As a child, if you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, it would have certainly involved chocolate.
If you had told me that I could be a real-life Willy Wonka, as a five-year-old, I’d be bouncing off the walls counting how many Oompa Loompas I wanted.
So, when I got the chance to interview David Greenwood-Haigh – a self-employed chocolatier, chocolate consultant and owner of chocolate company Coeur de Xocolat – I felt like I was meeting Mr Wonka himself.
What is a chocatier?
David takes his clients through the whole chocolate journey; from setting up small bean-to-bar factories from scratch all the way through to helping more established businesses develop new ranges to grow sales.
And he doesn’t just stop there; he also hosts teambuilding workshops, events and even has his very own chocolate safari experience. Yes, that’s right, a chocolate safari where he leads groups of four to 20 people around places like Haiti, São Tomé, Bruges, Amsterdam, Cologne, Brussels and Paris, talking them through the full cocoa experience.
It sounds magical. But what I wanted to know is how does someone get into this fascinating trade?
“After college, I worked in restaurants and hotels across Leeds,” David, who is originally from Pontefract, West Yorkshire but now lives in Wakefield, tells me.
“After a few years in the kitchen, I was tempted to join the glamorous world of sales and worked for some fantastic companies such as Unilever, Bidfood, Campbell’s Soup and Divine Chocolate.
“During my 11 years at Divine, I was lucky enough to meet many cocoa farmers. Ghana was one of these places and I would take customers to see the difference buying Fairtrade can make. Other times, the farmers would come to the UK and it was one of my roles to show them around the country meeting major retailers.”
He adds: “I would often be asked to talk about my experiences, and I realised that I enjoyed it so much and so decided to do just this full-time.”
Eight years ago David finally built up the courage to delve into this field alone and set up a business. To avoid any rocky roads in this new venture, he did his research and attended several specialist courses to help steer him in the right direction.
“Some of the best in the business were kind enough to teach me some of their secrets,” he boasts.
A strange combination for success
David’s expertise in tingling taste buds goes beyond the sweet treat we all have come to love.
In fact, he often experiments with chocolate in savoury recipes. His most interesting include smoked bacon salt and chocolate pesto – it seems his creative recipes always have a mouth-watering twist.
While being a chocolatier is fascinating, it is not the only aspect of David’s chocolate career. He tailored his job to what he wanted.
“I spent a year or so working on what I wanted to do and I quickly realised that making chocolate full time wasn’t the path for me. I found that I was being asked for my knowledge in sales and production more and so I focused on evolving into the role of a consultant and sales leader,” he says.
Spending more than a decade in employment working for yourself can be daunting. After all, you are also your own HR, accountant and administrator – not something you have to worry about if you’re employed.
“I had no prior knowledge on how to set myself up in business,” David explains, “so I bought a how-to guide, took on an accountant and got involved with a couple of networking groups.
“The rest of it I kind of just muddled through.”
So what’s next for David? It seems he will be setting sail on a cruise ship, doing eco-tours as a guest speaker and an expert in his field.
“It’s still in the development stage,” he says, “but it will be interesting. I want to take guests into the rainforest to hold educational talks on trade justice and chocolate.”
By Faye Newman