Despite my best intentions I’m usually only waking up around 7:30am. There’s always “one more thing” I need to do before going to bed that delays my bedtime and now that I don’t have a full time office job and no longer have a 6:30am alarm I’ve discovered I need more sleep than I used to get!
Every other morning I’ll get up and go for a jog, a swim or to Pilates before coming back to either get ready to leave for a chocolate tour or deal with emails. I know I’d be more productive with a set routine but with an unusual business and a somewhat “portfolio career” (I also write and consult for businesses) it’s necessary to be flexible to ensure I earn enough. I try to make sure my breakfast is über-healthy to make up for all the chocolate and dessert I’ll probably eat later. I’ll typically just have a mixture of fruit and vegetables or oatmeal with sauerkraut or kimchi. I eat whilst getting ready or else at my desk.
On a chocolate tour day I’ll recheck the bags I’ve packed the night before to make sure I’m fully prepared for the guests: water bottles for each guest, my props to explain how chocolate is made, tissues, wet wipes, crackers and spare chocolate, plus crudités and nuts for my lunch on the way home. I don’t live far out of town but the journey includes walking, a bus, train and tube. With all the changes it’s hard to get lost in a book or complete significant tasks but I’ll be able to check social media and emails and pull up my guest list. Sometimes I’ll review my notes for the tour as well. I’m always trying to learn new information about the areas near the chocolate shops. It’s almost as much of a history tour as it is about the chocolate. If I walk past a feature I’ve never noticed before I’ll research to find out if it’s something worth pointing out and explaining to future tour guests.
For me the best part about the tours – apart from getting to join in the chocolate tasting! – is getting to know a little bit about the guests. I’m fascinated by people and I love to learn enough about them that I can make the tour an even better experience. So if they’re especially interested in history or health I’ll talk more about those things and I love being able to introduce people to their new favourite chocolate. It makes me so happy to get emails from past guests telling me they can’t stop thinking about (or buying!) a particular chocolate they discovered on the tour. It’s nice to know there are other people as obsessed about chocolate as I am.
The tours are usually in the morning – palettes are fresher and the boutiques are less busy – so in the afternoon I’ll either go exploring a new area for a new tour, sometimes attend a press event or have a meeting, but usually I’ll return home to my desk and send the guests the link to the picture of them that I’ve uploaded to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter on the way home, and check if they have any feedback or questions. I use social media as much for myself as to promote the business. It’s where I learn about new things in the food and chocolate worlds and have my questions answered by a community of food obsessives. I hope that my social media presence is part of what makes my company special – it proves that I really do live and breathe chocolate. I would personally rather spend my money with someone who is passionate about what they do.
Unless I’m going out for dinner I will cook from scratch. My fiancé and I both work from home and shop on an almost daily basis. I’ll pick up unusual ingredients, fresh bread or raw cheese from an independent shop on my way home and we will usually cook together. I’m with him, friends or out for an industry event at least three nights a week so if I’m home I’ll usually spend the rest of the evening dealing with emails, planning new events, writing for a publication orworldchocolateguide.com, planning another trip abroad to visit a factory, plantation or chocolate festival, or sometimes just the dull but necessary admin and organising. I’m usually in bed by 11:30pm and asleep soon after. But not before I’ve eaten some more chocolate, of course. Was it Katherine Hepburn that said “chocolate before bed to ensure sweet dreams”? I’m not taking any risks.