Many of us here in Scotland have a sweet tooth, something that’s usually carried on from a love of sweeties as children.
Jamie 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.
It was here that he fell in love with the patisserie side of cooking as he explained: “When I was doing my apprenticeship, it was the chocolate that I found really fascinating as what I was used to was consuming a bar of chocolate and not realising actually what goes into that bar - I thought more about me enjoying and tasting it.”
This led Jamie to pursue his chosen field by taking an intensive course with the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate.
He said: “I then went on a training course and learned all about the art of chocolate making and that’s when I really fell in love with it. What I enjoyed most was understanding the flavours, fusions and different compositions that chocolate can create and how it can have different textures and mouthfeel.”
Jamie describes himself as a ‘real foodie at heart’ and it was his mum and nana’s influence that inspired him into a career in the kitchen.
“I think my standout food memory is helping my mum and nana in the kitchen baking. I remember every year from my eighth birthday always getting something related to the kitchen or a new gadget.
"I remember one year getting a Jamie Oliver cook set and apron and thinking that I was going to be the best chef in the whole wide world and end up on TV,” Jamie laughed.
“It’s interesting that I had that interest from such a young age and all I knew was food and my hobby was being in the kitchen. I probably had a career destined for me from my love of cooking, which equated to a love of eating.
"For me it’s important to enjoy the making and the eating.”
Luckily for Jamie, his job does involve creating and taste testing new products for Cocoa Ooze, including their award-winning liquorice and black pepper bar, which won a Scotland Food and Drink awards in 2018.
“The liquorice and black pepper bar was designed to pair with gin as it profiles the notes that really stand out and match with gin.” Jamie said.
When it comes to how they create their products, Jamie explained what a chocolatier does, saying: “we are a secondary manufacturer, and we add value to the product through our tempering, flavour and ingredients processes.
"We buy a single noted chocolate that comes from different cocoa farmers around the world. The chocolate comes to us in a format that we can process into final products. That’s where we really add value and flavour.”
When asked what might surprise people about his job, Jamie said: “I think people think you’re almost like Willy Wonka with a chocolate river and oompa loompas, but in reality there’s a lot of stainless steel - making chocolate is more like a production set up that a Wonka style factory.
"Batch sizes are also something that might surprise people - when we’re making something, the largest batch size is 250 chocolates at a time and you’re making large quantities, sometimes a recipe doesn’t scale up the way you expect.
"I remember my nana taught me, if you try to double a recipe it doesn’t always work. And I always think that's the same in chocolate making, it sometimes doesn't quite work out in terms of the flavour profile.”
Jamie is keen that his chocolates are not only enjoyed but thought of as an experience and an expression of creativity.
Cocoa Ooze set up chocolate classes about nine years ago after an interest in chocolate tasting led to people asking how the chocolates were made.
“We started doing tastings and people were interested in the product I was making as it wasn't mainstream, and it was very different to what they were used to. People were asking how the chocolates were made and saying ‘I would love to learn that’. I thought, I've got a skill so why can't I share my skill and share my knowledge?
"So we started (the classes) as a test and the first couple were oversubscribed. There's lots of demand, and we started getting bookings for birthday parties and adult workshops.
"Pre-covid we were doing about 220 parties and workshops per year. We’ve trained suppliers, chefs as well as home-bakers and those that love chocolate.” Jamie said.
Being based in Aberdeen, Jamie explained how this location can influence flavours. “We do take inspiration from some of the areas nearby as we have a fantastic larder here.
"But the challenge we've always got is our products come from warmer climates. We actually tried to grow chocolate in the north of Scotland, no comment on how well that went,” laughed Jamie.
“We try and get ingredients locally and if we can’t, we try to go for a Scottish supplier such as the Isle of Skye sea salt for our salted caramel bar. We're proud to only use Scottish in UK suppliers or distributors, which I think that's quite a unique point in chocolate. All our packaging is bought locally and our labels are made in Edinburgh.”
Jamie is also mainly driven by customer demand so will always have favourites available, such as the raspberry and honeycomb bar but right now there’s seasonal options such as a cranachan bar and haggis and whisky flavoured truffles using local whisky.
When it comes to Valentine’s Day, there’s six new products available which have launched and are ready for dispatch for last minute purchases as well as for those who are organised.
There’s heart hot chocolate bombes, heart truffles, a love bar and a hamper (to name a few). Jamie said: “We’ve got some personalised options and we’re trying to have a unique offering.I really hope people enjoy our creations.”
As for his own plans, Jamie said he’s a ‘typical gent who buys last minute’ although there will be chocolates, obviously. Jamie said: “I always just say to my wife, I'll give you some chocolates, which is a thoughtful gift as we work so far in advance.
"When you’re in this business you've got to think constantly ahead if it's not Christmas, you're thinking about Valentine's Day from about September.”
To hear more from Jamie and Cocoa Ooze, as well as how to pair whisky and chocolate, search Scran wherever you get your podcasts.