The Path to Becoming a Chocolate Sculptress

emily-mccracken-chocolate

I'll often get asked how I first started working with chocolate. Looking back at the winding path that brought me to this point makes me appreciate the opportunity even more. Especially when you consider it really started with a hazelnut truffle. Let me explain...

A Beginning in Illustration

I majored in Illustration at Montserrat College of Art but quickly discovered that my 2D work just wasn't where my heart was. And, if you ask my teachers, it wasn't where my skill-set was either.

On one illustration assignment I decided to take a chance by sculpting it out of clay. I was so much happier with the result but completely terrified to present it to the class since it was unlike anything else. Would I even get a grade? 

To my surprise, the professor recognized that it was my best work and insisted that from that day on that I work exclusively with clay. 

In a class full of illustrators and painters, I was the one with messy hands in the corner making clay sculptures.

FINDING WORK

One of my early clay sculptures

After graduation I struggled to find a company that would let me use my sculpting background for my job. With bills pouring in and no leads, I set out on Church Street in Burlington, Vermont with a stack full of resumes and a faint hope of landing a job.

As the day went on, things started to look pretty bleak. I needed a pick-me-up in found it in the form of a hazelnut truffle from Lake Champlain Chocolates.

As I was paying, the employee behind the counter noticed my stack of resumes and said I should apply for a part-time job. Not long after, I accepted a role and eventually worked my way up to the retail manager position of the factory store.

Transitioning FROM CLAY TO CHOCOLATE

Working for a chocolate company was fantastic, but there was still something missing. It wasn’t until my boss recognized my 3D art background that things really started to take off. He wondered if I could replace clay with chocolate?

The company sent me to multiple chocolate classes to put my skills to the test. It was messy (in the best of ways), difficult at times but I was instantly hooked. I had found my passion -- wanted to be a chocolate sculptress. 

Soon thereafter I set a goal of one day getting one of my sculptures onto the Food Network.

LEARNING ABOUT CHOCOLATE SCULPTURE

For 11 years I managed the retail store at Lake Champlain Chocolates while taking any opportunity available to sculpt with, learn about or teach all things chocolate.

One of my very first demos at the Vermont Chocolate Show

  • I made store displays and promotional items for local businesses 
  • I create an annual display of sculptures for our local arts festival called the Art Hop.
  • I studied the technique of competitors on Food Network’s chocolate challenges and shows like Sweet Genius.
  • I read up on the characteristics of chocolate and continued to learn by taking classes at schools like the Barry-Callebaut Chocolate Academy. 
  • I jumped at opportunities to teach sessions at the Vermont Chocolate Show and go on news segments with local TV channels.

Last year when Lake Champlain Chocolates opened a new restaurant and education center, called South End Kitchen, I transitioned to the role of chocolate instructor.

I love working with chocolate.