Me, Chocolate and Channel 4

Me, Chocolate and Channel 4

Chocolate has created some amazing opportunities for me personally. It’s amazing what the world of chocolate can open up for you.

I’ve regularly been featured in the local & national newspapers, including The Sun and The Independent. Been a guest on various radio shows and yes, even appeared on TV.

Here’s a little true story about me, chocolate, and Channel 4

Just say YES

Choclate key with the words success written on it

My first experience of TV was as a guest on Gala TV.

A scout approached me via email as they wanted a chocolate expert to chat with the presenter. I was a bit scared, but I said yes anyway. You have to feel the fear regularly and this definitely fit the criteria!

Gala Bingo

While clients are playing bingo, they have celebrities (not me) and specialist guests (that’s me) to talk about various topics of interest. I asked what to wear (no green) and told me to put on more make-up than usual! 

Ushered into a tiny studio, miked up, then told which camera to talk to.  

As I was scared to look at the wrong camera, I think I was a bit wooden at first. Once I got chatting about chocolate and getting the presenter to take part in a chocolate tasting I was in my stride.

I was a guest on numerous occasions for Gala Bingo and it was always great fun.

Channel 4

On my way for another visit to the lovely people at Gala TV, I was on the platform waiting for my train to London.

My mobile rang and the voice at the other end said:

“Hi, it’s Simon here from Channel 4 are you free to talk.”

Now I just presumed this was a wind-up. I’d been teased a bit about my appearances on Gala Bingo. Here I was on my way to Gala TV and I was convinced someone was pretending to be from Channel 4.  

So, I said rather sarcastically:

“Yeah, sure it’s Channel 4, now who is this?”

The rather offended reply came back:

“This really is Channel 4, we are doing a ‘small spaces’ special with George Clarke and wish to consider your summerhouse in the ‘shed of the year’ competition!”

Whoops, back-pedaling quickly – I made all the right noises and listened to what was required.

Opportunity Knocks

What a fabulous potential opportunity. I couldn’t believe the irony of heading off to London to appear on TV and being approached by another TV company!

Now despite numerous phone calls, copious form-filling, and being ‘available’ on certain dates, I didn’t get a visit from the lovely George Clarke or the film crew.  

I think the researcher was a big fan of chocolate and thought what better than to consider a visit to me for ‘shed of the year’ and lots of chocolate tasting.

Shed of the Year

Large shed in the garden with the double doors open

This is a fabulous competition. If you have seen any of the finalists over the years, people have created incredible spaces to work in. I love my shed full of chocolate, but I’m not sure it could compete with some of those entries.

She Sheds

Summerhouse in the sunshine

I did get contacted again by Channel 4 a couple of years later. This time for a pilot that was to be hosted by Davina McCall. She wanted to do a feature of what women were doing in their sheds. The shed was no longer considered the domain of the man only. Women were doing some amazing things in their spaces too.

At the time of writing, I didn’t hear further.

Once you say yes to an opportunity, who knows what might happen next!

How to be the best teacher

How to be the best teacher

Tales from the chocolate tank – part 2

I visit lots of primary schools, running chocolate workshops for classes.

You can imagine the excitement when a visit from ‘the chocolate lady’ is on the cards!

How to be the best teacher?  Just add chocolate – look at what you can do:

The history

Astec drawing

Chocolate has a fascinating past. Originally thought to be discovered by Mayans. It was so valued; it was used as currency at one point. Emperor Montezuma would throw lavish banquets, where many jugs of chocolate were served. Shocking fact: women were not allowed to drink it! (You can imagine how that fact is received in class!)

The geography

Chocolate is grown in exotic and faraway places. It needs a particular climate to survive, which is only found close to the equator. 

The science

The art of working with chocolate is real science. Learning about the crystalline structure to allow it to be tempered. The science community is still learning facts about this magical substance. As chocolatiers, learning this element of working with chocolate is crucial for success.

The process

Cacao beans

We cover the bean-to-bar story. Harvesting pods from the trees, fermenting, drying, and shipping the beans. Then what happens to turn the beans into chocolate. 

It’s food that everyone loves, and the process is complex and fascinating to learn. Of course, I throw in a tasting for good measure!

The design

chocolate lollipop with sprinkles

Children are designing, making unique hand-made lollipops as well as creating chocolate bars wrappers on paper and harnessing Willy Wonka powers!

I enjoy going into schools, the children are truly original and creative in their designs. 

They ask lots of wonderful questions, and they are so affectionate and funny too.  

Pupils will constantly come up to me and throw their arms around me and tell me ‘You’re the best teacher we’ve ever had! Or ‘I love you, Miss’.  It is amazing the effect a tank of chocolate has!

Depending on their age, I might help them create a lollipop. They let me know the design they are thinking of, then I just help with the outline. Best request from a young man was:

“Miss, can I have me, in my car driving along, with my dog with his head out of the window and his ears flapping in the wind?”

Everyone is Equal

One of the things I love the most about working in schools with the children is the way that the chocolate projects are completely inclusive. The abilities of the children in a class are often very varied. Lots of extremely bright and capable children and a few that find things a struggle.

The sense of achievement that you get from helping every child make something original and delicious is rewarding. The compliments often come from the children that struggle the most, as they were able to take part and enjoy their chocolate project as much as everyone else.

What a wonderful way to spend my time – helping, inspiring and having fun. A large cuppa is required when you get home. There are more reasons to work with chocolate than you imagine!

Follow other tales from the chocolate tank, including the odd disaster.

Thank you to all the teachers out there – you are the best. You may have some lovely/funny stories (with or without chocolate)? Pop over to my Facebook page if you want to share!

Tales from the Chocolate Tank (part 1)

Tales from the Chocolate Tank (part 1)

I’m not so keen on telling this story, as the re-telling brings back ‘bad’ memories.

Two tanks of chocolate

Most of the tales from my chocolate tanks bring back happy memories, inspiration, and joy. I will be sharing more tales in future blogs, so watch this space!

I’m kick-starting my tales with a total chocolate-disaster though darling!

It’s all in the planning

I was booked for a corporate chocolate team-build, and I always check the venue and access beforehand. I had some concerns as there was no on-site parking, but I was assured of a loading bay for access.

On arrival, the loading bay was blocked. As time was ticking on, I had to find somewhere else to park. The nearest alternative was a multi-storey car park. I found a spot and told the venue I had arrived. I was unloading my car when it all went very wrong!

Disaster struck

In case of access issues, I had bought a trolley (premonition on my part?). Including my large chocolate tank, I loaded up the trolley and set off.

Two paces from the car, the whole trolley load fell to the ground. My chocolate tank toppled off the top, spilling all its contents (eight kilos of molten chocolate) all over the car park floor.

Not only did it spill, but it also splashed all over my body and clothing leaving me dripping in chocolate and a total mess.

I couldn’t deliver the event for the client at all. Even if I had gone along and ‘made do’ with the other chocolate activities we had planned I was unfit for purpose. Covered head to toe in chocolate is not the best look!

Honesty is the best policy

I phoned and explained what had happened, and to my shame I even found myself getting upset on the phone. It was only a fun thing for them, but I always wish to deliver what I promise and I was truly devastated to let my client down.

Of course, I offered their money back and to do the event on another day. To their utter credit, they just asked me to make the chocolates on their behalf and deliver them at a later date. No question of me giving them a refund. How kind is that? Of course, I bought an extra treat for each of them and popped that in their bags of chocolates too.

Meanwhile…..

Back at the car park, kind people were coming up to me and asking if I was OK. Snivelling, covered in brown ‘stuff’ – how brave were they to approach me at all!

The icing on the cake came when a lady driving a huge 4 x 4 drove straight through the chocolate puddle and got me covered in even more chocolate. Without even a backward glance – it was the final straw!

So I packed up my wares and headed out of the multi-storey, only to find that I had forgotten to validate my car park ticket in the mayhem. Getting out of my car to go and see the attendant, he saw me approach, took one look at me immediately opened the barrier. I thanked him and said, “I think you will find there is a bit of chocolate on Level 3”!

It was a great to experience how good people are when you are honest, open, and do your best for them, despite the difficulties you are facing! I have also definitely learned from this rather messy mistake.

It’s also provided a good few laughs at a dinner party or two – you can borrow it if you like, but I don’t recommend repeating the experience!

Come and tell us your funny stories over on my facebook page.