Yohei Hattori makes luxury artisan chocolates that amaze customers at the market.
Have you always worked making food?
I have worked in food service since I was 16, working in the noodle house. In my early 20s I was working as a barista in the early morning, swim-coaching youngsters during the day, and then ending my day as a bartender at night. After that, I trained as a french-style pastry chef and made a few trips to France to hone my skills.
Did you grow up in Japan?
Yes, but it can be hard to fit in there because every prefecture has its own culture. So even a neighbouring area can feel like a foreign place.
So you left Japan?
I got itchy feet and wanted to work abroad. My first overseas work experience was a year in Noosa cafe. It was hilarious because I didn’t speak much English and I was working with a French pastry chef, the owner was Korean, and the chef was German. The accents there were challenging. At the start, I mainly communicated through the French vocab that I had picked up in my pastry chef training.
What brought you to New Zealand?
I came here to do a business course and that is where my English improved the most. Now I am a permanent resident and I would become a citizen if I could do that without giving up my Japanese citizenship.
Is chocolate making your main job?
My day-job is as a production manager in a big bakery ensuring that we maximise the efficiency of the kitchen. I love the people that I work with during the day - it's a very satisfying job.
So how does that fit with your chocolate business?
My day role is just a portion of the bakery business, and my chocolate business gives me the opportunity to put my business course into practice. I do everything, from the website to the accounts, packaging, and customer relationships - as well as making chocolate.
Do you have much machinery?
No - that would mean that I had to make much bigger quantities. It would change what I’m trying to do and I wouldn’t have the flexibility to make as many different flavour combinations as I do at the moment. I make everything by hand.
So this really is an artisan chocolate business
Yes, I like selling directly to customers so that I can maximise the quality of the ingredients. I use top Belgium chocolate, and fresh, natural ingredients. That is why I sell at the market on Sundays, from my Royal Oak shop on Saturdays, and through the website.
Are there other reasons for selling direct to customers?
My chocolates are made to be eaten and not sit on a shelf. I don’t use preservatives and everything is made slowly at low temperature to maximise the flavour. Selling direct, means that I can be sure that customers get fresh chocolates.
So this side-hustle is almost a hobby for you?
Yes - it is a very creative process and I love listening to the customers who challenge me to try new things. I have mostly used dark chocolate, ruby and white chocolate. Kiwis love milk chocolate so I am now working on some milk chocolate options.
As published in Ponsonby News : June 2021