BM: That's easy. Early in my career, for a competition, I made a curried cherry wasabi mousse. I curried some cherry—you know, I'm thinking about the brandied cherries or I'm thinking about the cherry cordials that everybody likes. I decided to put a twist on that. I made almost a mango chutney flavor profile with this cherry mixture and then I made a white chocolate mousse with wasabi. It was a clash, just a total flop.
CP: Did you end up entering it?
BM: I put it in the competition. It did OK. That was the early days.
CP: True or false: life is like a box a chocolate?
BM: Yeah. I suppose.
CP: In what way?
BM: Life is like a box of chocolates because sometimes the mystery and not knowing whats going to be on the inside and whats going to happen next is as goodthinking about that and anticipating that can be as good as the experience itself. A box of chocolates to me, there again you start out with something that is beautiful and you go through a process of opening it. Perhaps you untie the bow and pull back the lid. Theres some tissue in there. Theres some nice little tags. And then you see there are these beautiful little individual items in there that are all unique, and then theres another reveal inside each piece of chocolate. Its a discovery process. Theres a lot of history and a lot of tradition between a box of chocolate. Its an expression of love and an expression of appreciation and its also a way to treat oneself, you know, because everyone works so hard, we all deserve a box of chocolate.
CP: I wish you were my boss. What is your biggest seller?
BM: Our biggest seller is going to be our English toffee. Were really known for super premium English toffee. Its made out of Hope Creamery butter, pure cane sugar, and delicious milk chocolate. Our most popular chocolate truffle is going to be our passion fruit.
CP: At the end of the day, are you ever just sick and tired of chocolate?
BM: Never. I love chocolate. It's in my blood: I've never gotten sick of it. You know, sometimes you get tired of something that's a little sweeter and you need to try something different, so you sample some dark chocolate. It's all about mood. People always ask me what my favorite is, and it's really about what kind of a mood I'm in. Sometimes I want a creamy, smooth, milk chocolate. Sometimes I want an intense piece of dark chocolate with such a high cocoa percentage that it just makes your eyes water because it's venturing into bitter. It's really a personal experience; it's about the time of day. What I like, you know, talking about the tempering process, we dip small squares of baking paper into the chocolate and then watch it harden; we make these small, thin, flat squares that we use to determine where we're at in the tempering process. And part of that process, once they've hardened and dried out, is we'll break them in half. If you've done your job well and you've got a good temper, you'll have a nice, crisp snap and a very clean line. I love to take those things and nibble on them.
CP: When people say chocolate factory, what springs to mind are chocolate rivers and oompa loompas singing songs. Is that at all what its like?
BM: Music is a big part of our environment down here. And when youre happy and youre content, youre going to hum and whistle. One of the better parts of my job is that Ive got a really great team. Everybody loves to work together and work hard, particularly this time of year. Weve got a tight-knit crew. We all work together. I have a small operation so everybody is cross-trained. Everybody will do a little bit of everything except for a couple of the specialties. So what Im saying is people can be working on coating chocolates or molding part of the day and then well start preparing them for packaging the other part of the day. And then we all join together at the end to clean up. So its kind of neat that way.
CP: So who takes care of the chocolate river?
BM: I take care of part of the chocolate river, but I have highly qualified, highly trained people to do that.
Brian McElrath and his creations will be appearing at the Twin Cities Chocolate Extravaganza. Good luck resisting the temptation. There will also be demonstrations, competitions, and a fashion show. For more information, visit www.mspchocolateshow.com.
Nov. 3-4, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., 2007