An Interview With La Chocolatrice

Eating Out in Newcastle, Interviews

Hi Zoë!

Thank you so much for joining Tickets in Newcastle for an interview about your amazing chocolaterie in Newcastle City Centre, La Chocolatrice. 

As we’re in lockdown at the moment we are doing this interview via email, but I can’t wait to visit your shop once it’s open again! 


Making chocolate sounds like an incredible job. Could you please tell us how you got started as an artisan chocolate maker? Where did your passion come from? 

I have always loved chocolate. For as long as I can remember it has been my favourite treat. Whether I was being given chocolate by grandparents, or saving my pocket money to buy two vanilla truffles from Thornton’s each Saturday, it was always part of my childhood. 

When I was 18 I moved to Avallon, a small town in the centre of France. While there I worked as an au pair and one of my jobs was to make the afternoon snack. I’ve always liked cooking but this was where my chocolate love story really came into its own. Over the course of the year, the afternoon snack became bigger and more complicated, and I’d often visit the local patisserie for ideas and inspiration. I also spent a lot of time sampling the delicious treats at the local patisserie, which I enjoyed immensely!

I moved to Paris a couple of years later, and took every opportunity to improve my baking and patisserie skills. I attended quite a few courses while I lived there, but the one thing that stood out to me was chocolate! I will never forget the first time I made an Easter egg – it was so much fun! I started experimenting with chocolate and different chocolate recipes, and upon returning to the UK, I began working part time for a chocolatier in Leeds, while studying at University.

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You recently opened your own premises on Westgate Road called La Chocolatrice. What made you decide to open your own shop and is there a story behind it?

Until June 2019, I had been working for a few years in the North East, as a French and Spanish teacher. Owning my own chocolate shop has always been my dream, and although I loved my job, I knew that if I didn’t do it now, I never would.

After handing in my notice, I spent the whole summer making plans, but the one thing I couldn’t decide upon was the name.  I was on holiday with a friend, and I’d told her the problem that I had.  She spent the whole week making suggestions (some of them okay, some of the ridiculous), and it was on the last night, we were in bed and it was dark and she whispered, “What about La Chocolatrice?” and we both loved it. We had lived in France together, and studied together at University, and in French, a lot of professions have a masculine and a feminine title. Chocolatier didn’t so she made one up, La Chocolatrice. 


Could you tell us a bit about what you offer at La Chocolatrice? 

La Chocolatrice is the only independent chocolate shop in the centre of Newcastle.  We stock a range of handmade chocolate bars and other chocolatey treats, and we also teach Chocolate Making Workshops.

During a Chocolate Truffle Making Workshop, you will learn how to make delicious chocolate truffles, chocolate flakes, and chocolate crisps, experimenting with flavours and techniques. Workshops are all very hands-on and you take home everything that you make – lots of delicious chocolates! Each workshop lasts from between 90 minutes to two hours and is the perfect way to celebrate any special occasion, or just have fun!

I am currently working on some new workshops which I will be releasing soon, such as a chocolate bar making workshop and an Easter Egg making workshop next year.

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What’s it like running the chocolate making workshops and do you have loads of fun doing them?

I love running workshops. I always say that I have managed to create myself my dream job. I have combined my love of teaching with my love of chocolate, and I get to chat to people while making delicious treats.

No two workshops are ever the same and I meet so many lovely people every day. I feel really lucky to be doing something that I love.


What kind of feedback have you received from the good people of Newcastle about your products? 

People seem to be really enjoying both the chocolate and the workshops, which is lovely! In the shop I have my regular customers, some who have been coming since my very first day.  It’s lovely because you get to know people. I was worried, leaving teaching, that I wouldn’t like working by myself but I meet new, interesting people every day.



What is your favourite type of chocolate and why? 

I always find this question really hard because the honest answer is that I love it all!  I think I have a different favourite for every occasion. I love really good quality dark chocolate. One of my favourite things that I’ve done recently was a chocolate tasting, and we tasted lots of different single origin chocolate. There was a variety of chocolate, made from beans grown all around the world. It was amazing to taste the difference between chocolate made from beans grown in Ecuador, and chocolate made from beans grown in Tanzania. They were both delicious, but completely different flavours! 

My current favourite bar from my range is the caramel filled milk chocolate bar. I made it as a one off, but I enjoyed eating it so much that it is now a permanent addition to my range. I think enjoying chocolate is about more than just the taste. Obviously you want a fantastic flavour, but it is the whole experience that makes a great chocolate bar. The appearance, the snap, the smell, and more all have to be amazing to make it just right.

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What are your plans for yourself and for La Chocolatrice once we are safely out of lockdown?

During lockdown I have been working on developing the range of chocolate I stock at La Chocolatrice. I have also been running Friday Night Chocolate sales. At 7pm every Friday I open my online chocolate shop, and each week I sell a different chocolate treat box. Treat boxes contain three bars of chocolate and a pack of delicious chocolate buttons, and the flavours change each week. This has been going really well. I’m really enjoying this project, but I’m also very new to selling online.

After lockdown, I’d like to continue working on my Online Chocolate Shop, as I find it really exciting sending my chocolate all around the country.  Really though, I can’t wait to reopen La Chocolatrice, start running workshops again, and welcome back all of my lovely customers! 

You can find out more about La Chocolatrice as well as purchase Zoë’s workshops and chocolate on her website, here;

https://www.lachocolatrice.co.uk/

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An Interview with I, Daniel Blake Star Dave Johns on Supporting Newcastle’s Foodbank’s

Interviews

Hi Dave!

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to Tickets in Newcastle. Under the current circumstances we are doing this interview over email, but it’s so great to speak to you!

You starred in the film I, Daniel Blake, which was released in 2016 and received an incredible response, even winning the BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film of the Year. The film, directed by Ken Loach, focussed on poverty in the North East of England as well the benefits system, class and empathy. 

The first time I saw I, Daniel Blake, I was left feeling heartbroken. Particularly at one scene that was filmed in Newcastle’s West End Foodbank, which highlights how food banks work and the desperation that a lot of people who need to use them are driven to. Even since the films release, poverty in Newcastle is still high. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 people in the UK live below the poverty line, and in 2018 the West End Food Bank donated 38,881 three-day emergency food supplies to people in the local area. 

With the current situation surrounding the lockdown due to Corona Virus, food banks are under even more pressure to provide food for those who are struggling in the present environment.

You’re currently working closely with the West End Food Bank, to help raise awareness of how people can support their amazing work.

Dave Johns starred in I, Daniel Blake

Could you please tell us a bit about how you first became involved with The West End Food Bank?

I first came into contact with West End Food back when I filmed I, Daniel Blake. It was the compassions of the volunteers that struck me.How much care they took helping the clients that use the foodbank, it was very moving. So whenever I can help, I do. 

I have been on celebrity chase twice and got them £2,000. I nearly had them £68,000 but failed right at the end! 

Before you starred in I, Daniel Blake, were you aware of how much organisations like food banks were needed in the North East?

I never knew food banks existed before I Daniel Blake. As Ken Loach doesn’t give you a script, you get a few pages the night before to learn. So when Dan, my character, turns up at the food bank with the other characters, Katie and the kids, and I turned up on set at the West End Foodbank, it’s the first time for me also. Not just the characters on screen. It was a shock and an eye opener I can tell you.

Food banks are becoming more crucial in the North East

Why is the West End Food Bank so crucial to the North East?

It’s a place where if you’re in need you know you’ll get help. In the fifth richest country in the world there should be no need for food banks. And with the coronavirus the focus on help is more important, many people need help now.

To be hungry in England in 2020 is a national disgrace. 

Did you ever dream that I, Daniel Blake would have such an impact on raising awareness of what people who rely on the benefits system go through every day?

No I didn’t. I was so happy to be working with Ken loach, I never thought it would have the impact it had. It’s because it had truth and honesty and dignity. People for the first time thought ‘That could be my dad, my grandad, or Katie could be my daughter’.

How do you feel that the current situation regarding Covid-19 is going to affect food banks in the UK?

A lot of people now with the coronavirus lockdown, who have lost work, will sadly get to see first hand how hard it is being on benefits and not having food. I hope people will see our video and do something, however small, and donate food, donate a fiver or whatever you can do. It all counts.

How are you coping with the current lockdown, and what advice would you give to anyone finding it difficult?

Me, I’m writing a few scripts so I’ve got work to do from home. Keeping a routine, going for a walk, cooking, watching movies. I’ve been by myself for 3 weeks now, it’s a bit weird. But we’ll get through this crazy time. I still think some people don’t really get it. 

Lastly, how can people access support from food banks, and how can we help to support local food banks?

You can watch the video that I have made with the West End Food Bank, it’s all on there, or you can donate, here;

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/displayCharityCampaignPage.action?campaignId=11630&charityId=1017021

You can also follow Dave Johns on Twitter @davejohnscomic to see his latest projects and updates.

An Interview with MXYM

Interviews

Sitting in Starbucks opposite Central Station, I excitedly waited for one of Newcastle’s most vibrant creative’s to arrive. Lucky enough to work with him briefly during my time at Northern Stage, Max, known by his stage name MXYM, was always someone I loved to see on shift.

His positive energy and sense of humour give him an irresistible charm. He’s a character who’s even lovelier off stage than on. That’s not to downplay his talent, of course. MXYM is a unique and flamboyant performer that emanates a gorgeous stage presence.

He’s just released his latest single San Clemente Syndrome, to add to his already impressive collection of original songs. He also regularly performs with Newcastle’s very own House of Love, who are made up of an ensemble of Newcastle’s brightest up and coming queer artists.

When MXYM arrives, he’s wearing a bright orange jumper with a pumpkin face on it, completely undeterred that Halloween is a long way off. He has his signature cool hair styled and a cheeky smile that lit up the room.

Images by TJMov (see @tj.mov on Instagram)

Can You Tell Us A Bit About Your New Single, San Clemente Syndrome?

My new single, San Clemente Syndrome, wow, that’s a big question!

It’s based on a chapter in the book Call Me By Your Name called The San Clemente Syndrome, which is basically a long side track in the story which was totally ignored in the movie, but it’s one of the best parts of the book because it really helps you understand the point of the book and the narrative. So, San Clemente is a church in Rome that was built on top of a church, that was built on top of a church, so when historians were looking at it they just kept discovering more and more churches. In the book, there is a poet that writes a poem called The San Clemente Syndrome and the poem is basically about what it is to be human, in the sense of we’re just layers built on layers, built on layers of history. And that you might look at a picture of yourself in the past and not really recognise that person because it is a different person. You’re the same person in an obvious sense, but through time you’re a completely different person. You might look at someone who you were once in love with, but it was a different you that was in love with them, so those emotions are kind of fractured. So, it’s all about that. It’s a deep dive into a dissection of the human experience through relationships.

And then on a more base line level it’s told through a story of a man discovering the fact that he is in love with another man. He marries a woman but discovers he’s in love with another man, and then it also deals with the idea of he’s fallen in love, and that’s a gorgeous thing, he’s understood who he is, finally. If you look at it on that baseline, that’s really, really lovely and if this was a movie that would be the happy ending. But then you’ve got this woman who’s heartbroken and if love can be so gorgeous to bloom such happiness, how can love also be so hurtful? How can it be one and the same? It’s very deep!

Images by TJMov (see @tj.mov on Instagram)

Where Has Your Passion For Music And Performing Come From?

There has never been a moment in my life where I haven’t wanted to perform in some aspect. When I was a kid I used to think that I wanted to be a musical theatre actor, and then I did musical theatre at college and realised that I cannot bare to be with these people any longer! But it’s always been music based, like with musical theatre it wasn’t about the acting, it was about the music, and even before I was doing musical theatre it was a love for music that got me into it. But when I did musical theatre it was a case of I was pushed as ‘the punk one’. If we were doing acting through song lessons I would always be told to ‘do the American Idiot song’ or the, like, rock musical song. So I was always the punk rock guy in an MT college. So, it was always about the music not the musical theatre, and I just always have been performing and outlandish.

My Nanna Dot would always dress me up in costumes, well, I say she would always dress me up but I would dress up and she would happily oblige. And she showed me The Rocky Horror Show when I was 6, and I think that had a big inspiration, and my Mum always tells me the story of when she came to pick me up from my Nanna’s and I was there, at 6 years old, in fishnet tights and full makeup going “Mum I’m Frank N. Furter!” and she was like “… I can see that!”. So yeah, it was just instilled through all the creative people in my life to love music, to love art, to love performance and be performative.

How Would You Describe Yourself As An Artist?

A mess!

Too in-depth for my own good, see question one, haha! And desperate to have more fun. I think when I started writing it came from a dark place from me trying to understand things about myself and feel happier about it. But now I’m at a point where I wanna have fun, and so as an artist I wanna be a fun artist, I want to be an artist that people can listen to and still deal with the bad things but enjoy dealing with it a bit more.

I’m quite free, I’m a free artist. I just love art, I’m an arts artist. I’m like full art hoe, I just love all aspects of art, everything. Like, I’m a musician but I love photography, I love the imagery, the music videos, the colours, the way the song feels or the textures of the sounds, everything about the art I just eat up. I love it, that’s the artist I am.

Do You Have Plans For A Full Album Any Time Soon?

Not an album, but more of a gallery. If you look at my current releases, all the single covers are portraits of me, and so this year I’m planning to have five new singles out, towards the end of next year I would like to release an Arthouse collection. Which is more of a Wallace collection or something that you’d see at the London Gallery. So, a collection of songs rather than one cohesive album, it’s a gallery. Lots of individual pieces that come together to make up a nice enjoyable walk around.

Who Would Your Dream Artist Be To Collaborate With?

Well, that’s a big question, because, the go to for me would be Marilyn Manson, because he’s my number one. But I don’t think MXYM and Marilyn Manson would make a great pairing. I think we’d be good friends, but I don’t think we’d make good songs together. I think me and Troye Sivan would make a really, really cool song together. Allie X is one of my biggest inspirations, I think we would write something really cool together. I think me and Bjork? Why not? Why not? Erm… Motley Crue. I would love to do a song with Motley Crue. That would be fun!

As An Artist, Where Do You See Yourself In A Years Time?

Dead. Haha!

In years time, well I already know what single I’m releasing next January, but I won’t talk about that yet. In a years time I’d like to be a bit more known. Realistically I’m not going to be major label, in an arena tour, as nice as that would be. But, to be gigging more regularly, having more Spotify listeners, be on Spotify playlists. The nice stuff, that’s where I see myself. Just growing, gradually, like a frog in slowly boiling hot water.

Images by TJMov (see @tj.mov on Instagram)

How Has Living In The North East Inspired You As An Artist, And What Opportunities Do You Think That You’ve Found Here That Have Supported Your Growth As A Performer?

I think the creative scene, we obviously have more of a theatre based presence, so the theatre scene has so many cool and fun creative people in it, that are also sweet and kind and supportive and that’s a really, really nice atmosphere to be around. I’m also part of The House Of Love, which is made up of all people who I met from working at Northern Stage and meeting them through the theatre scene. So, through that I think that The House of Love is such a good part of Newcastle’s culture, I know that’s a bit big headed of me as part of it to say that, but last year we did a whole tour of the UK and that tour brings Newcastle’s art to places like London and gives it a stage. But also, when touring, at each show we do we have two guest spots to have local artists, so that builds connections between Newcastle queer art and, say, Derby queer art. This year we’ll be able to give them an opportunity to bring work up North and that’s a really cool thing that’s come out of the North East, just out of young, queer creatives that just want… more, and saw an empty space and took it. Newcastle creative’s are really good at seeing an empty space and going ‘well that doesn’t exist so I’ll make it’. As opposed to going ‘why is this not a thing?’, they’ll just make that thing and I think that’s really cool.

What Are The Biggest Goals That You’d Like To Achieve?

I’d like to win a Grammy. I’d like to have my Star Is Born moment and get a Grammy and pee myself on stage. That would be fun! And that would make a Twitter moment… MXYM in his 12ft gown pee’s himself, haha! I’d like to do that. I’d like to do a show that is in a warehouse, like a full artsy extravaganza with weird performance art happening in every corner and sculptures and visuals, and textures for people to feel just in this big warehouse with neon lights. I’d like that! And that’s achievable within a couple of years. Like, warehouse, Grammy. Solid five year plan there. I’d like to release more music, and you know what, I’m gonna, I’m gonna.

MXYM’s latest single San Clemente Sydrome is available on streaming services now

Images by TJMov (see @tj.mov on Instagram)