Interview 002: Yoon Kim aka The Smooth Chocolator
As you may have noticed, we recently started stocking some exceptional chocolate from Australia's The Smooth Chocolator. We caught up with owner/operator Yoon Kim to find out a little bit more about her past, present and future...
What were you doing before getting into making chocolate and how did you make the transition?
I was a chef for a few years as well as undertaking a fashion design degree. I knew nothing about chocolate until I took some chocolate short courses at Savour Patisserie & Chocolate School in Melbourne. Firstly, I fell in love with making colouful bonbons using commercial chocolate as it was as fun as making clothes, but I was curious to know how chocolate was made.
When I found out about the bean-to-bar course at Savour school, I thought it would be interesting to know the chocolate making processes, so I enrolled in the 3 day course in early 2015. I hadn’t had any craft chocolate until then and it completely blew me away. I never knew chocolate could taste more than chocolate and in fact, some chocolates don’t taste like chocolate at all! I had to give it a try to make my own chocolate after that course and I haven’t stopped ever since!
What is it about chocolate making that you enjoy the most?
The flavours. The flavours of each cocoa beans amaze me every time I try new beans and (you might have noticed with the amount of origins I have) I love trying different origins. Finding what each origin has to offer is like unwrapping Christmas presents that you’ve waited for all year but it’s slightly messier than unwrapping presents!
How do you source your cacao beans?
I source our beans from cocoa bean companies in the US who work directly with farmers or co-ops.
You recently won three awards at the International Chocolate Awards - has this had an effect on the business?
I had a few e-mails of interest but I haven’t felt much difference on the business yet. It was the first time I’ve ever entered any awards and I was really surprised I won! It is very encouraging for me personally, but I’m also hoping this helps me to get my name out there.
Do you get more recognition for your chocolate internationally than you do in Australia?
In fact, yes. My very first stockist who bought the entire collection is in New York. They have also featured my chocolate on their annual catalogue to launch my brand into the US market, which I’m really grateful for. Most of my current and upcoming stockists are overseas as I get more interest from overseas than Australia. I hope more people in Australia are introduced to craft chocolate and enjoy the exciting new world of chocolate.
Are there any new origins you’re working with at the moment? Are there any you would particularly like to work with?
I’m working with Ecuador at the moment. I had those beans at the same time as Vietnam, Madagascar, and Tanzania but somehow it was very difficult for me to like it. So I walked away from those beans but now I’m working back again. I’m happy with the progress and hoping to release the bars made from them very soon.
Vietnam and Australia are the only two Asia-Pacific beans I’ve worked with and I would love to try other origins of Asia-Pacific.
What are your aims with the business? Where do you see it in five or ten years?
My aim with the business is finding the flavours of cocoa beans that they have to offer and I’m constantly experimenting and trying to make an improvement to do the justice for the beans. I’m sure I’ll be experimenting in 5 or 10 years time as well! I would also like to learn more about the genetics, post harvest side of the cocoa beans to have a better understanding of the flavours. In 5 to 10 years time, I’m (hoping) to make chocolate full-time as well as doing collaborations with small farmers.
Thanks so much to Yoon for taking part in this interview. Check out her chocolate in our store and maybe treat yourself to a bar or two. You won't regret it!