Brian McElrath and his wife Christine Walthour founded B.T. McElrath Chocolatier in 1996. They produce and market a line of uniquely-flavored, artisan-crafted truffles and toffees which have received numerous awards.
I was introduced to fine chocolates and truffles while a student at the California Culinary Academy. I was mentored there by Chef Denis Martig in both pastry and chocolate work. I attended a training session at Callebaut Training Center with Chef Pascal Janvier in 1997. The rest is self-taught.
What motivated you to open a chocolate business?
I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur and focus on my passion for pure chocolate
Did you have any formal training in chocolate making?
Where do you get your inspiration for the different flavors and textures you include in your chocolates?
After graduation from CCA in the early 80s, I focused on my main passion, which was fine-dining cuisine, and while working as a chef in the savory kitchen, developed a style that incorportated European, Mediterranean, traditional American, and Asian cooking influences. I’ve found that those ingredients and flavors work well with contemporary confection trends. In a nutshell, I search for time-honored traditions that already work and present them in a chocolate motif.
If you had to describe your product line in a couple of sentences, what would that be?
My approach is to honor the traditions of American and European confections/chocolates with a contemporary twist. That is, both sweet and savory flavor profiles, a combination of ingredients that already work, and may be transposed in a way that is harmonious with confectionery ingredients.
What is your personal favorite out of all the products you make and why?
I seem to gravitate to what’s new in my seasonal offerings. For example I’m really excited by the Peanut Butter Pave these days; the salt is just right and the PB center is perfect with dark chocolate. That said, the Passion Fruit Truffle always seems to rule the day. It’s hard to pick a favorite, in that I like different things at different times…. At times, creamy milk and white can really hit the spot…other times it has to be an intense dark. It’s kind of an emotional balancing act.
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