Busy, busy being creative..!

Monday 10 September 2012

Do What You Love - Interview no.2 - Sian Fish

The second interview in a series of ten - meeting Bristol people who 'Do what they love!'

Sian Fish - Anything But Plain Chocolate

Sian Fish of Anything But Plain Chocolate with a selection of her chocolate delights!
Today lets meet the lovely Sian Fish – a Chocologist. Sian combines the skill and science of chocolate making  with a good dose of fun and unusual  flavour combinations  – creating something just that little bit different. After all isn’t chocolate supposed to be fun?

Name: Sian Fish
Age: 34
Business: Anything But Plain Chocolate
Location: Warmley, Bristol
Website: anythingbutplainchocolate.co.uk

What do you do? 
I make unusual chocolates

How long have you been running your business for?
I've just started, so a couple of months

What do you love most about it? 
Who doesn't love chocolate?  I love coming up with funky ideas and I love seeing people's reactions.

Sian with her famous chocolate frogs
How did you get there?
After having two kids I decided I wanted to be at home, I used to work long hours in IT, managing a helpdesk but after having my youngest who’s now 7 months old, I wanted to do something that I loved. After racking my brain I decided I'd fall back on my one true love, chocolate.  I wanted it to reflect my personality, something quirky and fun.
I’m entirely self taught and after deciding ‘This was it – chocolate’ I went and bought all the best chocolate books I could find (which aren’t cheap) and spent a lot of time on chocolate dedicated forums – which are mainly based in America as Chocolate making is very popular over there.
Two chocolatiers  in particular really inspired me. Paul A Young, inventor of marmite chocolate and port and stilton chocolate and who’s book ‘Adventures in Chocolate’ really made me decide this was what I 

wanted to do, and William Curley, who also creates interesting chocolates and was the inspiration for my confit fruit range.

What was the biggest challenge you faced setting up your chocolate business?
Understanding the science behind the art of being a chocolatier. There is a lot more to it than just popping some chocolate in a pan and melting it! There are six different types of crystals in chocolate and that affects the flavour and the ‘snap’. The sign of a good chocolate is the ‘snap’. The reason chocolate such as cadburys  is ‘soft’ and there is no snap is due to the high vegetable oil content – which, although makes it smooth, it changes the characteristics of chocolate.

Chocolate preforms best at certain temperatures (16-18ÂșC)  so I invested in a ‘chocolate’ fridge as a standard fridge is just too cold and humid.  There was lots of trial and error at the beginning, which meant I had lots of ‘visitors’ keen to help me out!!

 It’s a fascinating process and although now I have mastered the skills – I’m still learning.
So now it’s trying to find the right people to sell to. As it is still a new business I’m experimenting  with where the best places to sell are.

oh and running a business whilst brining up two small children! My three year old has an amazing ability to run through the kitchen and take chocolate with him without me noticing! (although my husband also has this skill so he must get it from him!)

Sian showing me how she decorates her frogs
What’s been the highlight so far in owning and running your own business?
Meeting such an amazing range of people! I love talking to people at the different markets I sell at, especially on Whiteladies Road, Bristol.  The other day I met a fantastic character, an elderly gent with brightly coloured clothes and a peacock feather in his cap. He bought lots of chocolate hearts while we discussed the psychology of them.

Everyone comments on the brightly coloured chocolate frogs. I make one frog – the North American Exploding Frog - with popping candy and they really appeal to people over 30! They’ll come along with their children and suddenly be transported back to being a kid and end up buying more for themselves than their children! That’s what I love about this –it brings out the ‘kid’ in all of us.

And of course experimenting with different flavour combinations. Like the ‘twisted  crisps’. These are lightly salted potato crisps that have been dipped in smooth Belgian chocolate with either chilli flakes or sea salt and freshly ground pepper to add a unique flavour. They are something that you think – ‘that can’t possibly work’ but it does! I love seeing the expression on peoples faces when they try them.

Lydia on the other side of the camera for a change...;-)
What’s the Best piece of Advice you’ve been given?
Stick at it. I know that the first year in any business is tough, so just to keep going.

What have you learnt about yourself as a result of setting up your business?
That I’m tenacious! I didn’t realise how determined I was until starting my business. Of course I want my business to be successful, but have learnt that it will take more that a few knocks to stop me!

Here's some we made earlier! While we were there Sian let us
loose on some chocolate! These are the results
If others want to do this I’d say...Same as the best advice I’ve been given – Stick at it!

What’s next for Anything But Plain Chocolate?
We are going to specialise in making special chocolates for weddings. We make some very beautiful rosemary and sea salt small chocolates that are perfect for favours. And as I have the facility to spray colour the chocolates (with coloured coco butter which comes from France. They produce the highest quality, you have to be careful with colourings as I found that a lot are full of nasty E numbers – which I don’t want in my chocolate),

I can colour them to match the brides colour scheme – so creating something totally bespoke and unique. Making their special day -  just that little bit extra special.
We will still make our chocolate frogs and truffles but will focus on this area.

What’s you favourite chocolate flavour combination?
Has to be Coffee. But to be honest I’ll eat any flavour!

Where can you buy Anything But Plain Chocolates?

and the following markets:
Saturday 1st - Sustainable Redland Farmers Market – Whiteladies Rd, Bristol
Saturday 15th - Sustainable Redland Farmers Market – Whiteladies Rd, Bristol
Friday 28th - Bradley Stoke Farmers Market – Willow Brook Centre, Savages Wood Road, Bradley Stoke, Bristol
Saturday 29th – Chipping Sodbury Jazz Festival, Chipping Sodbury

Saturday 6th - Sustainable Redland Farmers Market – Whiteladies Rd, Bristol
Saturday 20th - Macmillan Coffee Morning – Marlborough Town Hall, Marlborough
Sunday 21st – Ashton Court Farmers Market – Ashton Court, Bristol
Friday 26th - Bradley Stoke Farmers Market – Willow Brook Centre, Savages Wood Road, Bradley Stoke, Bristol

Saturday 3rd - Sustainable Redland Farmers Market – Whiteladies Rd, Bristol
Saturday 17th - Sustainable Redland Farmers Market – Whiteladies Rd, Bristol
Sunday 18th – Ashton Court Farmers Market – Ashton Court, Bristol
Friday 23rd - Bradley Stoke Farmers Market – Willow Brook Centre, Savages Wood Road, Bradley Stoke, Bristol

Saturday 1st – Ashton Court Christmas Fayre – Ashton Court, Bristol
Sunday 2nd - Ashton Court Christmas Fayre – Ashton Court, Bristol
Saturday 15th - Sustainable Redland Farmers Market – Whiteladies Rd, Bristol

And I’m currently investigating which outlets I’d like to stock my chocolates..

What is The 'Do What You Love' Project..?

After printing this message on my bags I thought - ooh I'd love to find ten local Bristol business people who do what they love, interview them about what they do, why they love it and how they've got there and also 'model' one of my bags.  

I really wanted to work with a local photographer - so approached Lydia Samuel via Outset to see if she would be interested in collaborating with me. She was! Perfect!

So a call-out was created, posted on facebook and twitter and people started applying! Over thirty people applied, and it was really difficult to choose ten. I spent my time going through each application and selected the ten as I felt their passion really shone through. 

Everyone who applied will be featured though in some way as I think it's important to celebrate everyone who is doing something they love!

These interviews and photographs are the results.

I hope you enjoy reading this series of interviews, and that it will inspire you in some way to pursue your dreams and ‘Do what you Love!’  (that is if you aren’t doing that already! - if you are - do let me know by leaving a comment about what you do and why you love it!).

Want your own 'Do What You Love Bag?' they are currently on sale at Paper Scissors Stone in Quaker Friars, Bristol or email me directly bagsofloveforbristol@gmail.com. And why not come and say hello on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bags-of-Love-for-Bristol/444261982265482

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