For the past couple of years I have been making various contributions to this forum. Some have had me take some heat. Some of the responses to my posts have been downright insulting to me. Others have asked some very pointed questions - questions such as "Who are you to be saying what you do?"
It's a valid question, seeing as I don't present people outside of Calgary with the opportunity to buy my chocolate and confections, and this is a global forum.
Having said that, I feel it's appropriate to, this once, blow my own horn, and provide some legitimacy to what it is that I do here in Calgary.
Here's a true story:
On January 20th, I happened to be in my shop doing some last minute running around before going to the mountains for the weekend.
A couple of relatively unassuming gentlemen entered the shop and began talking to Charmaine, my head chocolatier at length. As I walked past, Charmaine handed me one of their cards. To my suprise, they were from Chocolate Giant Barry Callebaut. Not only that, but they were none other than Derrick Tu Tan Pho, Barry Callebaut's Technical Director, and Mark Pennington, Western Canada's Sales Manager!
They said they'd heard great things about my little shop, and had flown to Calgary to see what I was I doing!
We talked at length, and I invited them to an event I was hosting this evening. They graciously accepted and spent the evening with 10 patrons, listening to me blabber on about chocolate, and what we do in our shop, and what makes our chocolate so much better than mainstream mass produced chocolate.
By the end of the evening, they were blown away with Choklat. Derrick paid me one of the biggest compliments I've had yet in my career as a chocolatier. He said that my chocolate is every bit as good as the finest chocolate in the world - chocolate made by artists like Cluizel, Amedei, and Valhrona!
He also provided some great tips with regard to our confections, and how to increase shelf life without compromising quality.
In a follow up email, Mark was quoted as typing:
"Sensational chocolate class tonight. I also really enjoyed your products.
In fact a Remarkable effort and some of the best bean to bars chocolate I've seen."
So, for those of you out there on the "chocolate net", who question who I am, or what I do, or the quality of that which I make, the fact that one of the most respected chocolatiers in the world makes a trip to little 'ol Calgary to visit ME, and then pays such high praise to my creations, I hope this nullifies any doubts you may have with regard to my skill with cocoa beans.
Cheers everyone, and Happy Chocolate Making.
Are your Choklat Chuao and Porcelana bars available anywhere in the U.S.? If not, do you ship to the U.S.? I'm interested in these bars, so I'd like to know how I can get them.
Feel free to PM me too. I can give you my email address if you need to send me any shipping information.
P.S.- If I can make a friendly suggestion-- on your TCL page you should put the name of your company and a link to how to learn more. It's not readily apparent, at least that I could see, so it took me a little bit of detective work to track down the information.
The ONLY way to get chocolate (bars or confections) from Brad is to visit him in Calgary. I've asked him on numerous occasions in the past and he has categorically refused on this point.
'Tis a pity. I'm always up for reviewing a new b2b company, especially one that received such high accolades. I'm on a quest to taste, review, and compare every Chuao and Porcelana bar made, but I guess this will have to wait indefinitely. Oh well...
Brad's approach to marketing his product has always been interesting to me ... he requires people to physically go to his shop in Calgary to get product: he does not ship anything to anyone (including me, as I have mentioned). This makes it incredibly difficult for those of us in the chocolate community who care about such things to get our hands on his products to taste them for ourselves and form our own opinions - and communicate those opinions to the rest of the world.
Intrigued by the opinions of two BC reps who visited, I had to ask myself, even if what Brad makes is some of the best chocolate in the world ... is it worth the cost? Not the price - the cost. I can walk into a local store in NYC and buy a 2oz bar of the 2002 Valrhona Chuao for $35. That's about $250/lb. A lot, I know, but $35 is something I can easily afford for special occasions.
The least expensive r/t flights I can find from NYC to Calgary cost US$552 with a route time totaling over 20 hours. I can get a non-stop for over $832 that takes about half the time. When I factor in the time it takes to get to the airport, overnighting (at least) in Calgary, incidental expenses (airport transfers, accommodations, meals), one of Brad's bars of chocolate costs me, what? At least $800 but only if I don't factor into the equation the value of my time (after all, I am a chocolate professional, and I do need to factor the value of my time into this whole process as I am not likely to choose Calgary as a vacation destination). That brings the cost (time and expenses) of a bar of Brad's chocolate to be between $1500 and $2500.
I don't know about you, but even if it is the best chocolate in the world, it's not worth the cost (the price of a bar is only $12) - to me - to go find out if it's as good as some people say it is.
Interesting reply Clay.
You spend a lot of time wondering why I don't ship or deliver. The answer is VERY simple. I DON'T NEED TO. There's a million people in this city, another 600,000 in the immediate surrounding area. The business is growing exponentially with the customer base I have direct access to. It makes absolutely NO business sense whatsoever, to incur the cost of researching packaging options, researching shipping options, applying for the shipping accounts, purchasing packaging and labeling, and then setting up infrastructure in our shop to handle shipping, just to send a chocolate bar to the UK (and YES, some dufus wanted me to ship ONE chocolate bar to him in the UK! WTF????).
Why Derrick and Mark chose to fly to Calgary, and chose to spend an evening with me only they can answer. The fact is they DID. You seem to be buddy buddy with everyone in the chocolate industry. Why don't you call them up and ask them yourself, instead of hypothesizing their motives publicly via the rational that they flew here to buy a chocolate bar.
Your reply is a great example of why small businesses STAY small. They spread themselves too thin trying to cashflow unneccessary growth. Only when a business has completely tapped their existing market, or if they have excess resources to explore others, should they burden themselves with consumers outside of their immediate market reach.
As an FYI, in the next couple of days I WILL be offering delivery service, but only to the Calgary area. It's a convenience our existing customers have been asking for, and I've developed a relationship with a local courier company that will allow our software to interact with theirs, without any human intervention.
Hope this answers your question.
I don't want to get into an argument with you about the way you choose to run your business. You're free to do whatever you want - it's your business. And I completely respect your growth/cashflow argument.
What I do want to mention is that the person who was interested in buying a bar of chocolate from the UK is NOT a "dufus" as you referred to him. This is a person who had heard about your chocolate and was interested in trying it so inquired if there was a way to get any. The fact that his inquiry did not fit your business model does not make him stupid and there is absolutely no need to denigrate him - nor anyone - by using such dismissive language.
I know you have very strong opinions on many things, including sampling, PR, and more. I would love to be able to drive business your way ... lots of people do visit Calgary, some of them have to like chocolate, and some of them may read TheChocolateLife, subscribe to one of my Twitter feeds, find me on Facebook ... or learn about your business from me in one way or another.
I can only conclude that you don't care whether I taste it or not, what I think. You have more than enough market in the Calgary area to keep you busy. Good for you. However, take a look at it from my perspective for a second ... there is a community here that I have nurtured for three years. You have been an active (and mostly welcomed) member of the community for more than eighteen months, and I have received comments from members supporting you in response to my post. I don't charge you a penny for being a member and I have to assume that you get some value and satisfaction from being a member here.
Isn't that worth a bar (or three) of chocolate? Without requiring me to spend a couple of thousand bucks?
Thanks for the reply. I'm not interested in debating anything with you either.
You're right about my comment referring to the "dufus". Sorry about that. I called him a dufus, because he sent me a scathing email when I politely said I wouldn't.
My posts here are strictly charitable and based upon my experience in the industry and in business in general. I gain nothing from my contributions, other than the satisfaction of giving back to the business/chocolate community and helping others out there who are having the same challenges with chocolate that I did when I first started.
Given that fact, and the fact that people HAVE benefitted from my posts, and you as the owner of this site have benefitted from my membership and posts (I help to enrich the content of YOUR site on my dime), why would you even fathom the idea that I would pay anything - whether it be money OR chocolate to enrich your business without getting anything tangible in return???
You certainly do have a set of balls Clay! I'll give you that.
If Brad's chocolate were the best in the world, I wouldn't mind making a trip to Calgary (en route to stunning Banff National Park) to stock up on bars. But, not having tasted it, until I hear credible voices proclaiming it such, I have no reason to believe it's the best in the world. I'll have to remain agnostic until circumstances take me (or a willing chocolate mule) to Calgary or until Brad teams up with a US importer/distributor.
I have no reason to believe it's the best in the world either, I certainly make no claims to such extent, and I'm the one making the chocolate! Taste is subjective, and no single individual should have the right to pass judgement on anyone's creations but their own.
All I can do is proudly pass on what one of the most respected chocolatiers in the world has told me (and put in writing). His tastes are subjective too. However, as Barry Callebaut's Technical Director, at the very least he's one person who is certainly qualified to provide an opinion, and lend credibility to what I do - credibility which has been questioned many times on this forum.
To all participants in this conversation and members of TheChocolateLife:
Rarely do I get as much private mail about a discussion as I have about this one. It's pretty evenly split, but there are several members who believe that I have overstepped my bounds in responding as I have to Brad. So, to all of you who feel that way now or who may come to feel this way after reading what I have to say - and to Brad - I apologize. Brad has been a long-time contributor to the community and his comments are appreciated by many. Including me: though there are times I wish he would choose to express himself differently.
I would like to add, not by way of excuse (there is none), but of explication, an analogy I believe I have offered to Brad privately: If I walked into Brad's store in Calgary and started talking in a loud voice using language he thought was disrespectful of other customers it would be within his right to walk over to me and ask me to quiet down and to refrain from using the language he found disrespectful. My "shop" (TheChocolateLife.com) is open to anyone, anywhere in the world, who is willing to spend a few moments signing up to join - free of any charge or obligation. Most of the people who visit my shop do so quietly, anonymously, reading, learning, but not contributing (or buying anything). There is no compulsion on my part to contribute in any way. Those who wish to contribute do so. What I ask, however, is that when visitors to my shop do contribute they do so in a reasonable tone of voice using respectful language.
If I was being disrespectful to Brad (and by extension to every member of TheChocolateLife), again I apologize to those who took offense and contacted me. I have invested a lot of time, effort, and love in creating and nurturing TheChocolateLife community over the past three years to the point where it now counts nearly 4000 members in over 100 countries. One of the things that has contributed to this growth, I think, is the work I have done publicly (leading by example) and privately (when I felt necessary) to maintain a certain level of civil discourse.
We may not all like white chocolate, but we all like chocolate ... and that provides a common ground for gathering together to share what we know. Collectively, we know a great deal more than individually. That is the reason I started TheChocolateLife in the first place; to create a place where people (including me) could come to get their questions answered. Though we may disagree at times, we are all united by our fascination and passion for this thing called chocolate.
Thanks for your support, consideration, and patience: