Whenever Peter Higgins (that's him in the photo!) introduces himself as President & Chocolate Scientist at Purdys Chocolatier, he gets asked a lot of questions about the latter.
And since it's grad season (say conGRADS with our cap-and-gown chocolate collection), we thought why not cozy up with Peter and a box of Hedgehogs for a Q&A?
If you're a frequent reader of the blog, you might recognize Peter from his blog posts on Sustainable Cocoa, most recently the one on our Clean Water Project that aims to raise funds for LifeStraw Community water filters in Ivory Coast.
Q: How does someone become a Chocolate Scientist?
Peter: I have a Food Science degree from the University of British Columbia. It's a very hands-on degree, it's not all studying in a classroom. You get to go out there, learn about different types of soils, you learn about chemistry and molecules that make up food, it's a lot of practical stuff.
That's the kind of thing that interests me. Chocolate-making is a science, it's recipes, it's testing flavour combinations, it's being creative. I'm using my degree every day.
Q: What's a typical day for you?
Peter: I've been with Purdys for 19 years now so I feel pretty good about saying this: there's no typical day. I could be in all-day strategic planning meetings or sampling test chocolates or brainstorming ideas with our chocolatier Rachel McKinley. I also do a lot of TV and radio appearances, I love doing that and getting together with people and sharing chocolates and talking about it.
But my absolute favourite is that I have the opportunity to visit some of our farmer partners in rural cocoa-growing communities. I get to witness firsthand the impact of our Sustainable Cocoa Program, chat with our farmer partners, I even had the chance to plant cocoa trees!
Q: Was a degree in Food Science always your plan?
Peter: Actually, no, I was going to be an ophthalmologist. But at UBC, and other universities I'm sure, you get the chance to tour other departments and get of idea of what they do, what they can teach you. I really connected with the Agricultural Sciences department, I remember thinking it sparked my interest and I just fell in love with it, really. That was it, I switched majors in my second year.
Q: Any advice for recent high school grads?
Peter: Say yes to a lot of things. You can make a lot of great connections at university that'll help you later in your career. You can find your niche, find the thing that excites you. It's a really great time to explore, audit courses that sound interesting, talk to a lot of professors. Just let your curiosity guide you.