This Friday sees the return of International Chocolate Day.
Luckily, in Scotland, we are now blessed with more than a few expert chocolate producers who are ready and willing to help people across the country, and beyond, celebrate the occasion.
One such master of the chocolate making arts is Jamie Hutcheon, who launched his own company, Cocoa Ooze, in 2008 at the age of just 17 after falling in love with the craft.
Hutcheon, who had a passion for food instilled in him at an early age, from helping his mother in the kitchen at seven years old, to studying catering at college as a teenager while working in the kitchens at The Marcliffe Hotel, went on to pursue his chosen field by taking an intensive course with the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate.
Hutcheon said: “I have been interested in catering since I was eight – I got my first job when I was 13, and started the business when I was just 17. If I’m interested in something, it drives me and I become more and more determined when I have an idea that I know will work.
“When I started out in the sector, there was an opportunity to do something different, and I didn’t want to run my business based on ‘textbook’ assumptions, I wanted to run it the Cocoa Ooze way.”
Based in Aberdeen, the fledgling chocolate brand has gone on to become a huge success and Hutcheon believes that helping people to better understand his products has definitely helped.
He said: “We’ve had immense support since launching in 2008 both locally and further afield.
One thing I’m always keen to do is to continue to educate as a means of growing our business.
“The key to this is ensuring you educate at a local level so your business can grow from the ground up. I want my customers to understand the quality of my chocolates and the story behind Cocoa Ooze.”
"Look for chocolate with less of the added bulking ingredients, so basically products which have simple, easy to understand ingredients and have been made in small refined batches."
Having made an appearance on TV’s Dragons Den at the end of last year in a bid to secure more funds for Cocoa Ooze’s growing offering, which now includes Scotland’s first chocolate themed bistro and workshops, and continuing to expand his corporate and online chocolate range, Hutcheon believes that his company’s success reflects that of Scotland’s chocolate-making scene.
He said: “I’m helping pave the way for Scottish chocolate and I’m now a board member of the Scottish Chocolatier Network, who are championing Scottish chocolate and promoting across Scotland and beyond.
"Once people understand that good quality products are available locally, you can see that the education side of things really pays off.”
He added that anyone looking for a reason why they should buy Scottish chocolate over, say, Swiss or Belgian versions, should look no further than the “provenance” and the fact that the chocolates are made “in small batches, with care and attention to detail”.
Hutcheon said: “The unique approach to production and our flavour combinations is another reason why Scottish chocolate is so very special.”
The expert chocolatier and his team of 26 have placed an emphasis on using the freshest local ingredients wherever they can. He said: “We have a policy to source local and if that’s not possible, we source nationally.”
The chocolatier believes that picking the best type of chocolate to suit someone, is down to the person’s personal tastes and not just the cocoa content.
He said: “I would say the quality of ingredients used in the process is key. Look for chocolate with less of the added bulking ingredients, so basically products which have simple, easy to understand ingredients and have been made in small refined batches.
“The key is knowing who and where you are buying from.”