Gorgeous handmade chocolates crafted in a purpose-built kitchen at the bottom of a garden in Birchington have scooped a top title at the Taste of Kent Awards.
Little more than one year after setting up his business, Nik Robinson of The Chocolate Pig was awarded gold in the confectionary category for his filled bon-bons.
Nik began his bespoke chocolate venture in April last year following his retirement from the police force.
He had previously been with Kent Police in Margate from 1992 and spent 15 years working in uniform and CID until moving into Counter Terrorism Intelligence retirement.
The job took Nik all over the UK and Europe, including Belgium and Holland which were areas that tied into his love of cooking – and chocolate.
Nik’s chocolates are handmade from design and colour to the fillings using ingredients that are local – with fruits such as lemon and strawberries grown in his garden.
Nik, 52, said: “There are not too many other people that do this style of chocolates in the area.
“From start to finish, including fillings, is a three day process.”
Dad-of-two Nik makes all the fillings, makes and moulds the chocolate and then has to include time for tempering and setting.
The finished results are a fantastic, shiny array of treats with cocoa butter colouring meaning the designs are vibrant. Fillings are equally diverse, ranging from fruits, caramels and ganache to martinis and mojitos and more.
One of the important elements for Nik is keeping it local – including using produce from his own garden and pick your own farms.
He said: “I want to keep learning and keep trying to collaborate with local, Thanet and Kent, producers, suppliers, restaurants and hotels. I’m keen to be as local as I can.
“The strawberries are grown myself, I also grown my own lemons in my garden. I am friends with Karly’s Kitchen and she is a fantastic grower with some that is left over heading my way.”
The summer is slightly quieter for Nik’s business as his products do not travel well in heat so postal delivery and markets are best in the cooler months. The cost of living also means some businesses are scaling back on luxuries, such a hotel’s ‘pillow chocolates’ or corporate gifting.
Despite this Nik has worked with businesses including The Powell Bar, Restaurant and Rooms in Birchington and No 9 and Chapel House wedding venues and is hoping to connect with other hotels and hospitality venues.
Winning the award from Taste of Kent has been a wonderful bonus for Nik. He said: “I was surprised to be nominated and then to come first, I’m so happy and grateful.”