I don't know when my love of chocolate started, but looking back, it has always been there. I started making cakes when I was 4, by the age of 8 I had my own signature chocolate fudge recipe, when I was 12 my school project was to track the Cadbury share price, then that Easter I taught myself how to temper chocolate. I am not professionally trained; everything I know about chocolate I have taught myself, by learning from books, by making lots of mistakes, and by working with the most fantastic chocolate experts I have been fortunate enough to meet along the way.
York Cocoa House started as a dream in 2008. I had worked previously in regional food, hospitality and marketing. As a professional event manager, I created celebrations and occasions using the best Yorkshire produce in amazing and exclusive locations. I volunteered for York Food and Drink Festival, managing part of the programme each year. One year I said we should celebrate York and the chocolate industry more, and their response was "Of course, but you have to do it!", so I did! That first year I felt there was no-one offering the fresh, real products that chocolate lovers wanted, so with the help of a work friend, I launched my own chocolate making business - Little Pretty Things. We had a day of chocolate demonstrations, stalls, workshops and discussions, and invited chocolate makers from across the region to join us to see what we could create. Each year the festival has gone from strength to strength, so that at Easter 2012 we were able to create York Chocolate Festival, a stand-alone celebration of everything related to chocolate and York.
I am often asked "Why chocolate?", or "What made you do this?" Chocolate has always played a role in my life and I have always been so fascinated by it. It would make me feel so happy if I had had a bad day. I have a big family, and grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere. People would always be around to help on the farm, and the perfect Sunday afternoon would be spent baking a new chocolate recipe and calling everyone in to try it. Living on the farm we had to make do with the ingredients and equipment in the cupboard or the fruit on the trees, or wait until the chickens had laid eggs to make a cake. I became resourceful and would turn each rainy day into a new project day, substituting ingredients and equipment where necessary. Some recipes worked, and lots didn't!
My relationship with chocolate has now turned into an obsession; I set out to learn everything I possibly could about chocolate. Every new thing I have discovered has drawn me deeper into the world of chocolate, and introduced me to chocolate lovers, chocolate makers, chocolatiers and experts from around the world who have all been bitten by the same chocolate bug. It's not just about eating and indulging in chocolate, it's something that touches our lives on a daily basis (for many of us), that we so easily take for granted. It affects so many people around the world, in all walks of life - so many people are involved with the delivery of this amazing product. Chocolate came into England at a time of great social change. Ever since then, its enjoyment has charted our modern consumer-based society and it has been integral to our political and cultural evolution, and has shaped attitudes to health and medicine.
There is still so much more to learn about chocolate, but now, I am incredibly fortunate to gain so much pleasure from sharing my chocolate obsession with others. So many have joined us and told us of their own experiences with York and the chocolate-making industry, or their first or favourite chocolate recipe. I never imagined how much joy and comfort chocolate brought to others. Since we opened, we have been joined by an ever-growing team of chocolate enthusiasts, who have shared with us their own appreciation of chocolate as they become part of the Cocoa House family. Their ideas, passion and creativity have enabled us to create the York Cocoa House Chocolate Emporium that we invite you to be a part of.
I can't wait to see you at York Cocoa House. You'll always be welcome for chocolate and a piece of cake, or just a browse, or maybe to read some of the recipes and books that have inspired our journey.