Chocolatier Amanda Anderson found the sixth golden ticket. After working in the service industry for years, she stumbled upon her dream job. Anderson creates delicate gourmet chocolate flavors for Boise-based Dream Chocolate. Though Dream Chocolate products can be found on shelves across the United States, the hand-stirred, hand-poured, hand-wrapped chocolate bars are 100 percent free of Oompa Loompa labor.
So, how did you become a chocolatier?
I went to culinary school, and I was working at The MilkyWay. I was burnt out on nights and looked on Craigslist, and there was an ad.
For a chocolatier?
For a chocolatier. And I was like, "I've never heard of this," so I called them and we met downtown for an interview. I was like, "That sounds really fun. Can I design my own chocolate?" I just went from there. I think I had two interviews, and I think I might have been the only one who applied.
When was that?
That was a year ago in July.
What are the necessary skills you need to be a chocolatier?
Patience. (Laughs.) A lot of patience. Chocolate's not as easy to work with as you'd think. The tempering process: It's aligning crystals. It's hot, it cools down, then you heat it up again, and with old equipment, it's hard to keep the temper.
Explain the tempering process.
You melt the chocolate to about 115-120 degrees, and you have a water jacket around it. You turn on cold water and cool it down to about 85 degrees, and you slowly let it heat back to 90 degrees. If you're a few degrees off cooling it, if you get it too cold, it turns into fudge. And if you let it heat up too long, and it gets too hot, then it'll have heat spots so you have to re-temper it.
What's the process of developing a new chocolate flavor?
Well, usually we have a client who wants a flavor. We had a kava hut in Hawaii that wanted kava chocolate, so they ... send me kava and then I start mixing the chocolate. I'll temper a pot of plain chocolate and hand mix in oils and coconut, or whatever I need, and try to make it work. With our organic line, I just got really bored and started mixing flavors together to see what they'd end up like. One was mango curry. I had made curry the night before and was on a curry kick. I just started combining flavors and came up with three curry flavors.
What were some flavor combinations that you tried that didn't work out?
I tried a few lime ones that didn't work out and a grapefruit one.
So citrus is hard to add to chocolate?
I think if we had other components in there, it would be good, but plain grapefruit was really not good. I did a barbecue rub one that was not very good at all. A few of those were just a little much. But we do have a line of tequila chocolate that's good.
Describe your typical work day.
I used to come in and get the chocolate tempering and just work in the back, but now I'm doing more managing. I come in and my assistant is tempering chocolate and I make sure all the flavors are right, so I have to taste every pot.
That sounds awful ...
Yeah, it's rough. I'm trying to train [my assistant] to taste them and be used to what every pot needs to taste like. Then I do sales calls and work on stuff like that. I do a lot of deliveries, too. I stop at some of the same places for lunch and they're like, "you never bring us any chocolate." And I'm like, "I'm sorry, I will next time."
Is that one of the pitfalls of the job?
A little bit. It's not as bad anymore, but when I first started, everyone expected that I'd have chocolate at all times. My friends would show up and be like, "I need chocolate." I don't just carry around a pound of chocolate in my bag. Actually, I've started keeping chocolate at my house for those moments. I don't really eat chocolate anymore. I taste every batch and that's about it.
Explain how you got involved with the Peregrine Fund and Forest Wild.
Kay, the owner, is really into the outdoors. Dream Chocolate was Salmon River Foods before it was Dream Chocolate, and they distributed to outdoor companies, so they'd do jerky and stuff like that for outdoor trips.
Do you guys still do jerky?
We do some jerky and smoked trout and dried fruits, but for the most part, it's chocolate.
And you guys work with Vagina Monologues?
We give a percentage of our yearly sales back to them to help keep it going. We got the contract for all of the [shows], and we sell tens of thousands of V-pops [vagina-shaped chocolate lollipops] every year. We're also working with Omni Peace now. We've been working with them for over a year to package the chocolate in a really nice box with a condom lollipop in there, which is a real condom. All of the proceeds that Omni Peace makes go to Africa. We also work with breast cancer awareness. We have Think Pink bars. And the Broncos bars benefit Big Brothers, Big Sisters. That's one of our main things, giving back to the community. We try to be as local as we can, too.
Where do you get your ingredients locally?
All of our coffee, unless it's for a specific coffee chain, we get from Dawson Taylor. All of our herbs and spices we get from Starlight Herbs. We buy a lot of ingredients at the Co-op; they're used to us in there. We're there a lot.
Where do they carry your chocolate?
Our biggest thing is custom labels. So, Idaho Mountain Touring has our chocolate, and some banks have our chocolate. You wouldn't really know unless you looked at the fine print that it's Dream Chocolate.
Do you have different molds for the different companies?
We can. Some of the companies buy their own molds and some just use ours. The mold is kind of expensive, so it used to be a bigger hit than it is now with the economy.
So has the economy affected chocolate sales?
Chocolate and booze are doing great. People want their chocolate, and it's a small luxury.