Beverley Dunkley, head of UK Chocolate Academy, Callebaut

The  Staff Canteen




Marshmallow teacakes

Beverley Dunkley is head of the UK Chocolate Academy for Callebaut, an academy that she helped take from concept to reality which has now been open for 10 years. Offering 32 different chocolate courses, Bev is one of the lecturers in the academy whose experience encompasses courses abroad, working in a professional sugar school and working within sales however Bev is now content in her role which she describes as an “accumulation of all my other jobs that I’ve done in the past”. Talk us through your role at Callebaut and what it involves on a day-to-day basis

The Academy’s been open ten years now, we do 32 paid courses split into four sections. Our biggest section is for confectionery for people who want to start making chocolate for a business. We’ve designed three courses, where people can do a beginners, intermediate or a one day shelf life course. After this people have a starter pack to opening a business. Twice a year we do two specialised courses for confectioners to top up your knowledge for example nut-based courses or maybe liquors; we usually have people from Europe or specialised people within the field to come over and work on these courses. We also have a design your own chocolate course, which is all about development and how to go about developing your own recipe. tartlets The other section is showpieces: we do two one-day courses for people who’ve never made showpieces before, a two-day course and now a three-day one as well, which incorporates silicone moulding. We also do plated dessert, entremet and specialised patisserie courses of that nature. The last section is baking, but we don’t do so many in that field. Other than that we go out judging, exhibitions and offsite training; we do a lot of work with our distributors to make sure their staff are trained. So yes, we’re a busy department!

Was the chocolate academy always something that you wanted to do then, was it in the pipeline for a while?

What’s nice is it’s an accumulation of all my other jobs that I’ve done in the past. I’ve done kitchen work, I’ve been abroad, I’ve worked in a professional sugar school, I’ve done sales, and I’ve worked in further education. What I do now is sell product application and I’ve also got the fun of organising course programmes and doing product development with customers; it’s never boring. It’s like a combination of all my other jobs in one. Bev Dunkely

Have you noticed since starting an increase in the number of people wanting to do these courses?

Definitely. There’s been a massive increase in people that have wanted to re-train and start a new career because of the credit crunch. Also a lot of people are retiring earlier but still want to have a little income so they think of an enterprise; a steady little job to do before they fully retire. We also get a lot of people who are returning to work after having children, or sometimes people just have a fantastic idea that they want to put into practice and market.

Do you think that programmes like Great British Bake Off have helped people book onto these courses?

The colleges we talk to have definitely had an increase because of that. The amount of people now going through to bakery courses is massive, I think it has had an influence but I think it’s harder to measure for us.

You said you went abroad to Switzerland and Luxembourg, what did you do over there?

In Luxembourg I worked in a Le Relais des Desserts patisserie. So it was your nice, typical bakery where you had the bread section, the ice cream section, the chocolate section, the cake section; it was nice to work in a number of those areas and learn European patisserie. In Switzerland I worked in a private sugar school. Choux pastry

So those jobs were about developing your skills. After you came back, did you then put those skills into practice?

No, not at first, I moved into sales and demonstrating and selling bakery ingredients and equipment. From there I moved into further education teaching 16-19 year olds. That was at Lancaster and Morecambe College.

Was that something you enjoyed doing?

I thoroughly enjoyed that. So when I moved into Callebaut I really wanted a technical job but there wasn’t a technical job available so I went into sales. I thoroughly enjoyed sales, which I did for ten years. Then I moved into technical looking after the academy.

Do you think it’s important for chocolatiers to go to different countries and gain the sort of experiences that you did?

Yes, I do. A lot of people want to open a business – some people can do it without training; they just learn the hard way and make the mistakes themselves. But for younger people it would definitely be good if they went out and got experience hands-on in a chocolatier’s or in a patisserie.

You said you worked in a kitchen; was that in a restaurant or a bakery; what area did you work in?

It was in a Relais & Châteaux hotel called Hambleton Hall in the pastry section. That was many moons ago, in the 80s! I’ve done a bit of everything, but it was more bakery and pastry chef.Bev

You said it’s important for young people to go out and get experience, what advice would you give them? Is it important to specialise early in a certain area?

That’s a difficult one, because they could train in chocolate or to be a pastry chef all your life, but if they don’t have an idea of what to specialise in, it’s best to keep it general. But then if they do want to specialise then they should go in to that field. When I was at college no one ever thought about being a chocolatier. Now, I would say over the last six years, we haven’t had loads, but we’ve had key people who’ve left school or college knowing they want to be a chocolatier. I don’t think it was really a career that was thought of before. They were very much seen as factory jobs working for somebody who supplies the multiples, it wasn’t really creative sort of role. I think because of people like Paul A Young and William Curley people are thinking about it more as a career.

Have you ever wanted to compete in competitions like The World Chocolate Masters?

No, I think it’s more about helping and mentoring people to do it rather than actually doing it myself. In the past I’ve done static pieces but I’ve not really done much live competition work.

We spoke to John Costello [senior confectioner, Nestle Product Technology Centre] and he said he took two years to prepare for one of the World Chocolate Masters. That’s a long time.

World-Chocolate-MastersYes, you have to live and breathe it. You have to pass the UK section, so you have to think about that six months. Then you have a year from that to get ready; you have to live and breathe it for all that time. It’s a long time. It depends on what you have to do when you leave work though. A lot of people have the calibre to do it but just don’t have the time to fit it in between their job and their home life. You need dedication, definitely.

What’s your favourite chocolate, then?

I like to experience all chocolates. I love eating bars of chocolate. I don’t like eating fancy fillings, I just like the taste of chocolate for what it is.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th December 2014

Beverley Dunkley, head of UK Chocolate Academy, Callebaut