The sweetest man

Richard Tuohy once attempted to make chocolate from scratch. First he roasted the beans and then he shelled them, exposing the vital little cocoa nibs. He then ground them up in a blender before proceeding with the rest of the process: the result was a coarse-textured product he won’t try making again.

Richard is the chocolatier behind Byron Bay Cacao, a low-profile, quietly achieving
little business now about four years old. His handmade gourmet chocolates and truffles
are exquisite little creations which come in powder-blue and deep-brown boxes. Just some of the flavours are Green Apple Vodka; Sake and Berry; Roast Coconut; Double Choc Banana; Peppermint and White Rum. Apart from one retail outlet in Yamba, they are all sold on line.

South Australian-born, Richard is a snowboarding, surfing-mad trained chef
who worked his way around wineries and restaurants in between overseas stints. He tells me that the reason he travelled was to learn about food. ‘The beauty of food,’ he says, ‘is
that you never stop learning. I was learning more about food through my travels, with each place being unique for its cuisine and culture.’ Working at one stage at Terence Conran’s Bluebird restaurant in Chelsea was ‘an eye- opener’. ‘They brought their produce over every day from France.’

He had always loved the creation of desserts whichever restaurant he wound up in. ‘I love the creativity and artisan side of it,’ he says. His first shot at making chocolates was at Sandbar restaurant in East Ballina under its former owners. ‘Chocolate is such a winner because it’s such an easy dessert, people share and don’t feel guilty.’ Completely self-taught, he kept playing around until the triumphs began to outweigh the mistakes. He was enjoying himself so much, but more than that he recognised an opportunity to explore it further. He says that the growth of his business has been organic, mostly by word-of-mouth, and that for now he is happy to keep it at that manageable level, ensuring the infrastructure is intact and his customers are happy.

Callebaut couverture is the chocolate he works with in a climate-controlled space in Ballina. The climate on the Far North Coast is, of course, a challenge for a chocolate-maker but it was precisely the challenging nature of the medium that drew Richard to it. ‘I picked chocolate,’ he tells me , ‘because as a foodie it’s such a challenging medium, not only because it appeals to the masses but because it has a science to it. You need a flavour balance to work in harmony with the type of chocolate you are using. Then up here there’s the environmental challenge. The challenge keeps me trying!’

He says that he never runs out of ideas for new types but tries to control himself ‘or else the product list would be too long!’ Experiments he has tried and discarded include White Pepper & Coriander, as well as Green Olive Martini. (‘Some people loved it and some hated it.’) His most popular types are Rose & Frangelico; Roast Macadamia; Lemon Myrtle. Where possible he sources his ingredients locally.

Does he ever tire of chocolate? On the contrary, if Richard’s been away the first thing he does upon his return is to open up his Chocolate Room. ‘I miss the smell of it,’ he says.

Richard’s delectable website is www.byronbaycacao.com.

About victoria

Author of the gastro-memoir 'Amore&Amaretti: A Tale of Love an Food in Tuscany', I am a Byron Shire-based food and travel writer, food columnist, cooking teacher, recipe editor and chef. Born in Canberra, ACT, I have a BA in languages although am only really passionate about the Italian one, in which I am fluent, having spent four years in Tuscany in my late twenties, and returning reasonably frequently ever since. Despite that, my partner of many years, a wonderful artist, clothes designer and aged carer, is half-Greek!
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