Happy International Women’s Day!
To commemorate this day I’d like to shine a light on the many women making a difference in the world of chocolate. And because one day really isn’t enough time to celebrate all these women, I will share continue to share their stories in the upcoming months.
Introducing Christine Blais - founder and chocolate maker at Palette de Bine in Mont Tremblant, Quebec.
I don’t know too many chocolate makers who started their career making chocolate. Christine is the perfect example. After spending years as a designer for environmental and retail projects, she then turned to architecture, studying a field that fascinated her, was a full time mom to her three children and then fell into chocolate in a very random way. She saw a video of people making chocolate from the bean in their kitchen and she was hooked. Fascinated and curious she started making small quantities in her kitchen. Then in 2014 she made a commitment to her chocolate project and purchased a big piece of equipment that would allow her to increase production and soon after she was making 100 bars a week!
But in 2017 tragedy hit. Her studio in Mont Tremblant burned to the ground. She lost everything - all her recipes, notes and equipment were gone. This could have been the end. But Christine wasn’t done. She hadn’t finished with her chocolate project. With the support of her community and with her knowledge of beans and equipment, she set herself up in a new space, started over and continued on to make award winning chocolate bars.
“In 2017, the building where my studio was located, in Mont Tremblant, was destroyed by flames. I lost everything! I could have given up the game at that time except that I had not gone to the end of my trip. I had to continue. Never, after the fire, did I think of letting go.”
Chatelaine Feb 2020.
Christine is a strong, resilient and very talented woman who creates wonderful chocolate. When asked why she chose chocolate she says “it’s taking something as simple as a cocoa bean and turning it into a good product. A product that makes people smile, that makes people happy.” What could be better?
Meet Lisabeth Flanagan - co-founder and chocolate maker at Finnia’s Chocolate, Manitoulin Island, Ont
I first connected with Lisabeth in 2012 shortly after opening our store. She was the author of “The Ultimate Chocolate Blog” and “on a mission to taste all of the world’s best chocolate, and to share what I have learned with you!” Perfect. I loved this woman right away.
I gained a ton of information through Lisabeth’s research and that helped me curate my assortment of chocolate bars. And after 5 years of all this research and chocolate tasting, in 2015 Lisabeth decided to make her own bean to bar chocolate. As a chocolatier and a pastry professional educated in France AND a thorough researcher with an obsession with chocolate, she was certainly ready for it! Her kitchen and coffee grinder worked well for a few years as she figured things out but it wasn’t long before she had a commercial kitchen and her array winning bars bars were making their way across Canada onto the shelves of various shops, including ours.
Starting with the Ultimate Chocolate brand, Lisabeth has seen her business grow and change. A new name - Finnia ( the combination of her children’s names), a business partner (Trish ), a new production studio filled with bigger equipment, and most recently a storefront located in Split Rail Brewery has been Lisabeth’s journey over the past few years!
It’s easy to see how much Lisabeth loves what she does. She talks chocolate with enthusiasm and delight, generously shares her wares everywhere she goes and is a wealth of information about cocoa beans and flavourful additions. There’s nothing more inspiring than being in the company of someone who is so happy doing what she does and sharing that happiness with those around her.