It takes quite the chocolatier to create all the magic of Easter – without the bunny.
But that’s what Stuart and his team at Enigma Fine Chocolates have achieved, as customers – eager to indulge in handmade artisan truffles – stream through the doors of the Canberra store ahead of the Easter holiday season.
A family business, which Stuart started with his wife in 2015 as a side hustle run out of a small studio next to their home, has now grown to a bricks-and-mortar shop and an e-commerce enabled website.
Stuart is a fully-qualified commercial and pastry chef, who has been in the industry for over 20 years. He has gained a vast knowledge of all aspects of the industry, including managing and running all sections of a kitchen and training of kitchen and floor staff. Trained in French cuisine, he worked at many hatted restaurants, including Vue de monde in Melbourne.
He discovered his love for baking, pastry and chocolate while working in France and England, before bringing his expertise as a chocolatier to Canberra.
“In the early days we started off at home and doing the local markets with the kids on weekends,” Stuart says.
“That slowly eventuated into needing a bigger space, so we got the shop… Now we are needing more space for production and storage, so we are planning to expand.”
Even starting out, the signs of bigger things to come were there, with their artisan truffles winning a string of awards including 2017 Champion Australian Small Producer and 2018 Best Chocolate – Best in Class.
“We entered seven of our truffles and five got gold, silver and bronze,” Stuart said. “It was a huge boost for us – just knowing that people liked what we were doing – it meant a lot.”
For Enigma Fine Chocolates, business is busy this Easter – the first in two years to be uninhibited by pandemic related restrictions in trading and movement.
“It’s definitely been noticeably busier than we’ve seen over the past couple of years,” Stuart says.
“Luckily for us, chocolate was a comfort food during the pandemic. People would buy our products for their own comfort or to send as a gift to let family and friends know they were thinking of them.”
Enigma’s website also helped keep a pulse in the business when face-to-face customer service became challenging.
“We had a website prior to the pandemic, but it wasn’t 100 per cent,” Stuart says. “The pandemic was the kick we needed to update our website. It has helped our business because now people can order from anywhere in Australia – that’s been good for us.”
Another key pandemic-related challenge Stuart has had to contend with has been supply chain disruptions.
“Supply chain issues have been a huge factor in terms of getting the high-quality chocolate we use, not to mention our packaging,” Stuart says.
“There’s been delays and levies, but we try not to let it impact the business too much.
“Just like everyone else, we have had to wade through it. Thankfully we are at the point now where we can stockpile a bit more and have the storage capability to maintain the chocolate quality.”
Visit Enigma Fine Chocolates at enigmafinechocolates.com.au