July 12, 2022

Keep Being Curious - Master Pastry Chef Christopher Curtin of Éclat Chocolate

Keep Being Curious - Master Pastry Chef Christopher Curtin of Éclat Chocolate

This week's guest is Christopher Curtin, the certified master pastry chef, and chocolatier behind Éclat Chocolate, which he founded in West Chester, PA in 2004. After attending culinary school, he spent 14 years honing his skills alongside the world’s top chocolate makers across Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Japan. Éclat has received acclaim including being named one of the “Best Chocolates in America” by Bon Appétit magazine. Christopher has collaborated with the likes of Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert,  and other businesses such as Victory Brewing Company.

We discuss what has contributed to both the success and longevity of Éclat.  Christopher talks about how to stand out in a crowded market, and the work culture he's created at Éclat. 

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Welcome to the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. I'm your host Chris spear. On the show. I have conversations with culinary entrepreneurs and people in the food and beverage industry who took a different route. Their caterers research chefs, personal chefs cookbook authors, food truckers, farmers, cottage bakers and all sorts of culinary renegades. I myself fall into the personal chef category as I started my own personal chef business perfect little bites 11 years ago. And while I started working in kitchens in the early 90s I've literally never worked in a restaurant. Hey, good morning, everyone, or afternoon or wherever it is you're listening to this. Thanks so much for tuning into this week's episode of the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. So today we have a another chocolate episode chocolates delicious. You can never really have too many chocolate episodes. So this week's guest is Christopher Curtin. He is the Certified Master Chef and Chocolatier behind eclat hot chocolate which he founded in West chester, Pennsylvania in 2004. Interestingly enough, I was living in West chester when he opened the shop, which is how I first got to know of him. After attending culinary school, he spent 14 years honing his skills alongside some of the world's top chocolate makers across Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and Japan has some really awesome training. You know, a lot of people kind of go to one country and focus on that type of chocolate class gone on to receive some really great acclaim. In recent years, they were recognized as having, quote the best chocolate in America by Bon Appetit Magazine. And he's gone on to do some really awesome collabs with Eric ripert, and Anthony Bourdain, as well as he has an upcoming one with jean georges, which he talks about on the episode. He's also worked with victory brewing one of my favorite breweries, you might know that I had Bill Kovaleski, co founder of the brewery on the podcast, so it was really cool to hear that he was doing a hop beer, chocolate. I haven't tried that yet, but I'm gonna have to seek it out. So we talked about his take on the chocolate business and what makes a clot stand out. I wanted to know, you know what wisdom he's picked up in 18 years? Are there any secrets to longevity? How do you stand out in a market? That seems possibly oversaturated? I wanted to talk about employees, where is he finding them what kind of people are coming to work for him in his chocolate shop. And we kind of talk about traditional approaches to both chocolate making and maybe how you run a kitchen. He says gimmicks aren't really his thing. While they do do some interesting stuff, like chocolate with time and mushroom. You know, he says that he doesn't really want to do something like bacon and chocolate, which I'm going to be honest, I kind of love but I get his point. And when we were talking about documentation in the kitchen, you know, I'm very pro phone as long as it's being used for work. But it sounds like he is not really in favor of that. And so wants to hold on to the traditional notepad because, you know, once you kind of open the floodgates there, how do you control that with your employees? So I thought that was interesting, because most of the chefs that I'm talking to these days really love having the phones in the kitchen for the technological COVID has redefined the world of dining. While the pandemic certainly up into the restaurant experience, the personal chef aspects. So where do you stand on this? Let me know. So let's industry experienced record growth. The United States jump into the episode. I hope you enjoyed this one. As always, personal chef Association represents nearly 1000 chefs I welcome comments. Find me on Instagram at Chefs Without around the US and Canada and even Italy. USPCA provides a Restaurants or hit me up via email at chefs without strategic backbone that includes liability insurance, training, restaurants@gmail.com. As always go to chefs without communications, certification, and more. It's a reassurance to consumers that the chef coming into their home is prepared to restaurants.org you can sign up for our weekly newsletter where offer them an experience along with their meal. Now, join with I think I'm sharing some really interesting stuff. You can get our inflation fighter special and save $75 on premier gig referrals and leads if you work as a personal chef or a provisional and preparatory memberships. You can join today@uspca.org and use code inflation fighter 22 You can caterer. And you can also find the free day Support group where call Angela with questions at 1-800-995-2138 extension 705 or we're having conversations around food entrepreneurship and email her at a PRA th er@uspta.org payment plans are just, you know, building some fun relationships. So the show available. And as always, all this information will be in the will be coming right up after a word from this week's sponsor. show notes. And now on with the show. Thanks so much and have a great week. Good morning, Chef. Welcome to the show. Thanks so much for coming on.

Christopher Curtin:

Good morning.

Chris Spear:

I'm excited to talk to you about chocolate today. It's one of my favorite things I've had I had another chocolate here. We have someone here in Frederick that has a shop and he came on a couple of weeks ago. So we're kind of doing some chocolate talk this season.

Christopher Curtin:

Oh, that's great. So I mean, we're, you know, we're not the regular breed that seems we're a little bit different than the savory chefs or even the pastry chef. So

Chris Spear:

what year did you start the shop? We started we're on 18 years now. Wow, I can't believe it's been that long. It's crazy. I mean, so for our listeners, I used to live in Westchester and I was living there when you open shop. And I remember I could walk there, I lived on K Street and you were a couple blocks from where I was living. And I was really excited when you opened up. But I've lived in Frederick, Maryland now for 15 years this summer. So that sounds right. It sounds crazy to me that it's been that long, but 18 years. I can't believe it. And then 14 years, you know, in Europe before that. And so I put those years together, and I'm like, I can't be that old. And then again, you know, occasionally it dawns on me that yes, I am officially that that old. So what is it time flies when you're having fun? Yeah, it's, I think I posted that the other day. But the anniversary of I actually got my Meister diploma or the last exam part day the exam was on July 4. In Germany when I did that, you know, the six day exam. So it's kind of ironic that I became a Meister on July 4. So what does a Meister cognitive misers serve, I wouldn't compare you can't compare everything to MLF. It's a little bit different. It's more book related than doing giant showpieces like in France, but it's sort of like the MLF. It's your certified Meister, and anybody who has a pastry shop, or bakery in Germany, at least has to have a Meister on premise, even if it's like brownies and stuff that might have changed since I've left but they're pretty strict about that. So that guarantees a certain level of quality, it seems. How did you get into this the chocolate making? Was it something you're always interested in? And I mean, I want to hear a little bit about your training and where you studied. You know, you never know where these things start out from what in another lifetime. You know, before I did kitchen work, I did a cross country ski racing and bike racing. ski racing was really my my thing. And obviously, I supplemented that in the summer by doing bike racing and training with all the speed skaters in my hometown, which Madison, Wisconsin was kind of the mecca of bike racing and speed skating in the 80s. I just loved the intensity of bike racing and ski racing. ski racing is actually very technical. So you can win a race by not being as strong or as fit but just purely by working more efficiently and skiing more smart. And that's very much like kitchen work where you're working on technique and just knife skills and being aware of your surroundings. And so to me, ski racing is an endurance sport, just like working in the kitchen is a different sport. So it's it's you're kind of putting those two together and so I just loved working in high end kitchens and usually kitchens a quality as a similarity. I don't know that I would put those two together and see the similarity. I mean, when you explain it like that, it makes sense. To me, I even you know, the the old quotes in the kitchen, you know, with with movement and economy, emotion and things like that. Those are all the things that the ski racing is all about. That's that's to me the correlation between sports and and kitchen work, especially technical sports. Well, chocolate making, it's such a specialized thing. How did you get into the chocolate making is where you Did you grow up like really interested in sweets and desserts and all that? You know, I worked in the kitchens. My first job was at 14 petting hamburgers, this place called dynamic salary medicine. You know, they get like, you know, best burger in America and USA Today we back in, you know, 70s or something. And then I went to school, and thinking I was going to be a professor like everyone else in my family. And then I'm like, What am I doing? And then I went back to working at different kitchens, I worked at the Flagstaff house, and just got really interested in amazing kitchens and just the the culture of the kitchens and trying to do things well. And then I went to brief stint at a culinary school in Vermont. And I'm like, why am I paying all this money when I could learn from the horse's mouth or direct from the very best. So that's when I went to Europe and thinking I'd be there for a year and got stuck, and then almost didn't come back and came back 14 years later, and worked all over. So that was 14 years, like in a straight shot. Like you went over there. And we're just there for 14 years. Yeah, so I mean, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and then I was a year in Japan. Now at that point, were you just looking to do chocolate? Or did you tinker with savory while you were over there. I did some savory but mostly pastry bake. I mean, it worked a year in a bakery a month in a butcher shop just because I was in Germany. So I just in to me, it's so important to be curious. And you might learn something there that even I knew I would never be a butcher. But it's just, it's interesting to see how someone do something and you might learn. And also people that are successful and work really, technically precise, you'd learn things from them, like even how they hold something or or so it's just so important to be curious. And like I said, even though I knew I'd never be a butcher, is an important lesson to work in that field. It's completely different. And chocolate, obviously. So I learned pastry, small breads as part of the exam. But I really felt that there is, you know, let's do something different. And maybe I figured that out for my father, because my father was a historian, and nobody was doing African history when he first started out. And he actually started the first African Studies program in the country and became very well known for history of slave trade, and all over world history, he found a niche that not many people are doing. So in Europe, at least, there's a lot of mid sized chocolate companies here, there's polymer where it's all computerized, and just four guys sitting at a computer program, you know, panel, and that's it, or there's a really small artists and people like myself, there seems to be not very many mid sized shocker companies, but in Europe, you know, we have, you know, golden year and some other places I work marcolini and other places that work that, you know, they had 30 to 40 people on the floor, you know, producing, so you learn a lot about quality, but also learn how to, to continue that quality in I wouldn't say mass production, but in a larger scale. Now, did you have aspirations to come back and open a chocolate shop? Like what was your mindset when you were over there learning? I did. I mean, I have huge respect for you know, especially, you know, the pastry chef at Four Seasons, I see what he does. And, you know, sometimes I miss the fact that I could have gone and done something for four seasons, or a chain or Ritz Carlton or done something really unique in a chain like that and what they have to offer. But the goal from day one was to come back and start my own place. First of all, why Westchester? Because it sounds like you're I mean, you're obviously not from there. And you know, what, what was the set the stage? How did you get that shop open? Well, it's very interesting. I mean, it well, it's, it's obvious because my parents were retired my father and both my parents went to Swarthmore, and my father taught at Swarthmore, and my uncle was at Swarthmore. And so they're all from this area, sort of my father was born in Philadelphia, even though your family was living down in West Virginia, with my grandfather's work, and I decided, you know, it's time to come home and do something Madison is amazing town, but it's the middle of its nowhere. It's a sort of like Collegeville in Pennsylvania, it's like this one little tiny liberal island of in the rest. So it's amazing place, but I could see if I had larger aspirations that, you know, to come out Easton and you know, it's time to spend some time with my parents before the inevitable and so is it's really nice in here, you know, you're you can hit New York in a day, you can hit DC today, you you're pretty central. So it's really nice. So that was sort of again, undeserved sort of planned reason why I came back to East Coast with my parents, but also, you know, I just thought it was a good location business wise. How's the business evolved? Like, what did you start out serving or produce? What did you start out producing when you open the shop 18 years ago and like where you are now? How is that changed? We do o'clock chocolate. And we do that brand and we kind of sort of play with the kind of dwell magazine meets You know, it's definitely more innovative with the parallel bars, the Mon downs, which have just gotten worldwide attention, which are kind of funky in their own right, those are delicious. Yeah, I, I there, you know, some chefs that I truly respect say that the most amazing things ever had. So, we're really, and that's just being goofy one day and to seeing how we can make a flattened truffle for those who haven't had it before. But we also want to keep our foot in the tradition. So we do some very traditional style, cut ganache is and things like that, I think it's important to sort of highlight tradition and always keep one foot there, I think there's too much the sounds horrible, but almost too much innovation sometimes where, you know, people have to do stuff to be wacky and trying to set them selves apart. But if you can do some, if you can do a crumble, I always say like, you know, perfectly, then that's okay. But most people can't do a beautiful perfect AAA so they do a wacky like ginger fashion for Chrimbo Laird sort of hide the imperfection. So I believe that a little bit in the airbrush chocolate now, that's a very easy way to make beautiful looking chocolate and, and sort of mask any, you know, imperfections of enrobing, and things like that. It's absolutely gorgeous. For those, you know, how the people are no airbrushing molds with cocoa butter. It's a new technique, and we do some of it. But I think it's really important to sort of highlight the classics still. And I don't know a lot about chocolate, and where you know, what the different countries and styles are, like, Do you have a favorite that you lean towards? I don't and that's why you know, a lot of people you see like, I'm a Swiss chocolatier, or I'm a French chocolatier. I purposely worked all over the world. And, you know, the Japanese would technique and just how meticulous they are, was just beautiful. And their flavor. Some of their even like green tea, or, you know, soba flavor. Ganache is are kind of interesting. But every country does things just slightly different. So you might unfortunately after, you know, for the 14 years, like a 12 years in, I might work in Belgium and pick up two things that whole year I was in Belgium, so but those two years really, you know, are those two things really made a difference. So, you know, of course, your learning curve slows down, unfortunately, I wish it would keep going the same rate is when you start out. But you know, just those two things alone are worth that year of working in that one place. So, you know, a lot of people like to work in place, and then switch and then they keep switching and switching. But I think it's important to stay at a place and also learn because those two things you learn you might, you know, will definitely help you in the long run. But sounds like you aren't doing a lot of crazy wacky stuff. But where do you find inspiration? Like are you trying to find wacky, crazy, like you're saying like, you know, passionfruit Kimber lay, like, maybe not your thing, like go for a classic type thing. So are you doing? I mean, McDonald's or innovative, but where are you kind of pulling inspiration from these days? You know, we were so thrilled and we that was one of my goals, and we really to be in the MoMA gift shop. And being from Madison, Wisconsin, you know, Frank Lloyd Wright comes to mind and the whole I mean, I'm old enough to have lived through the mid century modern and having you know, Eames chairs growing up and you know, when they're inexpensive, so I just that modern design, or I, you know, it's not modern anymore, but sort of that sort of modern stint on things and keeping it simple clean, you know, very, like the Danish Japanese styles is love that stuff. And, you know, define wacky, I mean, is it ginger caramel wacky, it's, we don't want to be kitschy, like, we don't want to put bacon and chocolate and things like that. I don't think that works. I mean, it has kind of a shock value. You know, when we go the craziest slaver that we've done that I don't consider crazies preserved lemon with blackout. So you're sort of mimicking traditional Moroccan flavors. And you basically picking up the saltiness from the olives with the saltiness in the in the lemon and the citrus. So, you know, it's, it's interesting, what, you know, is considered wacky and new and, but also Trump is very, very traditional, and you usually go to chocolate when you want something. So sort of comfort you or, you know, you just want something that's simple and tastes good. So it's, you're balancing those two worlds a little bit. I think the sometimes the wackiness is to stand out, which, you know, one of the questions I like to get to is, how do you stand out this is a market that's, I don't know if you'd say it's oversaturated or to full up, but there's a lot of choices for chocolate, even high end chocolate. So how do you differentiate how do you get people to come into your shop or buy your stuff online, when there's already a decent amount out there? I think we're sort of under the radar because we've intentionally kind of gone the MoMA or dwell magazine Design and also flavor that a lot of not everyone appreciates, you know, like green tea, or we do sort of under if there's any complaints about our chocolates, usually that the flavor isn't pronounced enough, because we are chocolate company. So we want our chocolate taste and then have it sort of backup or be supported by a ginger or green tea or passionfruit or something like that you're not gonna get this wallop of passionfruit. And then the back kind of Oh, yeah, there's chocolate there a little bit. So, you know, that's one thing we consider with with our design, I think so then in some of it, marketing it like, it sounds like you're trying to have like, an an aesthetic. You know, like, when you talk about like dwell and MoMA? I mean, that's a certain style. And I think, yes, definitely, you gotta kind of have some marketing there behind you. And that comes back to like, having people working with you and helping figure out what that plan looks like. I mean, to be honest, we do kind of, you know, like, Oh, we're missing a nut component, we don't. So then we create something really groovy with with a liquid or chewy calm with a hazelnut. Or we do sort of pick and design things around a collection or, you know, sort of like an artist would paint certain styles or a furniture maker would design almost like a fashion, you know, would have different labels to, to design for for different people, you know, and so we obviously, we love the destination bars, because they're relatively simple. And we do PHL bar, they're all based on airport codes. And so like, how can we make something that's approachable, that literally someone can buy and eat and sort of enjoy while they're driving on the road. So that's kind of like our sort of theory behind that one. But then we're thinking of the parallel bars, which are six lines of chocolate, but two flavors, so the flavor sort of merge and kind of go across the bar while you're eating. I mean, it's not going to be a large jump from, you know, mushroom, and then time, and the mushroom is not going to be like, obnoxiously pronounced, it's going to be just sort of subtly, so you get to so mommy sort of earth tone of mushroom. Yeah, I got to try those at the Philly chef conference. Really delicious. Obviously, I'm biased, but I think I think that's kind of cool in there again, is that crazy? Is that wacky? Is that what you know, that's literally hanging out after service with a chef friend with a glass of wine and like, okay, you know, what, do you want me to see our chocolate? And they're like, Yeah, make something good mushroom, like, you know, just trying to, and I'm like, Okay, and so we, you know, we like, you know, making things that sound weird. But then once you try, it's like, it'd be amazing on a cheese plate, for example. It's all in when you serve it how you serve it. When did you start doing online? I mean, the Internet has changed things. 18 years ago, I'm sure you probably weren't selling chocolate online. But now that's a viable business path for people. I think almost from day one, at least the first year, we had an online presence. And then the shopping cart probably was added that same first year late. That seems like I mean, like 18 years ago, ecommerce was Don't quote me on that. Yeah. But you know, ecommerce. And now everyone's doing it. But I think that was kind of a rarity. Yeah. And now it's amazing. I mean, because we're so unique. And I mean, it's interesting, who we don't, we do some things, some really interesting project with like Nick Elmi in Philadelphia, he has been great. I mean, we do all the four seasons stuff. But as far as you know, getting the reach out there. It's been great when we're nationwide, we're shipping nationwide to every state and then Japan. And then we're actually shipping more and more to Europe, which is really interesting. We're getting known for the sort of design. I would never compare ourselves to the aims, but we're doing something different with the Mondrian 's and the parallel bars and the Peruvian national truffle is just so simple, but something is going on something really special is going on with a Peruvian national, or what is that? It's same chocolate bean or chocolate that was featured on the Anthony Bourdain show when we took them down to to Peru, but we make a truffle with it and it's purely just butter cream, chocolate. But it was best shuffle in America by food and wine or Bon appetit. I forget. Oh, one of the one of those small publications. Ya know, it's like embarrassing, I should keep tap but it's not really why we do it but but they gave us a huge shout out about that. And it's so funny because not airbrush is not gimmicky. It's not multi layered. It's not. It's just pure chocolate. And because of how many white beans are in this chocolate, there's still full flavor full high percent cacao, but it's sort of lighter and flavor, but it lasts in your mouth for you know, 10 minutes later, almost. So it's the chocolate that that how I was introduced to Eric compare and how he sort of got noticed or took notice of us. And that led us down the path of the good and evil bar with with Bourdain and rest in peace. Yes. It's kind of funny that that's the simplest one we do simple as one, but assault technique driven. Again, that's kind of you don't see that when you eat it, but behind the scenes, it's highly, truly interesting how we make it what seems like a regular truck. But that was the first time I remember seeing you in a big publication again, you know, when I was living in Westchester was like, you know, it's like a nice quaint little small chocolate shop, like a lot of places have small chocolate shops, and then having moved away and then seeing you in a national publication, I was like, Oh, damn, like, this is like some serious stuff. I mean, doing a collab with Eric repair. And Anthony Bourdain is no, you know, no small feat. Yeah, I still laugh about that. I mean, it's so I mean, you can't you can't plan that. Do you like doing those collaborations? Is it fun to kind of work with other people and other businesses, and I do actually, I like it a lot. Because we know what we know. And, you know, fight set on my designer hat. And, you know, kind of like, Oh, we're gonna design a new line for Thanksgiving, or whatever, I kind of know what direction I'm gonna go in. But if you start working, like we're doing a project, it's already been launched, I think I can talk about it, but with Sean George, and we're doing a deconstructed Thai green chili curry thing. And, you know, working with him, versus working with repair, it's just totally different. We repairs, you know, very subtle, very, sort of umami is a sort of very, very zen. No pun intended there, but, and John George, he wants his flavors really forward. So the chili is like, scorching hot, and the lime is like, totally lined forward. So it's really interesting to work with these guys. And, and you pick up different style points. And it's like, oh, it's really interesting. It's like a chef learning different cuisines. You know, like, what Sariah those guys are doing? Its you know, they're doing Condesa on every time they go to new cuisine and master it, they're going to learn something that will help their other kitchens as well. You still get out and get to be around with people work with people. And I guess, if not, do you miss that? Because I find that's one of the things a lot, you know, most of the people on my show are solopreneurs or have small teams, and they don't get to continue learning and they're not working with people. Well, the ideas of hanging out with other chefs after work like it, you know, one o'clock in the morning, I mean, I missed that. But I'm also not 24 anymore. So you know, things have changed. I try and get out about you know, I you know, there's some amazing chefs and in Philly right now and James Maddy, the pastry chefs from sur eyes is great to hang out with and see what he's doing. And of course, we're very good friends with fork. And that whole team. Yeah, so it's you every time you hang out. I mean, even though mushroom time was, you know, just hanging out with someone, like I said, just late night, just sort of figure out what we can do. That's funky. So I think you're always inspired when you hang out with smarter, more talented people than you are. Finding finding is doing amazing stuff. And hopefully you can, you know, learn something from it. You did a collab with victory beer. Yeah, that was one of the first ones it was the first collab that they did. And it was, again, sort of our I wouldn't say impish, but kind of you know, everyone's doing champagne truffles. You know, it's one of the things of champagne raspberry, with some other, you know, caramel. It's like the cliche of a chocolate serpent has to have those in it. And we're like, hey, let's just know we're gonna stop making champagne truffles when we're making beer truffle. I love I love their beer. I had Bill Kovaleski on the podcast last year. And then as a tie in, I did some beer dishes using their stuff actually did a beer truffle. I mean, my truffles are not anything like yours, but I think I did okay, like a handrolled truffle not like a very fancy just like melt my chocolate and beer. You know, I wasn't a beer guy. And I wasn't a beer guy with food. And it was in this as a shame since I lived in Belgium and other places. And till till I was blessed with hat being at the tryout dinner of Terrence flurry at fork when he was a chef there. And he did a beer pairing with his food. And I'm like, Okay, now I get it. So I love the fact that you know, you can continue learning or you have these ideas that you think are like, well, beer is overrated, and then someone like his talent comes along, you're like, Okay, now I get why people are excited about beer. I didn't like beer when I was younger. And it wasn't really until I moved to the Philly area. And we had so many great craft breweries. I mean, now they're a dime a dozen everywhere. But, you know, back in 2002, I guess when we moved to Westchester, like you know, you had Iron Hill there, but getting into Philly, like you had some really great places like monks and standard tap and places I like to hang out and I got in with a crowd of people who liked some really good beer and that's kind of where my love of beer started was when I was in, in the Philly area. You know Victory is a sort of an interesting story. Because I think I like to think was this I'd like to think that we're similar. And they do. They don't do anything. Well, they've started since the new ownership, but they didn't do funky stuff. They just did it really well. And I think that's if you had to describe a clot, I know people well, they mentioned the mushroom. Like, that's not true. But I think, to us, everything seems have a purpose. And it doesn't seem strange, because it has a purpose. And like, this is why this is interesting to have the mushroom and time. Yeah, I see the sort of philosophy of victory very similar to ours. What about longevity? I mean, did you ever think about throwing in the towel was our time where it was like, Okay, I've had enough of this. It's not working. You know? Yeah, different points. You're like, what am I doing this, but then you that's the, that's the fun part is keep, you know, over overriding that urge to throw it in. And you learn very simply, very quickly that great things will happen. Or not happen the minute you give up. So I think anyone's had a small business, I'd say, yeah, we've had times when we've been frustrated. throwing in the towel I'd never said never happened to me. I mean, it's just hard. It's hard having a small business, especially these past couple of years. I mean, how, how was 2020. And last year for you? It was surprisingly well. And that's why I think we went out of our way to support the restaurants in Philly with any anything we could do, we tried to do, and also for the hospitals and because with all our airline, in our presence, we did amazingly well. I mean, all thanks, considering, you know, the key is how do you produce in that environment, and keep everyone safe. And that was the main I mean, what we saw rigged up here with curtains and dividers, and you know, filters and face masks, I mean, to work with a mask and a shield in a kitchen is not the most pleasant thing. But the team was just, they knew the purpose, and they knew the goals. And so they were amazing with that, I like to talk about goals, are you someone who sets goals, and if so, you have anything that you'd want to share either short term long term, like what you're working on, I think, I mean, our goal is just to keep doing the quality that we're doing and do it, you know, you know, with a certain try to do it with a certain style and grace is, you know, the old Clint Eastwood movie, but I think it's important for us to, you know, continue taking care of our staff, I mean, we, for 10 years now have have had, you know, matching 401k, full health care benefits, you know, PTO, all those things. And, you know, we did that way before, a lot of people will start doing just to maintain their because I was used to the European system. So the minute we could start affording it, we did it. And this thing is like that just has to be has to run smoothly, certain efficiently at sea, and in the quality and climate of where, you know, the people come into work. You know, I've worked in factories where the 40 people that come in, and we're just miserable, and they're just, you know, just working, it wasn't a passion to them. So we want to continue sort of having this culture here, where we, you know, if you really want to go work in Japan for a couple of weeks, and have that experience, I can send you there, if you want to go work at numerous restaurants up in New York, even in the savory side, I can send you there. So, you know, we're kind of all over the place as what we can offer people, you know, not just PTO, but also you know, sort of a life experience, even if it's something that they don't want to be a baker, but I want to work for amazing Baker, I can send them somewhere in Europe or in Germany or so it's it's we're kind of all over the place with, you know, sort of a lifestyle kind of way of running a clot. And that's some reasons why we've stayed small. I mean, we're a lot larger than people I think perceive us as, but, you know, we're in 22, Whole Foods and a bunch of other, you know, products here and there. We do a couple lines for some Swiss companies. But to me it's growth is not the number one thing growth, growth with all those added benefits and keeping the culture where everyone's happy to work here. You know, there's always a couple people that don't work out for whatever reasons, but I would say if you talk to the team here, they're all generally happy to be here and they're motivated and they're exciting to do new things. So who who is your team and where are they coming from? Are they culinary students? Are they people who want to have careers and pastry and chocolate? I would say they're all across. We have two people have graduated from colonies to school. We have a couple of people that graduated from Westchester and we're the perfect fit for mentality and stayed on. And then sort of a hybrid of people with cold air and other experiences. So it's, you know, it's I hate to quote, like all these business books, but you know, we hire the person, then we figure out where they fit. And that's always been the case. So we might have hired you to be our marketing director. But, you know, we found out actually, you're really good at running something else. So we'll just put you there, and if that's what you want to do, and we're also like said, what, where do you want to be in this organization, and we've usually tailor their position to what they want to do. I mean, there's always stuff you don't want to do in a job. But, you know, we try and, you know, we're not perfect that way. But, and that seems to work out really well. And people, you know, and even if, like, Hey, I would really like to learn that. So we just, you know, I come in Saturday, we teach them on a airbrush or do showpieces or something like that. Or, you know, if I had certain connections with with kitchen chefs, and I could play somebody in an amazing kitchen, even after they decide to leave here. I'm glad to do that, because that's what happened to me in Europe. Looks like I missed the boat, I should have just asked you, if you're hiring when I lived there, it seems like I would have had a much different career path. And maybe I would have gotten to go some cool places. We're very interesting culture here. And I think, you know, everyone is so motivated and because that we attract certain person, and also, we we do some amazing things, you know, so it's, it's an exciting time for us. I definitely feel what do you recommend for people who want to get into this as a career? And should you go to culinary school? Should you do what you did travel to Europe go to different places? Like how does someone get started in chocolate, I wish they would have almost like a six month culinary school where you learn all you know, when proteins collect late, like all these sort of the book smarts that you need. And then the rest is find the best kitchens that work for, you know, or even kitchens that you respect, because they have, you know, the new style of kitchens and how they run it. Because that all run wears off. I mean, I when I was younger, and fortunately, it worked in a few bad kitchens, where all I did was pick up bad habits. And I just worked at some places out of convenience, like, I need a job. So I'm going to work there. But if I had given a little more effort, I mean, hindsight is I did okay. And I worked in some amazing places. But I always think about ah shouldn't should not have turn that job down. You know it, but I didn't want to learn another language. I didn't want to work in another language I didn't speak so are some of their silly excuses when I was younger, but yeah, always surround yourself with the best people. Even you know, if there's two places in town and one's a world class chocolatier, and the other ones like a mediocre bakery, but you really want to do bakery, I would still go work for the top tier, because you're gonna learn more on just how to work and ethics and, and just the whole culture of doing something really well than going to work for something mediocre. Even that's what your passion is. And now that might make no sense to some people, but it will pay off in the long run. No, that makes total sense. It goes back to kind of hiring for the person and attitude and not the skill set that it's the the core building blocks of how you work. So it makes so much sense. Yeah, like working in the butcher shop. Once I mentioned earlier, I mean, learning how to make blood sausage, I'm never gonna make blood sausage, but just seeing how they make it is you know, they call it Flint's in Cologne and cars dialect there, but it's keeping curious and keep learning. Don't switch jobs every three months. You know? Yeah, it's another thing. I guess talking about knowledge, what do you wish you knew before you opened your own business? Like, is there something that you were really not prepared for and was like, Oh, I maybe would have learned accounting or something before I did it. You know, I wish I would have taken more notes on places I worked at, or I wish I would have kept those notes. It's more, you know, I've forgotten so much stuff about certain pastries, or, you know, baking and things that I you know, it's all in my head, still some of it, but there are a lot of like just even temperatures or, you know, some of the things I learned about flowers and different flowers when I was baking in Europe, those are things that I kind of miss, everyone that works here should have a notebook and take notes because, you know, 20 years from now, it's like, wow, what, how did they get that flavor into that ganache? And then they'll be like, Man, I wish I remembered that. Well, now technology is amazing, right? Like you've got your phone. It's a notepad, it's a camera. It's an audio recorder, you can do video. I mean, like there's no excuse not to be documenting what you're doing. No, not at all. As long as you can control it. I mean, I worked in kitchens that had strict no phone policies. And I was always pushing back against my GM and saying, like, yeah, I get it. I don't like cooks like texting their girlfriend while they're on the line. But we need to be making notes and you know, kind of documenting our journey. You know, I kind of lean on the more modern side of that kind of thing as opposed to like, no phones in the kitchen. Because it's slippery slope. That's why like nope, nope, Books and nobody in here has a phone on them at work. Because if you're focused in your, you know, really work at work, of course, I'm showing how old I am, but I am paying you to work not be on your phone. So to me, it's I know, it sounds like, you know, get off my lawn, you know, grandpa, but it's sort of interesting. Wait, wait, I'm paying you but you're texting your amount. I know, that's not what you're saying. But, but you're texting your friend right away? How would you know so? Well, it is hard because you open your phone to take a photo and then you see a text and you go down that rabbit hole. Like that's how technology gets you, right? Like you open Facebook to send one message. And next thing you know, it's 45 minutes later. And where did that time go? Yeah. And you know, I've people that work in the office have worked in the office, and they're such an industry norm that you can sit and answer emails while you're at work and like, Wait a minute. Yeah, it seems odd to me. I mean that but I'm of the era when I grew up in our work where we had no iPhone. So, you know, the great photos I missed out on taking because because we didn't have a camera in our pocket. I didn't really answer the question about what I wish I knew more. I mean, obviously, I just wish I had more of a businessman's mentality versus I wouldn't say artists but more chef. I mean, we've done okay, but it's, it's just interesting to keep you keep learning things you don't know. You know, I keep, it seems like the mantra today is Be curious. But you're not going to know everything. When you start your business, that's for sure. I'm someone who always wants to be learning something, you know, like, even if it doesn't seem pertinent to the job at hand today, you never know what you're going to need. And I always go back to culinary school of like, you know, I was 18. And what I thought I was going to do, I didn't end up doing and when you're in the midst of it, you're kind of, I don't wanna say like blowing things off. But like you're in nutrition class and learning vegetarian. It's like, I'm never gonna want to cook vegetarian. And then like, 20 years later, you're like, oh, wow, I wish I paid more attention in that. Yeah, I wish I had those notes. And you know, there's all this amazing stuff. I did these like sort of sponge cakes and things we did in Japan with a wooden frame and things like that, that I wish I've would have paid more attention to. So you know, when it's appropriate. You know, take photos, ask questions. Great words of advice. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. I've enjoyed talking to you today. Thank you. If you have any more questions, please let me know. And I love talking to to you too, as well. Was there anywhere you want to send people to website social media, all of it? I mean, check out you know, iCloud chocolate on Instagram and Facebook. And also, you know, obviously, iCloud chocolate.com is our website for for purchasing and just kind of see the products that were making designing. Great. I'll send everyone there. Links will be in the show notes as well. Thank you so much. Well, thank you and to all of our listeners. Thanks so much for tuning in. This has been Chris with the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast, go to chefs without restaurants.org. To find our Facebook group, mailing list and check database. The community is free to join. You'll get gig opportunities, advice on building and growing your business and you'll never miss an episode of our podcast. Have a great week.