Student’s chocolate business is a sweet success
A 19-year-old student who launched his own gourmet chocolatier business during lockdown aims to continue his early success with a new range of Valentines flavours.
Ben Metcalfe got his first taste of chocolate-making while studying catering at Trafford College, winning a silver medal at the UK’s leading contest for vocational students and apprentices, WorldSkills, where he was plucked to compete for a place in the British squad.
In addition to training from the College’s elite Hospitality and Catering team, Ben receives regular coaching from leading chefs from across the UK to give him the best chance of going head-to-head with the best learners from around the globe in WorldSkills Shanghai 2022.
Ben from Cheadle said: “Competition pushes you more than anything else and what I’ve learned about chocolate during my training has been amazing, so when the first lockdown started, I decided to practise to get better. I borrowed a mould and made some for my family and friends, but it was only when I was made redundant from my job as a waiter that I thought I would try to turn it into a business.
“While it’s great seeing the chocolates go out, making them isn’t easy because there are such fine margins. Success is temperature dependant throughout the process, in the melting, cooling and crystallising of the cocoa butter, which is known as tempering chocolate. There are many other variables to work with such as moisture, sugar and fat content to ensure a good shelf life without compromising on the most important element, how it tastes! Chocolate-making takes in all manner of science, which is great this is the side of cooking I really enjoy.”
Since launching ‘Ben Metcalfe Pastry Chef’ on Facebook in October, business has grown exponentially, with a surprise order for 1,200 chocolates leading to some late nights in the run up to Christmas as Ben juggled a new part-time job as a butcher at The Lambing Shed in Knutsford with WorldSkills training and College work.
He added: “My College tutors, especially Carol Brown, have been incredibly supportive, revisiting what we’ve learned about going into business, helping me source supplies, and giving me the time, and kitchen space, to train for my WorldSkills assessments. How they’ve supported me has been fantastic.
“Because of lockdown I’ve been working on my business from my kitchen at home, which has had its limitations, not least my parents always expecting a taste of my chocolate!”
With orders rolling in for Valentines’ Day, Ben has still managed to find the time to film each step of his chocolate-making process for a special online lesson for fellow students at the College’s request.
Assistant Principal Joan Scott, who won WorldSkills Unsung Hero in the FE TES Awards for her efforts supporting entrants in the elite competition, said: “We are incredibly proud of Ben for what he has achieved and our Hospitality and Catering Team, for nurturing such world-class standards. As a WorldSkills Centre of Excellence, our students enhance their learning with training with the UK’s top competition coaches, which has proved the icing on the cake for learners like Ben! We all wish him the best of luck in his new venture and are ready to support him in whatever he chooses to do next.”