This time around we pulled Chris away from all the machines and chocolate for a chat.
Q: Let’s get into it. Tell me a little about what you do at Fruition.
A: I make the chocolate! I work very closely with Bryan to roast beans, winnow, refine, and conche chocolate. Occasionally there is some research and development projects or test batches that I will work on too.
Q: What is a typical day for you at the factory.
A: It depends, everyday is different. I’ll do a lot of bean roasting, then while I roast I will sort beans by hand, picking out any impurities. While I’m sorting I'll winnow the beans to get rid of the shell, so I will usually be doing all three steps at once. Lastly, I’ll prep the nibs to begin the refining and conching process.
Q: So how did you get started in chocolate?
It was a hobby in high school actually, I just sort of did it on my weekends and eventually I took the plunge and got a tempering machine. I really just did it for fun. Then I went to culinary school, and then got hired as an extern at Fruition.
Q: Right, you were Fruition’s very first extern correct?
A: I was!
Q: Tell us what that experience was like.
A: It was great. I was the first extern and I think third production employee, ever. So that’s pretty cool. I learned a ton from working here, and still am.
Q: Very cool! So we get a ton of bean samples, tell me a little about how you assess new beans and come up with different roast profiles?
A: Right, so I work with Bryan a lot on that. We will taste the raw beans to figure out any strong flavors that may come through like acidity, earthiness or any other subtle notes. Then we will try out some test batches based on our own previous roasts. That way we can control the flavor of the beans more. We can then isolate certain flavors or get rid of any funk we may not want in our chocolate.
Q: Have you been working on any cool R&D projects lately?
A: Yes! We are currently working on a new coffee bar using a local coffee roastery. Their coffee beans complement our chocolate really well. Tying into that we have been working with new Chuno beans from Nicguara and they are a lot of fun. They are quickly becoming some of my favorite beans that we have ever worked with. Chuno pairs particularly well with coffee.
Q: I can’t wait to try it! There are so many chocolate companies in this industry, what do you think Fruition does to differentiate itself?
A: A lot of craft bean to bar companies are super focused on two ingredient chocolate. Plain dark chocolate with cacao and sugar, and that's it. What I really love about working here, is that we will do a lot of fun and crazy things like our corn currant white chocolate or our strawberries & cream bars. We are just focused on trying to make the most tasty and best things we can, and we aren’t limiting ourselves to using just two ingredients. We make products that are fun and what we enjoy eating, and I think that comes across nicely.
Q: That is such a great point Chris. So outside of the chocolate factory, what are you doing?
A: I pretty much brew beer, garden, and hike the mountains. I am currently growing these beautiful tomatoes, they are GREAT. Catskills are great, you should definitely visit.
Q: Favorite Fruition bar?
A: Bourbon Dark Milk all the way!
I mean, look at this beautiful tomato plant.
Once a year, in the beginning of summer, chocolate makers from all over flock to the east coast. NYC host events like the Fancy Food Show, the Fine Chocolate Industry Association conference, and the International Chocolate Awards. All of these events are crammed together, and while valuable, we and a few others noticed there is always something missing...FUN. So what did we do? We created the 1st Annual Chocolate Makers Summer Camp, A.K.A. Funconference.
We kicked off this fun weekend with a brunch and tour of our flagship factory right here in the Catskills. Chocolate makers and cacao sourcers traveled from as far reaching places as San Francisco, Brazil, and Sweden. We snacked on textbook perfect pastries from the Culinary Institute of America, and mixed and mingled over cacao pulp mimosas. We then climbed into some vans and carpools and headed to camp!
What does one do at a chocolate makers summer camp you may be asking yourself? Well, it turns out a lot of the same stuff you might have done when you went away to summer camp as a kid. Paddle boating, some light archery, swimming, and of course, eating a LOT of chocolate. Which brings us to what most attendees believe was the star of the whole trip; the s'mores. Dandelion Chocolate brought sheets of homemade fluffy marshmallows, our production team at Fruition made graham crackers from scratch, and BYOC (bring your own chocolate). Seriously, just imagine roasting those marshmallows over a bonfire with your favorite craft chocolate. We admit it. Some of us still dream about these s'mores in our sleep.
On the second day of camp, the 1st ever Maker’s Cup was held. Chocolate makers submitted various chocolates in generic molds, and they were tasted and critiqued anonymously. No one knew who made what, or had any origin info that let on who might have made it. It was just a chance for makers to receive honest feedback from others in the industry. There was even a mystery bean category, where some makers received beans from Meridian Cacao Company and were instructed to make a dark chocolate within a percentage range. When the mystery was revealed, we learned that it was a blend of four different origins. It was very fun making the batch of chocolate trying to guess what origin the beans were from!
Sadly, summer camp had to come to an end. We all said our goodbyes to our new and old chocolate friends and headed down to NYC. Most attended FCIA, a chocolate industry conference for networking and very informative talks, and then Fancy Food Show, a speciality food trade show.
The series of events ended with the Americas and Asia round of the International Chocolate Awards in Hoboken, graciously hosted by Maricel Presilla at her restaurant, Cucharamama. Fruition took home two golds for our Brown Butter Milk Chocolate & Corazon de Dahlia Milk Chocolate Quinoa Crunch bar. We won silvers for Wild Bolivia, Maranon Canyon Dark Milk, Hudson Valley Bourbon Dark Milk, Dark Milk with Flor de Sal, and Strawberries and Cream.
All in all, a pretty great week to be into cacao and chocolate!
This month we are chatting with Emma, our awesome new Operations Manager.
Q: Hi Emma!
A: Hi there!
Q: So how are you enjoying the transition to becoming Fruition's new Operations Manager? How's the chocolate lifestyle?
A: It's been interesting for sure! I have a very strong production background so I'm still getting use to time off my feet to just email and call people. The personal interactions are great, and it has been really fun to start learning about the bigger picture operations.
Q: What was your previous role within Fruition?
A: I started out doing production. I made a LOT of chocolate bars (like a boss ;-)). Then, I started working in our small retail shop in the heart of Woodstock. I enjoyed that a bunch. I really love talking and teaching people about chocolate and where this tasty treat comes from! I then became our retail manager, while still working production a couple of days during the week.
Q: Wow you really are a Jackie-of-all-trades! What were you up to before you joined Fruition?
A: I attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, where I got my Associate's degree in Baking & Pastry Arts. I worked a million different jobs while in school that ranged from wedding cakes to accounting, and literally everything in between.
Q: How does one fall into working at a chocolate factory exactly?
A: So, I joke around a lot about that because I feel like Bryan was kind of bullied into hiring me. I had an instructor who kept asking me if I needed a job, and telling me that I should reach out to Fruition. At the time I probably had four jobs, so I always said, “Thank you, but no.” The Hudson Valley is such a small community too, and apparently Bryan and I had a lot of mutual friends. Those friends I guess kept hounding him about me. Once I was close to finishing the program, I finally reached out to Bryan, and I've been with Fruition ever since!
Q: Oh how funny! So when production is running, you all have headphones in; what are you listening to?
A: Ha. Currently I'm knee deep in the Slow Melt podcast series, but otherwise it's probably some folky indie junk.
Q: So where can we find you when you're not at the factory?
A: Lately, definitely on a mountain. I am slowly trying to hike all the 3500' mountains in the Catskills!
Q: That's amazing! If you weren't in the culinary field what other career would you be in?
A: Journalist or working for NASA. Space writer…is that a thing?
Q: Last question, favorite Fruition bar?
A: Oh that's a big question. My go-to is usually Camino Verde Crunch. I really dig the crunch in it.
If you've been curious to see behind the scenes look at Fruition, look no further. We will be launching this blog to share the latest news about our new products, the process, the team behind it all, and upcoming events. We are proud that we have received accolades and press from the national and international scene, which has helped fuel the growth of our small bean-to-bar workshop.
Above: International Chocolate Awards 2016 Americas Round
When Fruition started in 2011, there were only a handful of craft chocolate companies in America. Today there are several hundred, and interest in responsibly sourced chocolate has increased with it. As demand for our chocolate and our product line has grown, the full time staff has sky-rocketed to a whopping 6 people who enable us to produce over a ton of high quality chocolate a month! Our sights now are set on expanding our workshop space in the Hudson Valley, NY. Our staff, including alumni from the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park and a other talented team members, is venturing into uncharted territory with high hopes. As always, we plan to stay relevant with our creative new bars and confections (to keep our fans guessing what will come next)!
Fruition will celebrate its 5th Anniversary with an Open House & Tasting at our workshop in Shokan, New York. It is one of the few times of the year that we open up our kitchen and chocolate making production space to the public. We are pleased to collaborate with many local businesses, and that evening you can expect to sample beer from Newburgh Brewing Company, cacao liquor (made using our chocolate) from Tuthilltown Spirits, shrub from Hudson Standard, and much more.