Meet the Artisan: Thomas Haas Chocolates, Vancouver, BC
Written by: Saul Good Gift Co.
Step into the world of decadent delights as we dive into a conversation with Thomas Haas, the mastermind behind Thomas Haas Chocolates in Vancouver, B.C.
Hailing from a lineage of pâtissiers, Thomas's connection to the confectionery world runs deep. His journey began in the kitchens of Cafe Konditorei Haas, a treasured establishment founded by his great-grandfather in Germany back in 1918. It was there that Thomas first discovered the intricate dance of flavours, textures, and aromas that elevate chocolate to an art form.
Throughout his career, Thomas embarked on a European odyssey, honing his craft alongside renowned chefs in Michelin-starred restaurants. These invaluable experiences sculpted him into a Konditor Meister, a true Master Pastry Chef. His exceptional talent has earned him accolades, including multiple top-three finishes in the prestigious North American Pastry Chef of the Year competition, as well as recognition as one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America.
Today, Thomas finds himself in Vancouver, far from the humble origins of the Haas family café. Yet, his roots remain steadfast, woven into the very fabric of his Vancouver-based business. At its core, his enterprise is built upon the foundations of excellence, ignited by an unwavering passion for food, his dedicated team, and the patrons he has the pleasure of serving.
Get ready to embark on a delectable journey as we delve into the captivating tale of Thomas Haas and his irresistible creations. Loved by Saul Good gift basket enthusiasts and renowned for their mouthwatering deliciousness, Thomas Haas Chocolates in Vancouver, BC have become an emblem of exquisite artistry in the province. Join us as we unveil the remarkable story behind Thomas Haas and his delectable treats.
Why did you start Thomas Haas Chocolates?
That is a long story. The short version is that we snowballed into it. I worked in New York as the executive pastry chef for Daniel Boulud at his three-star Michelin restaurant. When we decided to move back to Vancouver I worked as a consultant for a couple of high-end hotels and saw there was a need for high-quality chocolate in town.
For the first three months, we ran our business out of our basement and it quickly morphed into this word-of-mouth success across the continent. By our fourth year we were making 25,000 chocolates per week and supplying some of the best hotels in North America - even the White House in Washington D.C ( and, no, we would never make chocolates for Trump!). During that big growth phase the production of all the chocolates was done from 8 PM to 2 AM, we burned the midnight oil.
What inspires your work?
Work inspires work and I pull my inspiration from within. I get inspired by working with my team and sometimes by the feedback on what our customers like.
What sets your company apart from all the others?
We were a pioneer. We plowed the path in the 2000s with a concept that Vancouver, BC hadn’t seen before.
Today our aim is to continually improve. We want the business to be better, not bigger. We make sure our business and products stay innovative and fresh. We continue to work very hard to deliver the full deal.
Our assortment of products is vast: 15 different cakes daily, 30 different chocolates, 15 different croissants, 25 assorted bars and confections, handmade chocolate hostess gifts and centrepieces, wedding cakes, plated dessert functions, and two cafés that offer take-out or sit-in that includes a savoury menu and artisanal coffee drinks. And, we consistently give back to local communities that we do business in.
What values drive you?
It all starts with treating people with honesty, integrity and consistency. Good people are the bones of a good business.
What are you most proud of?
My family. My two kids and my wife, Lisa, who has stuck by my side for the past 20 years. At work, I am most proud of all the effort our team continues to do to evolve, create, and build a good culture.
What are people most surprised about when you tell them about your company?
There are 40 people behind the scenes creating, producing and hand-making all of our products.
Where do you get inspiration for new products?
Sometimes the season inspires me, sometimes it is new ingredients, or sometimes it is when we challenge ourselves to evolve an existing product.
I find that coming up with new products has to be a fine-tuned process. We often get into dilemmas when we create something new because when it hits the shelves something existing has to leave.
What makes the ingredients in Thomas Haas Chocolates so special?
Often companies work backwards and their budgets heavily impact the ingredients that they choose. Not us.
We focus on securing the best available ingredients. We say “we need this ingredient to make this product exceptional.” For example, we use vanilla beans that are over $500/kg. They are a staple in our recipes and we refuse to compromise. Or the decision we made to replace traditional flour with fine ground almond flour that is fifteen times the price.
What’s the toughest part of your work?
Not to bring work home with me.
Where do you want to go next with Thomas Haas Chocolates? What’s your goal?
We champion an anti-growth philosophy and we keep on stimulating ourselves to make the business better in all aspects from product innovation, to work environment, to sustainability, to shop culture, and I could go on and on.
What’s your favourite album right now?
Oh god! It’s what it has been for the past 30 years! I love, love, love disco, R&B and soul. Earth Wind & Fire, the Isley Brothers, Diana Ross, Lou Rawls, George Benson, KC & the Sunshine Band, Bee Gees and Michael Jackson……and then there is Buble. Yes, Michael Buble. I love him in the shop (please don’t ask my co-workers).
What books are you reading?
I just finished Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard from Patagonia and Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet by Jesse Itzle. Both are must-reads and both are very different. I am also always checking out self-help books. I need all the help I can get.
What are your favourite foods?
Simple and pure (also the tagline of a new line of products we are working on). I love cooking at home whenever I can. Usually, I don’t follow a cookbook or recipe but recently I started using Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi Sami Tamimi. I am loving the Middle Eastern approach to spices.
What’s your favourite Vancouver neighbourhood, and why?
I don’t get out to walk around a lot but I do like Edgemont Village on the North Shore. It is close to where we live and it is a quaint little village that is surrounded by nature.
Where do you like to travel the most, and why?
We make the occasional trip to Maui and I am drawn to anywhere that there are mountains and good food.
With a legacy of culinary excellence and a passion for crafting exquisite treats, Thomas Haas has risen as a renowned pastry chef, earning accolades and captivating taste buds worldwide.
Immerse yourself in the enchanting symphony of flavours and artistry at Thomas Haas Chocolates in Vancouver, BC, or delight someone special with our chocolate gift baskets, featuring his exquisite creations. If you're fortunate enough to experience the magic of Thomas Haas and his iconic chocolates, savour the knowledge that you've indulged in some of the finest confections available in Vancouver, BC.