What is the Burnt Chef project?
The Burnt Chef Project is founded by Kris Hall from Nose 2 Tail photography. Kris has worked alongside the catering industry for many years whilst at Country Fare, where he spoke to chefs on a daily basis as well as buyers and other catering staff members. He had built long-standing relationships with many people and as some became friends, he got to witness the long hours and industry pressures placed on the shoulders of chefs at all levels. He wanted to make a difference in the hospitality industry because he has seen first hand how mental health has taken a toll on friends & colleagues lives within the industry.
Kris uses his skills of photography to take simple, poignant, black and white portraits of each chef who wishes to support the project. This project is to signify one thing ‘you don’t know what is going on behind closed doors'. Kris will use these portraits as an opportunity to raise money for the charity Mind. In order to raise funds, Kris is arranging charity galleries that will showcase the chefs, which will create a support network for hospitality professionals.
I used to neglect my mental health as I was too embarrassed to ask for help or just not really sure what is wrong with me, some days I felt like I was going mad.
I remember a day when I was a young pastry chef working at Carey’s Manor back in my 20’s I was writing a dessert menu and it took almost an hour to write it. Looking back I can now see I was suffering from anxiety and that I had brain fog where I couldn’t think. This is quite often a symptom for myself when I struggle with anxiety, everything is so much harder to do and takes twice as long. I have had serval mental health breakdowns that only close friends and family know about. The burnt chef project has given me, and no doubt others, the confidence to talk about it publicly. I want everyone to know there is help out there. I still struggle at times and that's okay, the counselling I have received over the years has helped immensely. Also, I have learnt if I am having a rough day, it’s not going to last forever even though I still suffer from panic attacks, brain fogs and many symptoms of anxiety & depression.
As I’ve opened up over the years to close friends I realise I am not the only one who has experienced this. I expect in a kitchen of 10 chefs there are 2 or 3 that have had the same experience, but are too nervous or embarrassed to talk about it. I plead with you, talk about it, try and get the help that you deserve, then your life will become a little easier and more enjoyable to live each day.
The other Saturday we had 4 wonderful teenage girls with us in the chocolate kitchen. It was Sophie's 14th birthday party.
I remember it was always tricky to have a 'super cool' party when you are a teenager. You are too young to do many things but not too young for an afternoon of making beautiful metallic chocolates.
The girls arrived not knowing what they were going to be making. When I announced they were going to make milk chocolate truffles they couldn't contain their excitement.
The girls 1st job was to learn how to taste the milk, white and dark chocolate. They all decided to use the milk chocolate to make their chocolates.
They weighed out their ingredients, thoroughly enjoyed the glucose as they had never seen it before. It's clear and sticky but has lots of stretch! We put the glucose and water in a pan, and brought to the boil before adding to the chocolate to make the ganache.
All the girls had a go at piping the ganache into truffle shells. These were put aside to set. The next stage was to learn how to temper chocolate. The chocolate was melted in the microwave with being stirred every 30 seconds. The girls took part in the lip test to check the chocolate was at the correct working temperature, this was great fun they ended up having chocolate lipstick!
All learnt how to temper chocolate on a marble block. Then it was time to get messy with chocolate for hand rolling truffles, they loved the feel of the chocolate on their hands.
To create a glamourous finish, we coated the truffles in metallic powders. The girls also adored decorating their faces with powder too!!
The truffles were wrapped in clear bags and tied with ribbon, these are great as double up as party bags !
Sue, Sophie's Mum said
'the girls talked of nothing else all weekend after the party. On Monday when they returned to school they told their teachers & friends what an amazing experience their had learning to make chocolates, it was the best party they have ever been to !'
Over the summer I had several great birthday parties here at HQ. One of my favourites was a Daisy’s Unicorn party.
The kitchen and drinks station was decorated with pastel and gold Unicorn colours. When all the girls arrived the chocolate kitchen door was shut and blind down, so as they walked into the room it was truly magical. The girls all washed their hands and put on aprons; there was giggling and smiles fuelled with excitement. To begin, we melted the chocolate in the microwave with the birthday girl taking part in the stirring followed by her friends. The girls worked in pairs to temper the milk chocolate. They all loved the chocolate test!
They decided to make Unicorn food pizzas by using pink, blue, shimmering white & silver sprinkles. Next up was Marshmallow Stacks, pink and white marshmallow layer with chocolate glue and rich tea biscuits. While their chocolate was setting they enjoyed cleaning their chocolate bowl by scrapping out the remaining chocolate with a spoon, they did this so well there was hardly had any chocolate to wash off! Drinks were enjoyed and the host was delighted to eat some of Miss Witt’s unique chocolates. Each child wrapped up their Unicorn pizza in a clear bag tied with pretty ribbon. They decided to save the chocolate they had made to take with them as they were going to BBQ afterwards, so the chocolate was their dessert! The perfect party bag becomes a dessert!
As I sit and reflect over the summer workshops I can see all the children’s excitable faces, they were giggling and smiling and knew something magical was going to happen.
We had such fun creating chocolate mini pizza & chips. As adults we sometimes lose that innocence of make believe. The children were intrigued to see how chocolate chips could be made until I revealed the giant white chocolate button! This was going to be sliced into chips. Apart from creating magic, it was a great opportunity for us to introduce children to real chocolate. They could really taste the difference and agreed it was nicer to have chocolate which isn’t so sweet. The Mums were safe in the knowledge there was no palm or vegetable oil added to the chocolate. Just pure ingredients. The sea shells and sailboat pebbles went down a storm with the children, they loved how shiny their sea shells were. They all adored the mesmerising technique of cooling chocolate quickly for it to be the correct working temperature.
I am now planning Autumn / Winter workshops for both children and parents (due to popular demand!). We have several exciting workshops ranging from Vegan chocolate truffles to making your own bespoke Advent Calendars. We have children’s Home Education workshops from September and October Half Term Halloween workshops is for all children making pumpkin lollipops. If you would like more details please get in touch!
Food festivals are loved by everyone. They are a great opportunity for public to meet producers to learn how the produce they love is made whether its cheese, bread, gin or chocolate!
Christchurch food festival has been going for the last 20 years evolving all the time. In recent years it has expanded from the High Street to Christchurch Priory and beyond. Centre stage is the Cookery theatre. For us, it’s a great way to teach everyone how easy chocolate is to work with. This year I collaborated with Jennifer Williams from Naked Jam. The brief was to showcase how chocolate can be part of a wider experience, pairing it with a cocktail. The cocktail was designed by Tommo Quy of the Captains Club Hotel and was featured as their cocktail of the month. Jennifer, from Naked Jam, taught everyone how to make a delicious strawberry syrup as one of the ingredients of the cocktail and I designed Earl Grey tea dark chocolate shards. Earl Grey tea works perfectly in summer paired with chocolate and cocktails as it has a light floral delicate flavour and enhances the Columbian dark chocolate.
If you would to try your hand at making the shards I have included the recipe below – Good Luck!
Earl Grey Tea Chocolate Shards
100g 70% Dark Columbian chocolate
3g Earl grey tea
Handful of cornflowers and rose petals
Using a hairdryer to melt small quantities of chocolate gives your much more control over the temperature of the chocolate,. Melting chocolate in the microwave can sometimes burn if you forget to check it and stir every 20 seconds.
We will be demonstrating chocolate making at the New Forest Show on Tuesday 24th at 3pm and Lymington Seafood Festival on Saturday 11th at 4pm. Come and join us and try our delicious combinations!
Over the last two weeks I have had the joy of working with D’Arcy White.
D’Arcy wrote to me in January 2018 to enquire if she could take her work experience placement with Chocolate By Miss Witt. I met D’Arcy and her mum in March for her interview. I knew as soon as I met her she was a girl after my own heart. D’Arcy had the confidence to take the opportunity to approach me for a placement before seeing the list of placements the school had to offer for work experience. After meeting her I knew we would get on well. Her mum said she is quiet until she gets to know you and then will chat away. Sounds like myself I thought, although I am sure not many who know me would believe that!
D’Arcy and I jelled immediately. We worked side by side, everything I did, D’Arcy did. I wanted her to have the whole experience of my world. The first day at work I taught her how to temper chocolate; she was a natural. I could see her talent and I just wanted to nurture it.
At the end of the first week we had an event at Foxlease Head Quarters of Girl Guiding, Hampshire. D’Arcy was confident enough to demonstrate how to temper chocolate to a group of 50 adult Guides. This was the first time she had stood of in front of an audience. She was absolutely brilliant, it was enchanting to see the joy in her expression moving the chocolate around. By the second week we were both in our groove, and I felt confident leaving D’Arcy in charge of tempering chocolate and doing many tasks on her own.
D’Arcy’s teacher came to see us later that week, she was so impressed by how D’Arcy could temper chocolate and how she blossomed in confidence. Her last day was bitter sweet, D’Arcy had been a complete joy and definitely was becoming a Mini Miss Witt, but we both felt she was ready to go back to school as missed her friends.
I hope I have inspired her and you never know, she may be one of the Academy of Chocolate gold Medallists of the future.
Mondays at the Miss Witt Kitchen are often a time for Home Education groups. I have got to know some great mums and children recently. Monday’s lesson was about how the Aztecs and Mayans would use chocolate.
In ancient times the Mayans and Aztecs would grind the cocoa bean to make a chocolate drink. The drink entailed magical spices e.g. cinnamon, vanilla, cloves and nutmeg. They mixed the ground cocoa with water, rather than milk. The drink tasted spicy and bitter compared with our modern day hot chocolate.
During the late 17th century Hans Sloane, President of the Royal College of Physicians, visited Jamaica. When he tried the drink, it made him feel nauseous so decided to add milk to the recipe and brought it back to England, and the rest is history!
To make your own Aztec inspired hot chocolate drink see recipe below
Stage 1 – Make the Hot Chocolate stick
Melt 200g of chocolate slowly in a microwave or using a hairdryer, leave to cool.
To check the chocolate is at the correct temperature to work with, tap the chocolate on your lip using a spoon – make sure it feels cooler than your lip! Pipe into your silicone freezer tray. Place lollipop sticks in the tray leave to set.
Stage 2 - Creating the drink
1 litre milk
3 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla pod seed scrapped out
Pour milk in a saucepan add all the spices. Bring it to just below boiling point, strain through a sieve and use a whisk to create a frothy top. Divide the milk between 4 cups, stir in your chocolate stick. The warm flavoured milk will slowly melt the chocolate to create a delicious drink.
The end of last month I was invited to Judge at Wessex Salon Culinaire, one of the UK largest live culinary competitions. The popular event, which is held in association with The Craft Guild of Chefs, has grown in stature over the years and is a fantastic platform for all chefs, but especially student chefs, to get a first taste of competition experience.
The venue was Brockenhurst College, located in the heart of the New Forest National Park. It is one of the Country's top colleges and has been awarded the prestigious Beacon College status for excellence and innovation in further education.
Brockenhurst college played a fundamental part in my life to where I am today. Taking a trip back in time to September 1995 it was my dream destination. I will never forget wearing those chef whites for the 1st time … the buzz of the kitchen, the excitement of learning classical French cooking, the style of my heroes The Roux Brothers, it was heaven. I did try to spend as much time as I could in the pastry kitchen, even sneaking in when I was on a different section, just because I wanted to spend my whole time working with chocolate and other delicious sweet ingredients. I can remember my name being called out “Where is Miss Witt?!” when they noticed I had disappeared! The tutors at Brockenhurst were 1st class, 2 of them are still playing an active role today, nurturing the students to their full potential.
One of the highlights for me at the competition was to see a student create a chocolate show piece, he demonstrated so many different skills using different techniques. For next year’s Salon Culinaire I have been asked to play a role in designing new classes for attracting more entries in the pastry section. This is going to be an exciting role and will incorporate skills the chefs need to have if they would like to become part of the next generation of chocolatiers.
Chocolate By Miss Witt received 3 medals at this year’s 2017 Academy of Chocolate Awards in London. With over 35 countries competing, Miss Witt was the only UK female chocolatier to win a silver medal in the alcohol category with her winning chocolate, Prune and Armagnac made with wild Bolivian chocolate. She also earned a bronze medal for her Espresso chocolate, using Coffee Mongers Roasting Company’s East African Nakuti blend. Miss Witt has been recently described by Keith Hurdman (Master Chocolatier/ Confiseur) as “among the most impressive of the new generation of British Chocolatiers who have come to the fore in recent years. She has an extraordinary range of skills which coupled with her great creativity brings forth some wonderfully eclectic creations. She also has the enviable ability to transmit her ideas to both fellow professionals and enthusiastic amateurs making her an excellent teacher of those who wish to learn more about chocolate”
These award winning chocolates are part of the brand new Grand Cru Collection with the addition of her sea salt caramel chocolate.
".......I love making Lavender and Sea Salt White Chocolate Ganache especially when you get the perfect balance of lavender to sea salt as you get the lavender then the wishy washiness of the sea around you mouth"
You can see as each chocolate is made/invented the sense of taste, scent & touch all come into play.
These experiences make my work so magical and excites me to develop new chocolates, and to return to old favourites
As was the case today, making the exclusive Captains Club Chocolate box . When I was asked to develop the hotel's chocolates I wanted to create a chocolate that encapsulated the essence of the Captains Club. Its proximity to the river, with the salty sea spray blowing in the wind and then the scent of the lavender growing in the riverside garden. The chocolates are now firmly part of the hotel. Guests may have a surprise box of chocolates in their room for a special occasion . To learn more about the hotel pop over to Captains Club in Christchurch, if you book a room you may be lucky and get the chocolates too!