I first met Jeff Shepherd, after hearing about his chocolates for a couple of years, at the Fancy Food Show. One taste of his raspberry cordial and I was hooked! Using fresh, organic ingredients from the farm and valley, Lillie Belle Farms keeps the artisan tradition alive.
What motivated you to open a chocolate business?
After an extended trip to Europe in 2000, I was struck by how many towns and cities had a chocolatier. It seemed that most of them did, from really small family operations to larger more established ones, and I came away wondering why we didn't have that in America. After relocating to Oregon, I set plans in motion to start one of my own.
Did you have any formal training in chocolate making?
No. I had worked as a chef and pastry chef for a number of years, so had spent some time messing around with chocolate, but most of my skills were learned through trial and error on the job, so to speak.
Where do you get your inspiration for the different flavors and textures you include in your chocolates?
My main inspiration comes from working my organic farm. It's all about freshness. I have eaten a lot of chocolate and have sampled many of the world's most recognizable chocolatiers' work. When I set out to create something new, to me, I try to capture the best "sense memories" of things that appealed to me, without copying someone else's work.
I don't follow or use anyone else's recipes, but do adhere to the generally accepted techniques of the masters. My other goal, which is very important to me, is to try to enhance, not mask, the varietal characteristics of the chocolate I work with by finding the perfect balance between the chocolate and the flavor combinations I am working with.
If you had to describe your product line in a couple of sentences, what would that be?
Some of the world's best confections that just happen to be organic.
What is your personal favorite out of all the products you make and why?
Right now? The Meyer Lemon Buttercream. It is so rich and tart and the texture we have been able to achieve in our buttercream is just deadly—it's almost all butter. You can feel your arteries hardening as you eat it—and you don't care!
1345 Daisy Creek Road
Jacksonville, Oregon 97530