Chocolatier Kate Weiser’s road to success
By Katie Miller
She drove down the highway, her Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder packed to the brim with her belongings, her bed comforter getting sucked through the hole in the soft top she called the vortex after someone cut it two years ago to break into her car.
This is how Kate Weiser made the move from her hometown in Kansas to Dallas in 2009 to be with her now-husband, a move that required her to leave her beloved pastry chef job for the unknown job scene in Dallas.
Fast forward to today and the San Francisco, California Culinary Academy graduate gets out of her baby blue Mini Cooper at Trinity Groves on a rainy Friday morning, her arms clutching Whole Foods bags that contain ingredients for the day’s ice cream recipe testing. She fumbles for her keys as she approaches the back entrance to her Kate Weiser Chocolate shop.
“When I first opened I lost my voice for three weeks. I felt like an overstimulated baby,” Weiser said.
The rapid success of Weiser and her shop, which opened in August of 2014, is palpable, yet she admits she has “tunnel vision” on the matter, focusing on one day and one obstacle at a time.
When she moved to Dallas, Weiser bounced around from cheese shop to pastry chef position at Nobu until she stumbled upon Chocolate Secrets in Highland Park, that was, at that time, looking for a new head chocolatier.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” the chef said, who admits that at 10 years old, she baked her way through an entire dessert cookbook. After several months of working at Chocolate Secrets and teaching herself the technique involved with creating chocolates, she received a review online that detailed how terrible her chocolates were.
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Weiser said, admitting that she cried a little before returning to the kitchen. The review forced the novice chocolatier to take her job seriously. Weiser said she spent a whole year tearing apart everything she was doing and refocusing on her technique in order to make chocolate that other chocolatiers would enjoy.
“Now when something goes wrong I know exactly what happened because I’ve made that mistake before,” she said.
The levelheaded chef stays humble and frugal, remembering her days driving with an umbrella poking out of the vortex of her Spyder in an attempt to stay dry.
“You can’t throw money at things. It’s always good to start with nothing because A. you appreciate it more and B. when something breaks you know how to fix it,” Weiser said.
As each bonbon or candy bar is popped out of its painted mold to reveal a chocolate that should really be considered art, the excess chocolate is re-melted down to be used again.
Weiser says the reason for naming the shop after herself is that the chocolates she creates are art and artwork is always recognized by the artist’s name. This move also follows in the famous footsteps of her idol, Jacques Torres, who started his career in pastry, much like Weiser, and went on to open his own chocolate shop, Jacques Torres Chocolate in 2000.
Weiser’s art project for this Friday morning was ice cream, a seasonal delicacy at Kate Weiser Chocolate.
“We’re going to make an un-godly amount of ice cream today. That’s what’s going to happen.” Weiser said jokingly to her staff as they arrived.
As Weiser and her assistant chef, Jessica Stampley, discuss the goals for the day, Stampley pulls out a sheet tray of cookie crumble she had been working on the night before. Together the two taste Stampley’s work and decide they need to add more cayenne pepper. Stampley said that Weiser and herself have very similar ideas when it comes to food but they each have different perspectives on how to a achieve each culinary idea.
Throughout the ice cream filled day, Weiser gives Stampley culinary free reign of the kitchen while she heads to the bank, stops at the store to get such opposites as woodchips and mascarpone, gets dinner with her husband, and returns with a smile and a “do I have something in my teeth?” as she begins greeting her evening crowd.
She stands poised behind the glass half wall of the open kitchen, as she has done nearly everyday since opening, as customers gather to watch her black gloved hands roll gold cocoa butter around chocolate caramel truffles, an action that leaves each chocolate looking more like a work of art.
“It’s hard for me to keep it simple,” Weiser said of her elaborate hand painted chocolates that range in flavors from key lime to mango habanero to sweet potato.
“This stuff is the reason I work here,” front of house staff and SMU Meadows graduate, Josh Kumler said, pointing to Weiser’s bacon toffee.
“I love texture. I love crunch,” Weiser said, crediting her love of texture, especially fruit and nut combinations, to eating too many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a child. Her unexpectedly delicious flavor combinations originate from her beliefs in good recipes having a balance of acidity, saltiness, and sweetness.
As customers realize that the small blonde transitioning from kitchen to register in her white chef coat is Kate Weiser, they seem shocked. This is how Weiser has branded herself.
Weiser believes that, “perception is everything. Perception is reality,” and has successfully created a chocolate shop from nothing that plays on people’s perceptions, a chocolate shop that showcases the chocolate as art and the chocolatier as an artist.
“I think people think I’m cooler than I am because my face is on the wall,” Weiser said.