This article is produced in collaboration with our friends at George Brown Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts.
Katie Wilson has always loved chocolate, but it wasn’t until she sampled the single-origin variety (meaning it’s made from cacao beans originating from one place, often featuring flavours reflecting that place’s distinctive terroir) that she knew she wanted to spend her life making it.
While travelling through New Zealand with her husband Kyle, Katie had a chance to try single-origin chocolate and it changed her entire perception of what chocolate could be. “Before that, I was just having your basic chocolate,” she says, “so the first time I tried single-origin chocolate I was like, ‘woah, chocolate tastes like this?!’ Other people need to try what chocolate really tastes like.”
When the couple came home, Katie immediately enrolled in a truffle-making workshop at a local chocolate shop. “I’ve always enjoyed making things myself,” she says. “After travelling and learning about where chocolate comes from, combining those two things made me interested in making chocolate myself.”
Katie began making truffles at home and, eager to further her education in the world of chocolate, she enrolled in George Brown College’s Professional Chocolatier Program. As a relative newbie in the food and beverage industry, Katie says studying at George Brown taught her fundamental kitchen skills that she still uses to this day.
“One of the basic things that I’m grateful for is just how to prep your station and clean your station,” she says. “Those super small things that make a world of difference every day.”
Feedback from her instructors was also key to helping Katie refine her chocolate-making craft. “The teachers were lovely,” she says. “They were engaging and helpful in finding mistakes and tweaking things to make them easier for you.”
After graduating, Katie joined the team at award-winning Toronto chocolate-maker SOMA. She went on to work at a series of local bakeries, “getting more kitchen work under my belt,” as she describes it, while also experimenting with cacao roasting techniques at home in her free time. Her goal was to develop a line of bean-to-bar chocolate, a term that describes chocolate produced by a maker who oversees every step of the production process, beginning with sourcing the cacao beans.
Eventually, Katie was able to rent a wholesale kitchen space through Kyle, who was running the coffee program at Queen St. E.’s Impact Kitchen. “That’s where it really got started,” she says. “That was my big break.”
Katie was soon selling her single-origin, bean-to-bar chocolate to wholesale clients across the city. In 2017, Katie and Kyle became partners in business as well as life, opening Soul Chocolate’s first storefront. “This space came up on Gerrard and we decided to go for it,” she says. The chocolate shop and roastery sees Katie making sweet treats, while Kyle oversees its coffee program.
Katie now spends her days doing what she loves most: making chocolate for people to enjoy. “I’m in production every day, tempering or putting on batches or working on recipe development,” she says.
Although Katie says their storefront business has slowed down somewhat amid the pandemic, Soul Chocolate has continued to work with wholesale clients — a number of Toronto cafes carry their hot chocolate and bars — and offer online retail.
Downtime during the pandemic has also motivated the pair to launch a baking subscription service, a program Katie says they’d been wanting to launch for some time. “It’s like an upscale version of Betty Crocker,” she says, explaining that subscribers receive a box of high-quality dry ingredients each month, along with step-by-step instructions for making delicious chocolate desserts at home.
“You never know where it will take you if you let yourself experiment and if you’re always learning,” says Katie.
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