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Chef's Choice: Amanda Sandahl of The Chocolate General Store



It's not enough to create melt-in-your-mouth chocolate flavours like truffle raspberry, lavender caramel or caramel sea salt for everyday treats.

When the holidays roll around, artisan chocolatier Amanda Sandahl has the perfect excuse to really let the creative juices flow into something new, bold and fun.

This Easter's creation, for example, is a delightfully decadent pistachio marzipan dark chocolate from The Chocolate General Store. She calls it "pistachiopan."

The flavours, particularly the marzipan, transport her back to her European roots for Easter.

"It keeps it happening. It keeps it fun," said Sandahl of the special holiday creations that included a gingerbread creation for Christmas.

"Happening" is one way of describing the last year of Sandahl's life, after launching her chocolate business, with the distinctive, specially designed cone packaging, last February.

After being a stay-at-home mom for several years, Sandahl was ready for a challenge. She starting thinking: What do I really enjoy doing? What am I passionate about?

The answer was simple: chocolate.

"I got my chocolatier degree at Ecole Chocolat (in Vancouver) and decided to give it a shot," she said.

She hasn't looked back since.

Sales have been 100 per cent more than she anticipated, as she has expanded from a few stores in Pemberton and Whistler to have a stronger presence in the corridor, now reaching into the city.

"The product has been really well received," she said. "I would say that the locals have been so supportive, which has been fabulous to have that experience."

Last week for example, Sandahl opened a pop-up store at Holt Renfrew in Vancouver.

Much like the Whistler Farmer's Market in the summer and the Made in Whistler Winter Market at the Westin, the pop-up store gave her the chance to interact with her customers and let them taste test her product.

"It's so fun to see the reactions on people's faces when they taste, and hear what they have to say about it and ideas that they have for flavours, what their preferences are," she said.

Sandahl's chocolate roots come from her home country of Belgium — a country renowned for its chocolate.

Though she grew up in Sweden from a young age, she remained connected to her roots.

"Every time I went my grandmother always made sure I got a box of really nice chocolate," said Sandahl. "I think that's where my passion stems from."

The cone wrapping, she said, is part of her success, too — it sets her chocolate apart and makes for fun gifts. The idea behind it is to have the chocolates hand-wrapped the way they would have been at the local general store years ago.

Sandahl develops her recipes at home in Pemberton, like the one she's working on for Mother's Day — a potential strawberry and white chocolate invention.

The chocolate, of course, is Belgian chocolate.

The chocolates are then made at a commercial kitchen in Vancouver. Ultimately, the goal is to make them in the corridor.

"They're made exactly the way I would make (them), but until I can finance my own production kitchen up here, that's how I'm set up," she said.

The last winter Made in Whistler market will take place on Saturday April 4 from 12 to 5 p.m. at the Westin. The Chocolate General Store will be there, along with several other local artisans.

Pistachiopan will be on sale for Easter, along with other flavours.

If you miss the market, The Chocolate General Store chocolate is also available in other spots around town — Purebread, Olives and the Blackcomb Liquor Store, to name a few.

Chili/Saffron Truffle

0.5 chili pepper (depending on how hot you want it), chopped in pieces

1 g good saffron

150 ml cream

1 tsp honey

1 tbsp Demerara sugar

200 g of chocolate of your liking

25 g of butter

Bring first five ingredients to a boil then put to the side and steep for approximately 10 minutes. In a bowl break up the chocolate and butter. Bring the cream mixture back to a boil and then pour through a strainer (to remove chili) over chocolate/butter. Mix with a stick blender. Cool in fridge. Once firm, scoop out a bit a roll to a bite size ball, or why not an Easter Egg shape? Roll in cacao powder. Enjoy!

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