I don’t know about you, but the idea of spending all day every day immersed in chocolate sounds like living the dream to me. And I’m more than a little envious of Mike Noble for whom it’s a reality. Because in 2011, Mike gave up a corporate career and founded artisan chocolatiers, Noble and Stace.
Based in Midhurst, since then, Noble and Stace have gone from strength to strength and have been awarded 2 gold stars by the Guild of Fine Foods in the 2020 Great Taste Awards for their Ditchling Gin and Orange Truffles. They’ve also been Grand Finalists in the Sussex Food & Drink Awards 2017 and Finalists in the 2019 and 2020 awards for Food Producer of the Year.
The man behind the chocolate
I always imagine master chocolatiers to be rather intimidating, and with Mike’s pedigree, I was nervously excited when I got a chance to find out more about him, his chocolate and his masterclasses.
The reality is that Mike is charming and really down to earth. Asking about his daily routine, he explains that from September through to Easter is a really busy time when he can often spend all day making chocolates. I caught up with him just after 8 am by which time he was already hard at work in a room that was filled with the heady and intense smell of great quality chocolate. I’d been browsing his website and noticed quite a few gin-based chocolates (Jarrolds, Brighton and Chilgrove Gin truffles all caught my eye) and asking about this seemed a good place to start.
“I didn’t set out to focus on gin chocolates. It just sort of came about as a result of meeting local craft gin producers. I like the idea of using ingredients that have been produced within a few miles of where I am. Making chocolate is quite a solitary job and it’s nice to be part of a local network of producers. What’s more, using local ingredients seems to really resonate with my customers. Our local gin-based chocolates are really popular.”
I needed little persuading to taste test gin truffles (I’d already bought the biggest box I could find) but as autumn soldiers on and we all start wearing fluffy socks and lighting the fire, I felt we could do with some recommendations for the perfect night in.
“Good question. Well, I’ve got quite a sweet tooth so I always like salted caramel truffles but I’m about to make a new molasses chocolate which could work really well on a cold evening. Or I’ve got rum chocolate which is a nice way to unwind at the end of the day.”
Mike’s chocolates are a sublime experience, but before I slipped too far into a chocolate abyss, did he have any tips for would-be chocolate makers?
“Well, I’d always recommend people start with something simple like a truffle ganache, oh and try and keep your hands cold.”
If you follow Sussex Exclusive on social media, you’ll know that Mike sometimes runs chocolate masterclasses at the Artisan Bakehouse and I also wanted to know what these are like.
“Again, I never set out to run masterclasses, but I do really enjoy them. Participants come for all sorts of reasons, and sometimes just because they want to master how to temper chocolate which can seem a little complicated if you’re following a recipe. Others just want to spend a day doing something for themselves and some even come as a group to celebrate a special occasion.
The classes are both full-on and hands-on. This is not about me doing demonstrations, it’s about participants getting stuck in with my help. It’s fun and it’s messy and they leave with loads of chocolate including a box of fresh cream truffles, a box of crème caramel truffles, three bars of chocolate and a bag of chocolate chips. It’s all held in a marquee in small groups of eight (and lots of fresh air), oh and of course there’s lunch and cake with Louise from Artisan Bakehouse.”
If that hasn’t left you licking your lips and craving more, I don’t know what will. The next masterclass is on the 6 October – that’s next week, and if you use our code SussexExclusiveChoc, you’ll get a 10% discount! You can book here: https://theartisanbakehouse.com/collections/shop/products/