Candy Guide: What has been your biggest challenge in starting your own chocolate business?
Art Pollard:I have a hard time quantifying the "biggest challenge." It all has been incredibly challenging. When we started, my business partner and I calculated what it would take in time, effort, and money. We knew it would be incredibly taxing, and reality is always different from projections. This was no exception. In fact, it was much more demanding than we had predicted on all three fronts.
The first step was to find the necessary knowledge. It is not too hard to discover how chocolate is made industrially. On the other hand, finding and probing the secrets of how to make chocolate that is focused on flavor first, rather than quantity and economic considerations, was very difficult. Almost all the literature is focused on quantity and price over quality, and so much of it I had to (re)discover on my own or to piece together from many sources. It was sort of like a large jigsaw puzzle, but you don't know how many pieces there are or what they look like.
One of the other hardest aspects was finding cocoa bean suppliers and growers. Not only are they half a world away but they also speak a different language. Finding suppliers that supply fine-grade cacao instead of the usual run-of-the-mill stuff is doubly difficult.
Finding the right equipment, while difficult, was a task that simply took lots of time and perseverance.
To top it off, to achieve what we wanted to achieve, we not only had to master the technical aspects of chocolate making but raise chocolate making from an industrial process to an art. We ran experiment after experiment. We threw out incredible amounts of chocolate in this process because it wasn't "just right." This is of course expensive when dealing with the usual run-of-the-mill cocoa beans, but was multiply expensive, given that we ran many of our tests using the finest grade beans available. Second best was not an option and still is not. Of course, we are not perfect and still make mistakes and sometimes we throw out huge amounts of very expensive chocolate because of a moment's inattention. But I believe we need to maintain our passion for what we do and strive for perfection. This, I believe, shows in our work.