Growing up near the Guittard Chocolate factory in San Francisco, Gary Mitchell woke up every morning to the sweet smell of chocolate. Little did he know that one day, he would be Head Chocolatier at Purdy's Chocolates in Vancouver, BC.
After 20 years of experience in the baking industry, Gary brought his love and passion for chocolate to Purdy's when he joined the company in 1993. His initial training took place at the School of Chocolate Technology in San Francisco and later at the RCI candy School in Erie, Pennsylvania. Gary's continued quest for knowledge led him to the Chocolate Academy in Montreal, and working with renowned French chef Christophe Morel in Chicago.
Using his extensive training, Gary conducts chocolate seminars for factory employees and has appeared on numerous television shows. Gary has also been featured in a number of newspaper and magazine articles regarding his career and his passion for chocolate.
Gary's daily routine starts when he arrives at the factory at 6:30am. Surrounded by the aroma of freshly made creams and caramels, he begins his tour of the factory by tasting the newly roasted nuts and candy centres made daily. Throughout the day he makes regular checks on the many products being made, offering advice and giving support to the diligent Purdy's factory team - making sure the factory is running as smooth as his famous chocolate creams.
Gary creates between 100 and 150 new chocolate samples each year, but only 5 or 6 of the very best are ever chosen to make it into Purdy's chocolate line-up. One of the most challenging parts of making these creations is searching the world for perfect ingredients to make each new chocolate very special. Some of Gary's latest creations include the Red Velvet Cake Truffle, Pear Caramel, Eggnog Truffle, Brown Butter Maple Caramel and Pumpkin Caramel. Gary continues to experiment with ingredients, leading him to try innovative combinations such cheese and chocolate, and raspberry and balsamic vinegar. He is also testing more dessert chocolates – Tiramisu, for example.
Gary's inspiration comes from travel and food. A recent trip to Peru resulted in the Turona, which is named after a 16th century Spanish confection. Crafted in two layers, its inspiration lay in the quest to combine the delicate ingredients of Gianduja and Truffle to create one piece of chocolate perfection. Turona's key ingredient is its 65% cocoa, which is harvested from a single Peruvian plantation. The soil previously housed bananas, and it retains flavour of the fruit, adding a distinct taste.
A trip to the Mayan ruins in Mexico inspired the Mayan collection of chocolates now available in Purdy's chocolate shops.
Gary also brings chocolate into the kitchen. Through an on-going series of YouTube videos, Gary created unique recipes for special occasions. Some favourites have been grilled salmon with white chocolate lemon sauce, chocolate pear & prosciutto pizza, hazelnut crepes and white chocolate martinis.
In 2011 Gary’s creation won Best Truffle at the Toronto Baking & Sweets Show. His brie, fig, basil and lemon zest truffle won the first of the now annual competition. He is credited with creating and designing Purdy's "Smoothies" line of chocolates. His award-winning "Caramel Carnival" was honoured as the Best New Piece at the Retail Confectioners' International Conference in Atlanta, Georgia in 2004.
Follow Gary Mitchell on Twitter: @ChocolatierGary