foyer during Easter weekend, what a memorable welcome for guests!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

5 reasons why chocolate really can fix all of your problems

Being part of a chocolate business I often find myself looking for chocolate quotes to inspire staff, encourage customers to shop and of course justify this delicious food that we find ourselves eating every single day.  I often come across quotes extoling the benefits of chocolate by people a lot more famous and intelligent than me so I thought it was time to share why chocolate really can fix all of your problems, ‘scientifically’ backed up by quotes.

1.    Chocolate helps you achieve inner peace.
Isn’t it a fabulous thing when you complete something or a project comes to the end and you get to tick it off your ‘to do list’ and calm descends.  This quote is anonymous, but I have no doubt they were part of the work smarter, not harder movement.

“Put ‘eat chocolate’ at the top of your list of things to do today.  That way at least you’ll get one thing done.” Anonymous

2.    Chocolate makes everyone happy.
There are always various titbits of scientific research coming out showing that chocolate increases your endorphins, making you feel like you are in love but I think this quote from Sandra Boynton, a songwriter illustrator and children’s book writer sums it up all the better.

“The greatest tragedies were written by the Greeks and Shakespeare...neither knew chocolate.” - Sandra Boynton

3.    Chocolate is good for you.
Once again scientific research is starting to prove chocolate is good for your heart, blood vessels etc, (I must put my responsible persons hat on now and say, in moderation and dark chocolate preferably), but why trust me?  Justus von Liebig said it and he was a chemist from the 1800’s. 

“Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.”  -  Justus von Liebig

4.    Chocolate is the perfect gift.
At Devonport Chocolates we have two shops and an online store.  Customers purchase gifts from us as much as they purchase a small treat on indulgence.  One thing has become very clear, it is the perfect gift.  Everyone loves chocolate.  It is an especially great gift for seasonal periods like Christmas and Easter (or did I mention staff and clients gifts?) Here we go with a Sandra Boynton quote again, she really loves her chocolate.

“As with most fine things, chocolate has its season. There is a simple memory aid that you can use to determine whether it is the correct time to order chocolate dishes: any month whose name contains the letter A, E, or U is the proper time for chocolate.” – Sandra Boynton

5.    And finally…. 
      “Chocolate is the answer, who cares what the question is” anonymous