Katherine Clapner of Dude, Sweet Chocolate Talks Her Chocolate Company’s Backstory, Its Future And Why She Enjoys Giving Chocolate A Different Twist.
Welcome to The Quickie, our series featuring a short ‘n’ sweet, quick ‘n’ dirty interview with a local small business owner, chef or creative that we think our readers should better know.
Dude, Sweet Chocolate has been a mainstay of the Dallas sweets scene since chef Katherine Clapner and co-founder Redding May set up shop in the Bishop Arts District at the end of 2009. Since then, the company has expanded and added locations along Lower Greenville and in Plano to its portfolio. And it’s not showing any signs of slowing down, either: Dude, Sweet is currently working with an area hotel giant (more on that below) and talking about adding even more new locations.
Of course, for Clapner, the high-pressure nature of the food game wasn’t anything new for her when she first opened Dude, Sweet. Prior to opening that first chocolate shop, Clapner studied at the Culinary Institute of America, learning from chefs who hailed from Germany, Austria, Belgium and France. After that, she would go on to work as a pastry chef at restaurants in Venice, New Orleans and London with some of the culinary world’s most important names, like Charlie Trotter, Stephan Pyles and Kevin Graham.
She then came to Dallas and gifted the city with an often quirky, always cool Dallas institution that boasts a distinctly culinary edge. With flavors like curry, porcini or blue cheese combined with its chocolates, Dude, Sweet Chocolate is a truly gourmet and always memorable delight.
Now, with more locations in the works, we just had to learn more about Clapner and her shop. So we reached out to her for an interview.
Here’s how that went.
OK, let’s start with the Dude, Sweet backstory. Where did it come from, what’s your background and what made you decide to get into the quirky chocolate biz?
We started with a project for my business partner, Redding May, while he was at Merrill Lynch. I made their client Christmas gifts in 2008. What was supposed to be 50 turned into 150, all of which I made at my house. I realized that focusing on only chocolate was way more fun [than what I was doing previously]. I then came up with the name and started selling them at farmers markets. Many folks do not know that, for a brief period, Meaders [Moore Ozarow] at Empire Bakery let me use their kitchen to test and whatnot. I did this for around eight months, then ran into Redding again at Lee Harveys and stated that I wanted to make this into a business. He funded the business, and we opened December 5, 2009, in Bishop Arts and have not looked back — well, most of the time — since.
What might folks not know about your chocolate in particular or about chocolate in general?
Most folks know us as a dark chocolate-focused place and think we strive to make strange things. That really is not the case. I like to use alternate ingredients for a purpose. For example, blue cheese is salt and acid to me, porcini mushroom keeps a toffee from being too sweet and garbanzos are candied for a nut crunch alternative. I am classically trained, but think there are many ingredients that will fulfill traditional needs or wants without using the usual suspects of citrus, berries and whatnot.
Do you ever eat sweets at home?
Yes, of course I do! But I really eat stupid healthy and can live on apples or grapes as my sweet go-to. I always have our Holiday in Cambodia bar at my house for my sweet fix, though. And I make ice cream because I love to eat it.
What’s your favorite place to eat out in Dallas?
My favorite places to eat have recently changed, but I will narrow it down to four: Ten Ramen, Los Almas Rotas, FT33 and Bullion.
What’s the most exciting thing you’re working on right now?
The most exciting stuff coming is a seed spread with caramelized chocolate and tahini; a giant hotel project with The Ritz that has forced us to solve a long-time need for our clients and is super badass; some chai and matcha rollos that you can eat or let melt into a milky chai or matcha drink; and a chocolate baby arm for Brian Luscher.
That’s a lot of things. What’s next for Dude Sweet?
We are currently in talks with some folks about a new location in Fort Worth as well as Austin. Appears to be coming in pretty strong for Fall 2018.
Cover image courtesy of Dude, Sweet Chocolate. Know another food business worth highlighting in this space? Message foodbitch! Like a good cover band, she takes requests.