Katherine Clapner is a chocolatier from Dallas, Texas! She loves what she does and never apologizes for being who she is. With her skills, she’s been able to build her business, compete on television, and live her life to the fullest. Check out my interview with Katherine Clapner and learn more about her chocolate filled life!
Q&A WITH KATHERINE CLAPNER
Can you tell our readers a little bit about what you do?
I am the chef and co-owner of Dude, Sweet Chocolate in Dallas, Texas
How did you first get your start as a chocolatier?
I was a pastry chef for 20+ years and was doing consulting when I did a project for my business partner, Redding May, in 2008. He was with top tier investing with Merrill Lynch, and they commissioned me to make their holiday gifts for clients. It just rolled on from that point.
Where did you first find passion for food and cooking?
Not until later in life. I would say it started during my college years (although there were not many of them). I worked helping a friend cater and enjoyed it more than what I was focusing on in college. I just stopped going pretty much at that point and started cooking instead. It moved incredibly fast from that point on.
Has your passion for food grown and changed throughout your life?
Oh my gosh, yes! It is constantly changing and growing. I am leaning towards less is more at the moment. I somehow think that that will not be long though. I will always lean towards more of a savory element to chocolate. I never have liked overly sweet chocolate. When I first started it was all about the flash. Now, not so much!
You are located in my hometown of Dallas, Texas. What has it been like growing your business there?
I love Dallas. It is so much different than what folks think it is about. It has been very supportive of our company and what I do. It keeps evolving and changing and I like that. The food scene keeps getting better and better.
You have grown your single location store to multiple. Is it difficult being in charge of multiple chocolate stores?
Yes on some days and no on others. I think for me personally, the most difficult is getting the same message at all locations. Our staff really are amazing, but we could always improve and be more consistent on how we look to the public. And above all, I would love to see those places and staff more often than I do.
What type of chocolate is on the menu? What is your favorite menu item and why?
I would say the “usual suspects” are my favorite: truffles, fudge, bonbons, toffee, spreads, bars etc. I could go on and on. My menu consists of pretty much anything that I can add chocolate to really. My favorite is one that is a rather hard sell called Holiday in Cambodia (after a Dead Kennedys song). It includes 100%, palm sugar, black sesame, and balsamic. It just makes me happy and satiated. The polar opposite of that would be C3po: a coconut, cashew, and cocoa nib zeffir that I can eat every day.
You have a lot of very dark chocolate products in your store. Can you explain why dark chocolate tastes so much better than milk and white chocolate?
I like dark chocolate, therefore I make it. I believe you should make or do what you enjoy if you are vested in the business. Otherwise, what’s the point in spending so much time and energy. Dark chocolate has more personality and variances in it than other chocolates so it resonates with me.
You have had the opportunity to be part of a lot of cool opportunities! Recently, you were on Beat Bobby Flay where you actually competed against the Food Network king: Bobby Flay. What was that experience like?
That was bonkers! You know what you are doing for the second run, you forget everything, time is up, and then it’s done. The crew was great and I am glad I did it. But man, it was really crazy.
What are some of your favorite meals that you make for yourself when you’re not in your stores?
I am pretty simple when I get home. I take the dog out, go to yoga or cycle, and then eat. That means I usually eat salads or soup. I do love to roast chicken or pot roast on Sundays and turn that into my meals for the week. I am kind of a dork, so I take my lunch to work! I am signing up for a hunting and breakdown prep class down South and am pretty stoked about what I will learn there.
Do you have any suggestions on what we should all have for dessert tonight?
Ice cream and cookies is what I would do or if you can talk someone into making a tart tatin for you then that’s a better idea. It’s the best as far as I am concerned!
Women can often be looked down upon in professional kitchens. Have you encountered any of this type of negativity throughout your career?
I have not experienced that since the late ‘80s, so it doesn’t enter my world anymore. I believe that if you talk too much about being a woman in the kitchen then you have missed the point of being there.
Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?
I did not swear once in this interview!
(Photos Credit: Mannyrodriguez.com)