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Live deliciously this Christmas with Cocoa Nib

Did someone say locally made, specialty chocolate that (almost) looks too good to eat? Oh wait… that was us, drooling a little whilst chatting all things Cocoa Nib with founder Aymee.

Everyone knows that the festive season is the season of giving. It’s also a truth universally acknowledged that everyone loves receiving chocolate as a gift, especially locally made, super special, fancy chocolate from Cocoa Nib. We caught up with founder Aymee to hear more of her story and journey to becoming a chocolatier.

Before I dive into all things Cocoa Nib, tell me a little bit about you! I know you started pretty broadly in the hospitality industry before becoming a lot more specialised? 

I grew up in the Hunter Valley and I live out at Brunkerville which is where my family is from. My kids are actually the sixth generation of our family in the one town which is a really nice kind of legacy. 

I always (always) knew I wanted to cook. I feel like it’s just in my blood. That’s what I always wanted to do. I actually started my apprenticeship here in the Hunter Valley at Cypress Lakes Resort. After working there for around 12 months I decided that I wanted to move on to bigger and better things, so I moved to Sydney and worked my way around some of the top restaurants in the city. Eventually, I just found a real passion for being a pastry chef – I just love what I do!

I met my husband at the first restaurant that we worked in, when I was a second year apprentice at Catalina in Rose Bay. Ever since then, we have moved together from place to place and we’ve somehow always ended up working side by side.

I also spent some time working in Hayman Island, Melbourne and Sydney. But eventually we knew we wanted to start a family so moving back to the Hunter just seemed like a great fit.

What was the catalyst for you to make a move away from the general restaurant industry and shift into working with chocolate?

So it’s a bit of a sad story, but in 2007 during the Pasha Bulka storms, my brother was killed in a car accident. He was on his way home from work and a tree fell on his car. It just made me think, ‘if I’m here, I want to do something that I absolutely love’.

Also, working in hospitality is hard work. I was probably burnt out and not really enjoying what I was doing as much anymore, and I really just saw this as an opportunity. I wanted to do something that I love, and something that was going to make me want to get up and go every day.

I also wanted to start a family and move towards having a better work life balance. Working 60 to 70 hours per week is not really conducive to any sort of lifestyle. That’s when we moved back from Sydney to be around my family and my mum and dad, and I changed my focus from being really career driven to a lot more family driven. So I guess, it was brought on by such a huge tragedy but I really am glad I made the switch. 

And at the time there was really nothing like that here in the Hunter right?

Absolutely! I saw an opportunity to offer something really unique or something that you may have only seen in Sydney or Melbourne. I had spent so many years working so hard, and it was so nice to really take a step back. Now, I’m home every night! Although, it’s hard sometimes to see running a small business as taking a step back but… at least you’re doing it for yourself right? You might end up working almost 24 hours a day sometimes but at least it’s for you and you know the rewards are a lot greater!

Like so many other businesses, you also started off at the Olive Tree Markets?

I did, yes! I got a stall to test the waters and see how things would go. I had a great base of products behind me but it was still a bit of a scary step to take to put myself out there. I was also still working full time and I had a newborn so really, there was no better time to start a market stall haha!

 I had a really great response at the markets but it still took such a long time to make that transition from market stall to shop front.

When you first opened, was it a bit of a tough transition?

Absolutely! It was really hard. I think the locals were a little bit sceptical at first because it was something totally different and maybe something they weren’t really used to. A year or so down the line, we’ve had customers come up and confess that they thought we wouldn’t make it which is really kind of surprising and an odd thing to hear! But once they really knew the story behind the business and the process and what it was that we were offering, they came around.

Ok personal question, who is your favourite chef and why – personally I’m a ‘uge Nigella fan.

Oh she’s amazing! But for me it’s probably Ramon Morato. He is an amazing pastry chef and someone that I think is really innovative. He’s just an amazing pastry chef and chocolatier.

What do you think it takes to be a great chocolatier?

Ohh good question! I think a lot of patience and probably attention to detail, but really, a love of the craft as well – I think that’s the most important thing! You have to love what you do

And finally what’s the one thing you think people would be surprised to learn about chocolate making?

That it takes so much more time than you think! The hand painted chocolates you see, they take up to three days to finish sometimes! Oh and… if one thing goes wrong during the process, you know the temperature is a little off or the timing is wrong, the whole thing goes out the window. It’s actually very labour intensive and there’s a lot more involved than simply melting chocolate.

So how can we find you? And sample your wares of course!

You’ll find us at Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley and also at The Junction inside Junction Fair. You can also shop online too!

If, like us, your mouth is now watering (and if you’ve seen Aymee’s creations you know exactly what I’m talking about here) head on out to the Hunter Valley or to the Junction and shop local this year. You will absolutely consider yourself impressed.

Words: Laura Kebby | Photography: David Griffin

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A: Half Chest 46 49 52 55 58 61
B: Body Length 66 69 72 74 76 78
C: Sleeve Length 19.5 20.5 21.5 22.5 22.5 23.5