Glenn Knowles

i. I work as a chocolatier and small business owner.
ii. I make chocolate because:
I like making something delicious that is an affordable luxury to many people. I longed to do something that gives people some degree of joy. In my previous career, I yearned to do something beyond the rigid dictates of corporate culture and to test my own artistic boundaries.
iii. Personal qualities that help me in my work are:
Being open to new ideas, worldliness, and a drive for excellence.
iv. The greatest challenges around doing this work are:
The general limitations within a small business. There is a balance to create something that sells, so I can continue to create. At times that is a limitation in terms of flavours that only a small subset may like versus a broader group’s preferences. For example, no matter how wondrous I found my sun-dried tomato pesto ganache to be, it proved not to be a financially viable flavour, whereas, rosemary caramel with sea salt hits the mark on a broader scale.  The challenge, therefore, becomes inserting periodic special flavours into a collection that appeals to a broader audience.
v. Creative childhood hobbies:
Music. I began piano lessons in Grade 4, which spawned interest in woodwind instruments, playing in school bands and orchestras all through public school.
vi. Other creators who inspire you:
I take inspiration from artists, tea merchants, bakers, chefs, produce vendors, and lots of cookbooks.
vii. Training that has helped me succeed in this career:
From a small business perspective, the combination of studies in commerce (BSc and MBA) and practical management experience provided me with the business skills to run my business. As for chocolate, I never worked at a chocolate shop, although I used to help friends who owned a French patisserie where I helped with baking. The experience of working commercially in a patisserie laid the groundwork for life as a chocolatier…manual labour, repetition, endless hours of standing, washing lots of dishes, as well as providing a somewhat limitless flavour palette to create.
viii. A common trap that can hurt people in this career:
Oh, the test of patience….yes, chocolate has a mind of its own and there are few shortcuts to rush the process. A ganache or caramel-filled chocolate takes at least two days elapsed time to make, something you don’t appreciate until you learn the craft. From a business owner’s perspective, there is a trap that being romanced by your output doesn’t guarantee financial success.
ix. Some proud career moments:
Some of my milestones have certainly been from the various awards my chocolates have earned at competitions. My proudest moments are mostly the response to a customer tasting something that truly tickles their fancy and they swoon or do a little dance…or it’s a customer’s response to seeing a beautiful selection of colourful chocolates displayed in a box, a mosaic colour.
x. If you want to work in my field, I suggest that you:
Research the trade carefully, volunteer in a shop to see what daily life is like (it may not be as glamorous as one may think), like standing most of their day, and cultivate your palette to unleash your own creative flavour combinations.
xi. A professional goal I have for the future:
I wish to continue to grow my business without sacrificing quality, which is something I keep top of mind each day.
xii. If you want to see my work, go to:
Gem chocolates
Photos: Courtesy of Gem Chocolates

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