As the visionary behind the Dude, Sweet Chocolate(one of January's Featured products) Chef Katherine Clapner is an accomplished pastry chef. After graduating from New York's Culinary Institute of America with an Associates Degree in Baking + Pastry, Chef Clapner took to Europe to master her new skill set with stints in London's acclaimed Savoy + Hotel Cipriani in Venice. Moving back to the United States, Katherine landed at the world renowned Charlie Trotter restaurant in Chicago where she trained and held Pastry Chef positions before heading home to Texas.
What Inspired You To Start Your Company?
After doing a test run of chocolates for my business partner Redding May while he was at Merrill Lynch for his clients, I set out to test the chocolates in the marketplace. I found that I really loved doing the flavors that I felt worked and exploring just one medium ( I was a pastry chef for some 17 years prior). I saw Redding later, said I wanted to go for it. To try it as a business. He said "I'm in" and off we went.
Tell us about your products.
All dark chocolate based. Chef driven. Outside of the box. Fun and fearless.
What Does Being A Small-Batch Mean To You?
Let's first scratch out the word "artisan" as it means very little any longer. I like the word craftsman. For me it is a philosophy of a person, a creator with pride and focus to technique, source and ingredients,
What is your favorite small-batch treat?
Nature is my favorite here. An heirloom tomato, a perfect baguette, fresh butter and sea salt.
What Drew You To Food?
It was purely accidental. I was in college for PR in music and film. While working as an intern, my closest friend catered the food for the firm I was working for. Subsequently, I helped her all the time for extra cash. I found a peace in the kitchen. It was a moment when I thought that I had never been as comfortable or curious up to that point.
Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?
There is really no place that it doesn't. It can be travels. It can be an image of a package, it can be a movie, a stroll down the grocery store or a friend. Inspiration is everywhere if you pay attention. I work very backwards in my processes. Who knows what that says about me.
What Products Are You Working On Now?
I'm not gonna tell you everything, but 2015 is the year of teas for me in all formats. A return to the roots of where we started and rally to original recipes, and improve on what I have learned. I'm focusing on grains, legumes, seeds and fat alternatives.
Do You Have a Favorite Product?
I never ever go anywhere without the "Holiday in Cambodia" candy bar. Hard to sell. Great to eat. If you like it you cannot stop eating it.
Latest Ingredient Obsession?
Benne seeds, mung beans and foie fat.
What Did You Have For Dinner Last Night?
Lamb stew that I made.
What Person, Living Or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product?
What’s The Best Piece Of Advice You’ve Gotten In Building Your Business? What Advice Would You Give Other Small-Batch Producers?
Stay true to your vision, trust your instincts and make time for yourself. I would tell them you can only hope to make a great living, but you can be sure you will have fun if you do what you love.
What Other Local Food Producers or Chefs Do You Admire?
Askinosiie, Texas Honey Bee Guild, Dallas Mozzarella Company, Maury Ruben of City Bakery.
If You Had To Choose Your Last Meal, What Would It Be?
Fried chicken, perfect mash, roasted brussel sprouts. Tart Tatin
Favorite Restaurant or Food Experience?
What Do You Enjoy Doing Outside of the Kitchen?
Yoga yoga yoga and horror movies.
What’s Your Favorite Kitchen Soundtrack?
It all depends on the day...Led Zeppelin, My Favorite Morning Jacket, Johnny Cash, Flaming Lips, Roxy Music, Poison, Allman Brothers, Thelonious Monk.
Stay up-to-date with Chef Katherine Clapper + Dude, Sweet Chocolate: