How does a woman who relates to the world better with sweets than with words earn a living? If you're chocolatier, Alexandra Clark, you travel the world, studying with renowned pastry chefs, picking up skills along the way to one day open your very own chocolate shop called Bon Bon Bon in Hamtramck.
That's the background for Clark's new shop, which opened earlier this month, tucked away just off of Hamtramck's Joseph Campau at 2756 Evaline. Open to the public only on Saturdays, Clark uses the space to produce artisanal bon bons wholesale to high-end boutique hotels, natural food grocers and customers online.
Clark's love for sweets started when she was 14 and working in an ice cream shop. Something about it just felt right for Clark. So when it came time for her parents to push her to go to college, Clark's first reaction was, "I just want to work in an ice cream shop." Clark studied hospitality at Michigan State, because "it's like ice cream," she reasons and eventually went on to work as an agricultural economist in New Zealand, where she researched, what else, chocolate. She also honed her skills in Chicago and at Schoolcraft College in Livonia to learn the craft of French pastry making.
Bon Bon Bon. [Photo: Facebook]
"I'm better in chocolate than I am in words, I can express myself in chocolate," said Clark as she invited Eater Detroit to nibble on creations one recent Friday as she and a helper (her friend's mom) prepped orders. Clark was experimenting with a yet-to-be-released Boston Cream candy, a riff on the popular Vernor's float, to add to her Detroit collection, which already includes a classic nod to Hamtramck's love for the Polish Paczki in bon bon form - basically "two polite bites" of Polish berry preserves, yeast donut ganache, donut icing with a piece of glazed donut on top. Another is her Arabic coffee bon bon, inspired from her days workings as a pastry chef at the Detroit Athletic Club, where she and the stewards there would sip on Arabic coffee sprinkled with cardamom while on break.
The research was invaluable, Clark said. She learned about the lives of cocoa farmers globally and now that she's got Bon Bon Bon up and running, she knows the back stories of the farmers where her chocolate is sourced – she blends seven varieties to create her own white, milk and dark chocolates. But where she really comes alive is in her kitchen. And in the middle of Hamtramck, with neighbors like New Palace Bakery, the Beignets 2 Go donut truck, and Revolver, and fans like chef Josh Stockton of Gold Cash Gold, Clark is in good company. "I literally have world famous chefs (from Revolver) come peek in my door and see all my equipment and ask if they can come in and play."
-By Serena Maria Daniels
· Josh Stockton of Gold Cash Gold Talks Pork [-ED-]