The Life and Times of the World's Leading Chocolate Taster
Who wants chocolate? I recently sat down with Angus Kennedy in London. He is hailed as the world’s leading chocolate taster, and with good reason. He is the editor of a magazine called Kennedy’s Confection. He writes and speaks all over about multiple topics but the one topic everyone wants to hear about over and over again is chocolate. Business Weekly recently put out a video featuring him and various chocolate bars. The video was watched millions of times and the comment section went crazy, everyone wanted to know how to get a job tasting chocolate!
Due out May 8th, 2018 is his newest book, Bittersweet: A Memoir: The Life and Times of the World's Leading Chocolate Taster.
The Pemberley: What is your background?
AK: I failed my way to success. I realized from a very young age that the schooling system was teaching me quite brilliantly to be molded and enslaved to a serve farcical system of a life of debt and believing in those planet-destroying psychotics in power. Education— at least a government-backed formal one, in my opinion— taught me all the skills required to be sad where I was born with the gifts to be happy. I use the latter.
So the process of not being educated (rebelling) when I was young, enabled me to have the cerebral storage capacity and the open mind to take on board the more interesting (truthful) and directly useful aspects of life when I was older. The things that get you places; in effect the less you are ‘taught,’ the more you can learn.
It’s a great paradox of education. Apart from that, I was just like many kids, the usual mundane drone of 21st-century life: an alcoholic mother, dad dying of cancer, and all the normal non-sense of life. It’s amazing I am not either locked up, on the street or incarcerated in a psychiatric wing somewhere. There are no in-betweens with me— all or nothing. Ha! Luckily I went full on to be my voice and to succeed. Success is personal anyway. So we all succeed!
The Pemberley: What were some jobs you had and hated?
AK: I don’t like anything that’s called a ‘job.’ It implies that you are working your nuts off for someone else doing something you hate, but they love you to do, something you never wanted, and when you do it, you are wondering what your life was for. I believe that you cannot apply for a great job. They don’t exist OK; it’s a giant con. You can only create a great job; you never apply for ‘great’ things, you create them. So in answer to that question I HATE ALL JOBS.
The Pemberley: Jobs you had and loved?
AK: Great question. If we do what we love and they love to pay you, you have succeeded. I don’t think I am there 100%, but I am on the journey. I am working hard to be where I want to be in 5 years. I have a mission in life, a goal and I visualize every day where and what I want to do. I visualize the pleasure I can give and how people love what I do. The money is a result of the profession, not the reason. But of course being a chocolate expert and taster is a good start! But by no means am I there yet. The whole world will know when I am. I think it’s important to never give up on the big one. If you fail, then it’s because you didn’t aim high enough. You are worth more, always.
Apart from writing my books, I seriously enjoy public speaking, which I do now a lot (especially at schools and universities) so if any of your readers want me to come, I don’t charge on many occasions. Speaking all happened ever since my first book finally got commissioned by a publisher in New York for May 2018 and after I have been on TV a few times. Suddenly and only then, do they listen; a sad fact of life. People will listen to a famous idiot but not the unnoticed wise. So, of course, testing chocolate is fine and don’t get me wrong who can argue with that! But in the end, you are only eating 50% sugar and 50% fat. Is that going to change the world? Yes, I am so cynical that I believe there to be no cure.
The Pemberley: Do you love chocolate or did you find it was a niche that was not oversaturated which meant you had the freedom to go in any direction you wanted with it?
AK: Well I like chocolate, of course, but there are others that are obsessed by it and love it 1000 more than me — it’s sugar and fat that tastes good. Does the Prime Minister love his/her people to lead them? Doubt it. Do we need to like wine to taste it? Is it a good question? There are also others, senior scientists, I know that do know a lot more about it than I do. Nothing is fair in life for as long as you ‘want.’
But you see I can do something they can’t and few can, for example, my last Facebook video was nearly 8 million views (still rising at the time of writing). That’s nuts! There are thousands of videos on chocolate, and I believe it could be a biggest most watched chocolate video of all time! Yes me, that failed chocolate taster from Kent. Crazy times we live in, but you see, it’s about communicating a message, in my case I use chocolate, so I am on the journey! Many people allow what it is they like so much to take over them. My last book The Kitchen Baby was done for fun and is a best seller still on Amazon, so you have to do what you enjoy, or life is a waste of your time.
The Pemberley: How did you become a chocolatier? Any particular training or mentor?
AK: Was it Lennon said that life is what happens in between what you plan? I have written a whole book about this! I wanted to be and do so many other things. Silly things like being a publishing tycoon, a vet, fireman, Olympic rower, you know all those failed dreams. But one dream leads to another- just never stop dreaming, dreams are the stepping stones. I have been a journalist writing about chocolate all my life. I mean that. I started out from a small family business and at ten years old I went round chocolate factories with my mother (I was home educated a lot). This was while my friends were learning what a scarp slope is or some daft Latin name for part of a plant. After 40 years of reading and writing and meeting everyone in the industry, you become a bank of useful information. So from that, I became a go-to for the media and press and give a straight-up answer and take on what they want to write, produce about chocolate.
That’s publicity, I get millions of pounds worth of coverage, and I have nothing to sell! Ironically that’s why I am in the papers a lot. Then people start saying you are the expert, leading taster and you think, yeah OK why not, I’ll do that. No one else could have done it I did I guess. So my soul is my mentor, tune in let it take you, accept the bad parts because the good is coming type thing. I hope that answered your question in a very non-roundabout way. But get out the comfort zone, or you won’t succeed.
The Pemberley: Tell us about how you got started with your magazine?
AK: It’s a family business which I bought off my brother in 2005. I never looked back since, and we still work together, so I publish and am editor of the world’s leading journal for the confectionery industry, 'Kennedys Confection’. Running a small business is tough, this goes back to doing what you love, like everyone I am working hard to live the dream. It will happen.
The Pemberley: How can one recognize fine chocolate?
AK: Well, you need to read my next book— Bittersweet, coming out in May next year. I wrote 60,000 words about that! But basically, it must make a clean break and snap, smell like chocolate, be smooth and shiny, well molded, melt easily and have a smooth, creamy melt and believe it or not taste like chocolate. Cheap stuff just tastes like sugar.
The Pemberley: What are your favorite brands of chocolate?
AK: Well it’s not so much the brand but look for something that is not made with children against their will in the Ivory Coast, they can prove it, though it’s difficult. A product that has not chopped ancient forests down to produce. A different cocoa bean with a fruity flavor, perhaps on an ancient organic bean that is grown in a natural forest cover with its sister trees and not mass-farmed, lots of cocoa powder and cocoa butter. Less sugar (you don’t need that much), and above all a product made with love and care for our future! I think we should apply this type of consumer purchasing awareness to ALL food products. Only then to we have a chance to make it to 2050.
The Pemberley: How is chocolate made?
AK: That’s a huge question! We need a 200-page book, again! But in essence, chocolate is fermented and then roasted beans then ground to make powder and cocoa butter. This is mixed with sugar and milk, tempered and ground down (conched) and molded. Wow, that is a very short version of what can be done. Most chocolate is just made in a few factories by the way; companies buy in ready-made and mold it. There are a few secrets coming out in May in my next book, so look out for it. Who knows you might even enjoy it. I am even cynical of the self, just so not good.
The Pemberley: Anything else you’d like to add?
AK: You bet!
I was a drop out in life. I was told that would never make it and look, I have a book published in the US when I could not spell and failed every exam I ever took, and today I am the world’s leading chocolate taster. I’ve been bankrupt, robbed, on the brink of death several times, I’ve had it all. So come on! If I can make it at 50, you can. Never give up on a good thing because a good thing won’t give up on you.