Hannah Saxton is the founder of MyChocolate, which runs chocolate making workshops in a studio off Leather Lane. She talks to Katy Salter about truffles and tempering, and why using her student loan to start the business was a smart decision…
What’s the story behind MyChocolate?
I was at the Slade School of Art and had this Dutch boyfriend, so I spent quite a lot of time in Amsterdam. He took me to a chocolate workshop there and that’s where the idea came
from. It was a little chocolate shop that was running workshops on the side. We made things like Dutch vanilla truffles dipped in dark chocolate. There was lots of dipping and decorating. It was really good fun and made me realise that when you make chocolate from scratch it’s completely different to buying it. I developed the idea into the idea of chocolate workshops for hen parties and the corporate market. So I took a year out to set it up. And started running workshops out of my flat in Ladbroke Grove. I never went back to university.
Do you have a culinary background?
I pretty much trained myself. I did a course on chocolate online, using £300 of my student loan. I read loads of books then after about two years of buying so much chocolate from this one supplier, they actually sent me on a chocolate course in France.
Why did you choose Clerkenwell for your London venue?
I needed commercial premises because I was having so many people in my flat. Clerkenwell is well-situated for the City for my corporate clients, and it’s good for hen parties as it’s really close to where everyone wants to go out. People often go to The Zetter for drinks after our classes, and then the Modern Pantry for dinner.
Where do you hang out in the area?
Prufrock and the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs on Leather Lane. The coffee at Prufrock is amazing – they always tell you so much about it. I’ve taken myself to The Zetter a couple of times for cocktails. And I quite like Tohbang, the Korean place on Clerkenwell Road.
Do you feel like there’s a foodie community in the area?
Yeah, they all know us on Leather Lane. We’ve run a chocolate workshop downstairs in Prufrock.
Are you a chocolate lover?
Yes, I’ve always been obsessed with chocolate. I still eat chocolate every day – I try not to eat too much. I probably eat less than I used to before starting the business, because now I eat really good-quality, dark chocolate.
Talk us through a typical class…
A standard workshop lasts about 2 ½ – 3hrs. We teach you a little bit about the history of chocolate, and the process from bean to bar. You get to make your own giant chocolate buttons and decorate them. We talk you through the process of how to temper chocolate. You get to make your own truffles. We bring out big bowls of melted chocolate and decorations – things like marshmallows and caramelised nuts. We show you how to use transfer sheets to print onto chocolates. The last 30-40 minutes is decorating and you get to take everything home.
What’s most rewarding about your job?
Being able to steer the business in any direction I want – I can be really creative. We created a chocolate and cocktail making workshop and a cupcake workshop as well. I’m just about to launch a chocolate making kit – turning what we do into a tangible product.
Where would you recommend people buy chocolate in the area?
Paul A. Young in Islington is really good.
What’s your top tip for cooking with chocolate?
You have to temper chocolate if you want it to be really shiny and have a sharp snap to it. People often don’t do that which is why they melt chocolate, pour it over a cake and wonder why it looks really streaky.