Bakers Journal

Chatting with Daniel Stubbe

September 20, 2011
By Laura Aiken

Stubbe Chocolates was born May 9, 1845, in Germany by the hand of Johann Heinrich Petrus Stubbe.

Stubbe Chocolates was born May 9, 1845, in Germany by the hand of Johann Heinrich Petrus Stubbe. Nearly a century and a half later, Heinrich Josef Stubbe moved the company to Canada. The family runs two successful locations, one in Ottawa and one in Toronto, where his son Daniel is at the helm.

Third-generation chocolatier Daniel Stubbe runs the family’s Toronto shop.


Bakers Journal sat down with Daniel in his Dundas Street shop, where he goes through about four tons of chocolate a year and produces 2,500 truffles a day in December. It’s airy and artful with plenty of mirrors and an open kitchen where customers can watch chocolates being made. In the back he has a separate room for hosting workshops, which he does all year except for summer. Here’s what Daniel had to say about the chocolate business of today and tomorrow.


What flavours are selling well at the moment?
When it comes to flavours there are two different types of customers. The traditional customer that really wants flavour combinations like Grand Marnier or champagne, something that they’re familiar with and that they’ll always come back to. And then there’s another group of customers who are, dare I say, new to chocolate? And they go for the more crazy flavours, the chilies and the balsamic vinegars and they are actually quite distinct groups.

Can you spot them coming through the door?
Yeah, you can tell what people want. With the younger crowd, or more of the foodie crowd, you can kind of spot them in the way they check out the store. And it’s interesting . . . chocolate is just so big. We have customers coming in asking for crazy flavours that we’ve never heard about and we actually have to go out and research them, and say, hey is this actually feasible? A lot of times we come around and go ‘oh, this might work for us,’ others don’t, and so on.

What’s the craziest thing anyone’s ever come in and asked for?
What we’ve been working on for a while and we definitely have to come up with is a bacon chocolate. There are some colleagues of mine that do them and I’ve tried them and it’s a really good combo, it actually works – in conjunction with milk chocolate. I don’t know if it would work so well with dark, the ones I’ve had that I’ve liked, they’ve all been in milk chocolate.

How often do you introduce new things?
Al lot of it has to do with my own personal tastes and what I enjoy at the moment. A while back I was really into Indian cooking for a while, at home and going out to restaurants, so that translates into the chocolate and we ended up with a curry truffle. So that’s how it comes about.

So you don’t shoot to introduce things at certain points in time?
I don’t set myself deadlines to have five new flavours by a certain time or so on, that’s just not how I work. Because then you end up forcing yourself, and especially when you work with more savoury flavours, it can really backfire . . . . Most notably, I have yet to taste a cheese chocolate that I like.

There are a lot of cheese chocolates around; I just don’t think it should be done. Just because you can make it, doesn’t mean you should. It just doesn’t work.

What do you think is the most important element that takes a truffle, or any chocolate for that matter, from great to outstanding?
Taste-wise, I think a lot of it comes down to balance. When I think of cheap chocolate, a lot of times they are so rich and so filling and you can’t eat a lot of them because there is so much sugar, and you shouldn’t have that in a premium truffle. I think I pride myself in knowing that you can actually eat several of my truffles one after another. Chocolate shouldn’t be too sweet; nonetheless, obviously white chocolate is sweeter than dark, but it has to be the right sweetness. You can have a fairly sweet chocolate that is still good by virtue by how it’s made.

You can also say it boils down to really basic things. In chocolate, the most expensive ingredient is the cocoa butter, so a cheaper chocolate consequently has less cocoa butter in it. The cocoa butter is responsible for the viscosity of the chocolate, so when you have a chocolate with less cocoa butter or cocoa butter replacement, like hydrogenated oils and so on, it will not melt as smoothly in your mouth and it will leave a coating and that’s what you get with cheap chocolate. Premium chocolate has a high cocoa butter content and it just really melts very nicely, doesn’t leave a film in your mouth, doesn’t leave an aftertaste and so on.

As you say, chocolate is big right now. How do you see the business of being a chocolatier evolving?
One thing is why it’s so big. As people get more educated on food in general they search out the finer things, they buy the $30 olive oils and spend more on chocolate as well. So I think that trend is here to stay. There is no reversing for that. What I think will happen is that the trend towards exotic flavours will slow down. I think that it will come back to the basics. It will be for the simple reason that the customer that buys these exotic flavours is always out for something new and you can only maintain that for so long.

How we are in our relationship to chocolate, all the way down to where the cocoa beans come from, is getting stronger. We have several origin chocolates where we know the bean is only from a certain country. We have two chocolates where we know what plantation they are from. That will be happening a lot more and that’s how it should be. That will get stronger and stronger, and of course, organic chocolate is getting bigger as well.

Have your recently seen any new techniques for working with chocolate that you’re excited about?
In the last 10 years, there has been an explosion in techniques. We put chocolate in spray guns and use them as paint, or we use untempered chocolate and temper it on a frozen marble slab or use transfer sheets to get images onto the chocolates and so on. What we see is that us chocolatiers are going and combining all these techniques into our truffles and chocolates. Having said that, maybe in the last two or three years there wasn’t really that much new in techniques. What we learn more about and keep learning more about is how chocolate actually works. The science behind it.

Where do you see people struggle in the chocolate business?
What we see right now is there are a lot of new shops opening up… and there are a lot of people going into it. It’s fun, it’s a growing market, in that sense I wish everybody the best to do that, especially in a place like Toronto, where there’s such a big market. But really do your research and make sure you get a lot of experience. You have to work in a chocolate shop. It’s not enough to just take a couple of courses and open up a chocolate shop. One aspect is our business is such a seasonal business. So when it comes to the business aspect, you have to think about how you’re going to cover your costs in the summertime when nobody buys chocolates. You might want to get some experience making ice cream, that could be one way, or maybe you go into the wedding market, but just do your research if you want to join us.

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