Little Blues Chocolates is an Auckland-based business putting a luxury artisanal spin on American flavours. Ryan is the chocolatier behind the brand, and I spied some of her incredible treats while scrolling through Instagram one day. She kindly sent me some to try and I was instantly sold. One of her amazing products will feature in our April delivery – a perfect fit for “The Inner Child” theme.
Ryan trained in pastry arts at the Culinary Institute of America and spent 8 years working as a pastry chef before moving into the chocolate specialty. She then spent three and a half years working alongside French-trained chocolatiers in both Napa Valley and Auckland, before launching Little Blues. She agreed to answer a few questions to tell us a bit more about her background and passions.
What inspired you to delve into the world of chocolate?
I’ve always had a sweet spot for chocolate. While I only opened Little Blues Chocolates last year, I’ve been dreaming about this business since I was a little girl in my mother’s kitchen. After baking my way through childhood, I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and then trained on opposite sides of the globe with several reputable chocolatiers. And now, Little Blues Chocolates is introducing New Zealand to classic American flavours wrapped up in artisanal chocolates.
Who is your chocolate idol?
It’s hard to choose one person to call my chocolate idol when there are so many people in this world that contribute to the industry. A lot of people might idolise the chocolatier that makes complex showpieces and beautiful creative bonbons. And these people absolutely deserve accolades for their show-stopping work, but I find that people often overlook all the other amazing folks that make up the chocolate industry. I idolize the growers and pickers working in the hot sun, the scientists creating flavour profiles of delicious craft chocolate, the chocolate makers producing bean-to-bar, the chocolatiers finding the most innovative and delicious uses for chocolate, the pastry chefs in restaurants who make glamorous desserts using chocolate as a medium, the small business owners creating equally beautiful chocolates and bean-to-bars that most people will never hear about because they prefer to only sell locally. And let’s not forget the teachers and mentors out there passing on their expertise to the next generation. Every person’s position in the industry is just as important as the others. Without all of us, chocolate wouldn’t be the sought after speciality item that it is.
What types of chocolate do you work with?
I work primarily with Valrhona Chocolate, which is a high-quality chocolate from France. I love the acidity of their range and find it compliments my style and custom flavours. Valrhona is constantly adding new chocolates and products to their line, which then provides me with more to work with and choose from. I feel there is a place for all percentages and origins. If I’m making a solid chocolate item, I prefer to use a darker chocolate, but I prefer milk chocolate for many fillings. Recently, Hogarth’s Madagascar chocolate has become my favourite craft chocolate and I would love to incorporate this in a new product (although it does not need to be made into a confection or bonbon as it’s amazing on its own!).
Are there any other ingredients you hold especially dear?
I also love to feature local products in my artisanal chocolates. I recently worked with Forty Thieves of the Hibiscus Coast to make my Salted Macadamia and Brown Butter chocolates, which are one of my best sellers. I believe that sourcing local and organically grown ingredients elevates the flavour and integrity of my chocolates. It’s been fun using New Zealand’s finest to create flavours and combinations with American roots.
What’s your best chocolate tasting tip?
Don’t let others’ opinions influence your chocolate tasting experience. Everyone has a different palate and what might seem delicious to you could be too strong or too sweet for someone else. And also, we shouldn’t ever settle for just one favourite kind of chocolate. I love high quality dark acidic chocolates, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a bag of M&M’s in my freezer at all times too!
And lastly, do you have a favourite childhood chocolate memory?
As a child, I loved chocolate covered pretzels. I remember crumbling pretzels into chocolate ice cream for that sweet and salty combination. At age eight, my friend and I decided to make our own chocolate covered pretzels. We poured out Hershey’s chocolate syrup into a bowl, dipped pretzels in it, and let them set in the freezer. In retrospect, it was an absolute mess, but to a couple of eight year olds, it was pretty perfect.
Sign up now for The Chocolate Tour and you’ll get to try one of Little Blues Chocolates’ top treats in our April delivery. Little Blues Chocolates will also be available soon directly from www.littleblueschocolates.com.