We recently posted about some of the chocolate artisans we work with who have been celebrated on the international stage. One such artisan is Centre and Main, founded by Angela Roest in the village of Warkworth Ontario.


At a time in North American culinary tradition where many are celebrating exotic, global flavours, Angela does quite the opposite. She’s scrapping the matcha and yuzu in favour of ingredients produced in the small village where she lives. Local Ontario strawberries, carrots, and even locally-grown saffron take the centre stage in Centre and Main chocolate bars – and the result is incredible.

Centre and Main in the Village of Warkworth.

 

We recently caught up with Angela to learn more about her operation, her recent success at the International Chocolate Awards, and some of her favourite creations.


Why did you start Centre and Main?

I had been working for another artisan chocolatier and began to wonder about new possibilities in chocolate.  I moved to Warkworth and it was the perfect place for what I wanted to do. Most people probably don’t know, but Warkworth is a tiny village of about 700 people and is a designated artistic community. Craftspeople and artists abound - we have

photographers, writers, textile artists, bakers, cookbook writers, graphic artists, musicians… the list goes on. It’s a really unusual and artistically vibrant village - as a

chocolatier, I fit in perfectly. I opened up my shop at the corner of Centre Ave and Main St. and that’s what we chose as our name.

 

Where do you get inspiration for your creations?

My location in Warkworth is perfect for another reason. The village is tucked into the rural heart of Northumberland County.  Deep rolling hills filled with incredible farmers, raising animals and growing all kinds of fabulous food. I love exploring local ingredients and because there are so many artisans, there are many artisanal products and food producers that are within a stone’s throw from me.  For example, less than 5km from the heart of the village we have True Saffron, the only commercial growers of saffron in Canada. I use their saffron in a number of my creations, including a white chocolate bar with Ontario strawberries and rhubarb. For the salted maple sponge toffee in your gift baskets, I use local maple syrup.  Anything that grows here or is produced here I will find a way to somehow incorporate into chocolate.


What’s your favourite product you’ve created?

I make an Affogato Bar that uses locally roasted organic coffee beans from our local café and freeze dried ice cream from a local creamery.  It’s like a perfect Italian affogato but in chocolate bar form. A few weeks ago, it won gold at the International Chocolate Awards Canadian Competition.

 

Centre and Main seasonal varieties.

 

What gets you excited about going to work everyday?

I love creating new things. I am always looking at what’s in season and thinking about how I can use ingredients creatively. Culinary trends change over time.  We’ve seen a trend in the chocolate world moving towards using global flavours - like adding yuzu or matcha to chocolate. In contrast, using local food is underexplored territory. I like to celebrate what’s growing around me and so I shift traditions in chocolate to reflect local flavours.


What sets you apart from other chocolatiers?

The use of local ingredients definitely sets me apart.  In this way, the chocolate becomes more than just a bar – it’s the result of a collaboration between two businesses, between two people who are crazy about food.  An example of this would be our Tea and Toast bar. This bar features a caramelized white chocolate base paired with bread from a local baker who uses a very particular type of local wheat. Some chocolatiers make amazing sculptures. I’m in awe at how incredible they are – you wouldn’t know it’s chocolate. I can comfortably say this is not my area of expertise. I’m more interested in the crafting of flavours – sometimes unusual flavours - from local ingredients. Everyone has an area of expertise, and this has definitely developed into mine.


What is your biggest accomplishment?

Coming home with multiple wins from the International Chocolate Awards in Toronto three weeks ago is a huge and unexpected accomplishment. I entered with the intention of getting some expert feedback. My plan was to enter a few of my best bars and the panel of expert judges will let me know how I’m doing and what I need to improve. It was completely unexpected - but I came away with 1 gold and 3 silvers. I was positively floating for 2 weeks.  I think most people think focusing your business on using local ingredients is limiting - but I think I’ve proven it’s my competitive advantage. I entered 4 different bars - each of which was a collaboration with local food growers or producers:


  • Saffron Strawberry Rhubarb in white chocolate
  • Milk chocolate Affogato
  • Blood Orange & Rosemary in milk chocolate
  • Dark chocolate with Blackcurrant

What are people most surprised about when you tell them about your work?

That I make everything myself by hand.  I have a couple of people that help me with packaging but Centre and Main is very small business and I make everything. They’re long happy hours.


What’s been your greatest challenge with Centre and Main?

I’ve had to learn a lot of non-chocolatier skills in order to run my business. Like I said, I’m almost a one-woman show.  I do my own marketing and social media, design all my signs and labels, create business plans and also my website. These are skills I never learned in university or in my chocolate education.  It slows me down, but I’m getting better.


What’s next for Centre and Main?

I’m always creating new recipes and finding new ways to incorporate local flavours creatively - so there will of course be more of that. I recently used locally-made kimchi in a chocolate bar - that was fantastic! My next challenge will be working with some local goat cheese.  We have many goat farms in the area, and I’m thinking of pairing it with balsamic vinegar or sundried tomato.

Centre and Main holiday offerings.

 

What’s the best feedback you’ve gotten, and how did it make you feel?

I recently created some custom chocolate bars for a large wedding in Toronto.  They loved them so much, the couple asked the photographer to take pictures of them, beautifully displayed.

 

After the wedding, the bride came back to visit the shop and give me feedback. She said that the chocolates were a huge hit and that guests would come up to her and say “wow these were amazing.”  She said it really added something totally unique to her celebration and was still glowing when she told me about it a month later.

This job makes people happy - and that’s just the best thing.

 

 

Centre and Main Salted Maple Sponge toffee is available in our Toronto gift baskets