• Katie Wilson

    Tasting Sweet Success

    Portrait of Katie Wilson.
    Katie Wilson
    Professional Chocolatier Certificate Graduate

    Professional chocolate maker finds delicious inspiration through continuing education

    Katie Wilson fell in love with chocolate and all its complexities years ago while travelling abroad. That experience later led her to launch her own bean-to-bar chocolate factory, Soul Chocolate. Helping her turn her chocolate dreams into reality was the solid foundation of learning that Katie gained from completing George Brown College's Professional Chocolatier Certificate.

    "It inspired me to learn to recognize quality chocolate," says Katie of her experience in the Continuing Education certificate program, which she finished in 2011. "It opened my eyes and made me want to make good quality chocolate – not just melted-down Belgian chocolate, but chocolate made from scratch. George Brown is where I really learned about chocolate, so it definitely helped to advance my career."

    After completing her degree in psychology, Katie travelled to Australia and New Zealand, where her interest in chocolate took hold and soon outweighed her interest in the science of mind and behaviour. After returning to her hometown of St. Catharines and making truffles for local chocolate shops, Katie took a general interest chocolate-making course at a Toronto chocolate boutique. It confirmed her belief that there was a growing market for artisanal chocolate here at home, and her search for further education in this field led her to George Brown.

    "I had heard really good things about the college's culinary programs, so when I realized they had a specific chocolate program, I knew that would benefit me," she remembers. "I had a great experience at George Brown. I felt inspired, continuously challenged and eager to learn more in every class. I loved every second of the program and once I completed it, I felt confident to apply what I had learned in the workforce."

    Katie appreciated both the theoretical knowledge and hands-on practice that she gained through her certificate. She learned everything from chocolate history in Introduction to Chocolate to how to bring her skills, techniques and attention to detail together in Chocolate Showpieces, where students design and create decorative chocolate presentations that are both eye-catching and physically sturdy.

    "The majority of courses were hands-on and very practical," she notes. "I had never done anything like the Chocolate Showpieces course before. You are moulding chocolate and have to also figure out a way to sculpt it without it melting or leaving fingerprints on it. I used some of the skills from that class for a collaboration that Soul Chocolate did with an artist, where we laid down about 1,000 chocolate bars onto a frame."

    "I had a great experience at George Brown. I felt inspired, continuously challenged and eager to learn more in every class. I loved every second of the program and once I completed it, I felt confident to apply what I had learned in the workforce."

    It isn't the only knowledge from George Brown that Katie applies to Soul Chocolate, a wholesale business she launched with her partner in 2015. The company, which sources raw cacao beans to make, age, temper and mould its chocolate, sells its gourmet products to specialty cafés and general stores, wineries and distilleries.

    "I was always interested in playing around with how different flavours affect chocolate and what could be made out of seasonal produce. George Brown gave me the foundation to do that properly," says Katie, who today spends much of her professional time exploring the different nuances of chocolate so that she can continuously offer something new to her customers.

    With a target of creating 100 per cent direct-trade relationships for all of the cacao that Soul Chocolate uses, chocolate has also given Katie the opportunity to continue travelling the world. Having already visited cacao plantations in Tanzania, she was recently invited to Peru and Madagascar to attend chocolate showcases and meet with cocoa producers.

    "We are always keeping sourcing in mind, and really trying to see if there is any way we can help the farmers who work so incredibly hard," she says. It's clear that Katie's specialty chocolate business is not only the right path for her, but one with goals that will satisfy ethical chocolate lovers as well.