With Easter knocking on our door we thought it only right to celebrate great Norfolk Chocolate – so we sought out one of the regions most interesting and individual small producers!
Originally working for chocolate giant Kinnerton (Britains largest manufacturer according to their website), Dale Skipper (that’s Mrs Dale Skipper!) has ended up running her own Norfolk Chocolate shop, The Chocolate Deli in Little Walsingham.
She was kind enough to take time out of easter preparations to help us continue our series of interviews with great local norfolk and suffolk small food producers.
How did the Chocolate Deli start?
I left Kinnerton of chocolate when I had my son (who is now 12), that’s when I really started doing chocolate seriously.
My parents had their own business so I’ve always wanted my own shop. So when I had Jacob I had the time to try out different chocolate recipes and truffles and try them on friends.
I was also doing a full time ceramics course as well at the time – There was always a sort of artistic side to me that I wanted to develop. The chocolate and the ceramics sort of collided!
I started selling through Farmer’s Markets to gauge what the public liked, what they don’t like and what sort of style I was going to take.
Where most people go through the route of catering college or going to a chocolate academy, I’ve done it through my knowledge of ceramics, making and using my own moulds.
I got my love of cooking from my mum so food has always been a massive part of me. If you go through the college route you tend to do it in a very structured way and you tend to do it the same as everybody else.
The route that I took takes me off on a tangent which I think helps me look at designs in a different way!
Is Easter a busy time of year for you? what do you get up to?
Easter is really very busy!
For the last few months I’ve been tucked away making all the Easter eggs by hand – hand piping, making the eggs and packing them.
As Easter is getting closer we are still developing ideas, coming up with something new and different to what we did last year.
This year (2015) we’ve got some lovely new moulds based on a really old Victorian style traditional rabbits, and traditional eggs with crosses on them as many of our local customers are church goers.
For something a bit different we’re also making eggs with flamingos on, and covered in butterflies!
How do your chocolate making processes differ from a big manufacturer?
The big companies have a massive production line and I am completely the other end!
The big chocolate firm where I used to work, get their chocolate delivered in ridiculous sized planks – in contrast, we use two little machines to hand temper our chocolate.
The big companies are often working on next year’s design already – everything is set in stone. Alternatively, in my small shop, I could think “I’m going to come up with a new idea” and I will make it on the spot and it would be in the shop in a few hours.
At my shop everything is completely handmade and packaged by me.
Big companies are actually looking at the smaller people for next years product ideas, what they are doing and how quickly they are coming up with new designs. They have to work so far in advance that they can’t follow fashions and trends as quickly as we can.
What new chocolate products do you have in the pipeline?
We are introducing our own hot chocolates – we don’t use a powder like everybody else, we literally use chocolate and milk. People will be able to come in and ask for hot chocolate made with Mexican chocolate, or Venezuelan chocolate or any variety we stock!
We’re planning to produce our own range of hot chocolates so people will be able to take them home and make their own
You find tea on the shelves from different places and it tastes completely different, so our idea is to do the same for hot chocolate!
Plain or Milk chocolate?
I’ll eat anything and everything!
With wine tasting somebody may only drink certain wines from a certain region and chocolate is also like that.
People will come into the shop and say “I won’t have anything over 70%” but different regions can taste a lot stronger even with a lower cocoa percentage, so its my job to educate people.
But personally, if it’s chocolate, I’ll eat it!
Would you like to win a free hamper of delicious artisan food?
We regularly give away free hampers of artisan foods supplied by the local producers we interview. Sign up for our Artisan food mailing list and we’ll let you know about any future competitions or delicious food we think everyone should know about!