Andrew Kennard is an unlikely chocolatier. The creator of award-winning Desire4food and Kennard’s Artisan Chocolates is a former accountant who left a flourishing practice, after a life-changing event caused him to reassess his life.
“My mother, Sheila, was an event caterer and I used to help her from the age of 14,” says the 53-year old father of two. “At 18, I chose accountancy over catering as I thought it was the safer option. I could always do cooking later.”
Kennard qualified at top accountancy practice BDO in 1990 and by 1994, had his own practice specialising in high-end fashion. Clients included rap star, Kanye West. “I have always been creative and think in terms of images. A lot of designers are dyslexic and find it hard to talk to accountants. I used pictures and graphs to explain financials to them. It was fun.”
In January 2009, he suddenly began losing his sight. “The doctors at Moorfields had no idea why it was happening. It’s called spontaneous sight loss and affected first one eye and then the other.”
By January 2010, Kennard had cataracts in both eyes. He’d lost vision in his right eye and had only 15 per cent remaining in his left. It took seven operations and many procedures before his sight returned.
He continued to practice as an accountant, providing strategic advice, but the experience was a tipping point, pushing him to give up the numbers and return to his first love — food. In 2012, he founded Desire4 food, a company producing a general range of artisan food. Sweets were a speciality.
“I’d done a lot of desserts for my mother and had carried on helping her on a Sunday until she retired in 1997. I’ve always liked working with chocolate. Once you have the basics you can play around with it and I watched YouTube videos to find out more about techniques.”
At that stage, the chocolates were simple chocolate truffles. “From there I developed more flavours — praline; white chocolate truffle; dark chocolate truffle and salted caramel.” Asked to do a chocolate tasting at high-end London Indian restaurant Chutney Mary’s he created new combinations: honey and thyme, Assam tea, and chilli with cardamom.
City clients asked him to create bespoke flavours for events and he started selling at pop-up shops in City office buildings — which he still does.
Kennard’s Artisan Chocolates, the kosher range, is licensed by the Federation of Synagogues and is also vegan. It came about through popular demand. “People kept asking us to make parev chocolate, as it is hard to find good quality, parev filled chocolates. We launched it at last year’s Gefiltefest.”
Quality is key for Kennard. “To me, artisan means taking traditional methods, your love and passion and putting all of that into each product. It’s caring about the chocolate.” Nine months after creating the kosher range, he entered the Academy of Chocolate awards. “We were up against chocolatiers like Hotel Chocolat and Paul E Young, and came away with two awards — for our peanut butter flavour and for our triple espresso coffee flavour, which is shaped like a coffee capsule.” Kennards has also now won two Guild of Fine Foods Great Taste Awards this year, for their coffee and spiced fruit cup. “We make the coffee one with 100 per cent Arabica coffee. I roast the peanuts myself for the peanut butter flavour.”
His mum’s recipes are still an inspiration. “She used to make a cake with cinnamon, a mixture of spices and dried fruits, and I turned the flavours into a chocolate which we call fruit spice. It has won awards and is a lovely one to eat. You watch people as the different flavours come through gradually. All of our chocolates have proper flavours in them.”
Kennard — whose wife, Felisa looks after operations for his company — noticed that kosher stockists saw a peak on sales on a Thursday and Friday morning so decided to launch their Shabbat Chocolate club. “It allows customers to get a gift box delivered weekly. We include a snippet of that week’s Sedra.”
With business growing, he plans to move production from the Chabad House Kitchen in Buckhurst Hill to a brand new 1,000 square feet commercial kitchen. “We are crowd funding to raise the £150,000 we need to do this and so we can build our export business.”
From counting beans to cocoa beans, Kennard has no regrets.
Find the crowd-funding campaign at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/Kennardsartisanchocolates
The Jewish Chronicle and the Shabbat Chocolate Club, are offering three lucky readers the chance to win a chocolate gift sent to a loved one every month for a year. For your chance to win, go to www.thejc.com/shabbatclub