Kingston Chocolatier Finds Healing In Her Craft
Are you still hunting for a special stocking stuffer? Nothing beats chocolate, especially when it is lovingly made by hand by local artisans. Throughout the month of December, we are highlighting Ontario chocolatiers who are creating treats that are both delicious and beautiful. We’ve already told you the story of Angela Roest in Warkworth and Tammy Maki in Sudbury. Today, meet Audrey Brown, an artisan chocolatier in Kingston.
Audrey Brown: CocoaBistro, Kingston
Tucked inside her lovely shop in Kingston’s west end, Audrey Brown spends her days tempering, stirring, flavouring, filling, tasting and decorating chocolate. As an artisan chocolatier, Audrey makes everything by hand — from molding and shaping to dipping and painting. This hands-on, slow and steady approach suits her just fine. You see, Audrey wasn’t always a chocolatier. She once had a fast-paced career as a speech pathologist, working in the rehab wing of a hospital helping people recovering from strokes or brain injuries. It was a hectic job, often stressful, but she enjoyed it — until she herself suffered a stroke.
“I was 48 and it was kind of out of the blue and for no reason whatsoever because I had no risk factors,” she said. “I didn’t suffer any major long term effects but it made me rethink my crazy life.”
In a bid to slow down and reconnect with her love of food, Audrey turned to chocolate.
“If I was going to work with food, I wanted to do something that everyone loved, or almost everyone,” she said. “It turns out 95% of the world loves chocolate.”
Audrey attended the École Chocolate to learn the art and science of chocolate and then, in February 2015, she attended an intensive Master Class at Cocoa West on Bowen Island in British Columbia. It was there, under the tutelage of Master Chocolatier Joanne Mogridge, that Audrey learned the techniques that allow her to turn chocolate into beautiful and delectable confetions.
Her vision for her chocolate business was very specific: “I wanted to do small batch, very focused on flavours, kind of experimental.”
Audrey launched her businesses six years ago at home, where she built a commercial kitchen to accommodate her new chocolate enterprise. Through the support of the local community and especially Tourism Kington, Audrey’s business grew each year. Three years ago, she opened the doors of her brick-and-mortar shop, CocoaBistro in Kingston’s west end.
Keeping true to her orginial business philosophy, Audrey enjoys experimenting with different flavours and combinations. One of her original creations — and one she brings back occasionally due to popular demand — is the limoncello basil, in which she infused the cream for the ganache with fresh basil leaves to compliment the limoncello flavour in the chocolate. Confections in the current rotation include luscious lavender, vietnamese coffee and mango chili lime. While Audrey loves all of her chocolate, she says her favourite is probably the simplest: sea salt caramel.
“It is just pure caramel that we caramelize until it’s almost that smokey flavour, and then we have that with Maldon salt. It is simple and delicious,” Audrey says.
While flavour is a top consideration, Audrey also wants her creations to look beautiful. She will often use colours on the outside that mimic the flavours on the inside: yellow for lemon, for example or red for cherries.
“We eat with our eyes first so everything has to look good,” she says. “But then the flavour has to be exceptional and it has to mirror the vibrancy of whatever I put on top.”