Dude, Sweet's Katherine Clapner: One Saucy Chocolatier
In the final segment of our three-part interview with Katherine Clapner of Dude, Sweet Chocolate, we discuss how she runs her little shop of wonder, plus her take on foods in different cities. Check Part 1 for some of her background and Part 2 for her take on the Dallas food scene.
How has your style changed over the past 20 years in terms of how you run your kitchen?
I definitely have a much softer approach. Every once in a while, not so much. I've learned that the people that work for me, we get along really, really well. But, I have to treat it as a business and when we work so closely all the time it can seem like family, and the lines can blur.
Are you a screaming chocolate maker?
I have been before. But, I've found that I have a voice that doesn't need to yell, so I can get a point across pretty strongly.
Have you ever thrown anything?
Yeah, it's been a long time though.
There's definitely a fun vibe in your store/kitchen. Do you ever have to crack the whip?
It is a fun environment, and I set it up that way. Some of us have been together for over 20 years, and it's a really good relationship because there's so much history. By knowing me so well, they know what my expectations are. I can go in and say something is wrong and they can find what it is. But, if I have to repeat myself, my tone changes. "Did it say to do that? No.? Then, why the fuck did you do it?"
Do you listen to their input?
Sometimes my guys will come up with ways to make things easier. And a lot of times they're right because they're in the kitchen more than I am.
Right now it's a somewhat small operation -- two to four people, depending on the season, work with you in your kitchen. Do you enjoy that aspect?
I like it, but it's not going to be the reality. In order for this business to grow, that's going to change drastically. You can only go so far in 860 square feet. And half the space is retail. Everything is done out of that one shop. There are so many aspects to it. To picking designs, constantly picking new flavors, packaging that works, making sure everything is in, trying to plan things so that they're not working or packing during a busy time when the front of the store is packed with customers. It's like a walnut shell game to me. Everyday I have no idea what the hell is under each shell.
You've traveled a lot in your career -- including working in London, New Orleans, Italy and Chicago. What is your favorite food city?
I don't have a favorite food city. There's great food everywhere. I've been to a great restaurant in Lubbock. In larger cities, there are a greater number of ethnic styles -- like, in Arlington you have little Vietnam. And there are things that are apparent to each city. For example, perfect kolaches are in Schulenburg, Texas. But, I don't see it as a city thing. I don't think I've found my favorite food or favorite food city yet. Or even my favorite recipe. I think it's still all out there.
You worked at the Windsor Court in New Orleans after your stint in London following pastry school. What do you miss about New Orleans?
Oysters that don't cost a fortune. And a po'boy from Tracey's. I miss everything at Butchers. I miss driving there and stopping at Best Stop for the best crackling in the entire world.