Dude, Sweet's Katherine Clapner: One Saucy Chocolatier

Categories: Interviews

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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.

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Dude, Sweet Chocolate

408 W. 8th St., Dallas, TX

Category: Restaurant

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13 comments
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runDMC
runDMC

The only part that makes me go hmmm... is the part about a great restaurant in Lubbock.That I would like to see. Please inquire, this could be a turning point in my interest in TTech.

Gmit
Gmit

There was once great Ethoian there really, but being a West Texan I can't say First hand.

I've gone back, to restaurants I could never afford in college, and even the steak wast great so I get your point.

TLS
TLS

Going back to part 1 of this series, Ms. Clapner states that she "graduated" from the CIA and yet she clearly states that she did not return there after her externship.  How can one graduate without finishing the program?  Furthermore, the CIA is not in New York City.  It is two hours away in Hyde Park, NY.

This graduate of the CIA does not appreciate someone claiming the honor of a CIA degree when it appears that such an honor was never awarded.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

I fail to see the utility of a CIA degree.  No less a personage than CIA graduate Anthony Bourdain has said that if you want a great cooking career forget CIA and get the best jobs you can to learn your skills.  Forget the CIA, is her food good and is she making enough of a profit to keep making good food?  It wasn't like she was lying on her resume to get a national security job.  Her proof is in pudding.

TLS
TLS

If you don't care if what you read is fact or fiction that is on you.  I do care about that.  I never once said anything about the importance or necessity of a degree from anywhere. But seeing as you aren't concerned with facts then go ahead and continue to make shit up.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

What shit am I making up?  You are the one unduly concerned about minor inaccuracies and omissions so immaterial as to not be worthy of a public correction.  The lady doth protest too much, me thinks.

Laurendrewesdaniels
Laurendrewesdaniels

I'll look up my notes on it. But, off the top of my head... she particularly went to the pastry school and it was the first or second year that wing had been established. Then, she also said that back then students did their externship after one year. She did. And was learning so much at the Savoy she decided to stay as there... regradless. I'll be back in a bit... 

Laurendrewesdaniels
Laurendrewesdaniels

My transcribing was incorrect. She said, "I went to the CIA in New York, which was great because I went into the city every weekend." 

TLS
TLS

Ok, then.  You transcribed what was said.  My first post stands.

LaurenDrewesDaniels
LaurenDrewesDaniels

The word "City" was added after New York. Other than that, the text is verbatim from our interview based on my tape of it: "The CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in New York, which was great because I went into New York City every weekend. I graduated in '88/'89 and at that time it was only the second year of their pastry school. It was really cool back then because it was all the old school German, Austrian, Belgian and French chefs. It was a completely different world back then." 

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

WTF? This was a food interview, not a job interview.  No one but you cares about these silly distinctions.  No one but you cares if the chef went to the CIA or Cordon Bleu  or Dallas Community College.  College, university, graduate studies, even the esteemed Ivy League member CIA, are intended to train you for getting on with your life, at which point what you have done and what you are doing trivializes your GPA at the CIA.  Get off your high pony.

And Lauren--the interview was great, the photos were great, and I am going to Oak Cliff to buy some chocolate from someone who may have once attended a trade school in New York.

TLS
TLS

I was at the CIA during the same time period as Katherine (we overlapped a year) so I know exactly how the program worked back then.  Externships started after 8 months.  We didn't even hit the pastry part of the program until after externship.   

There is a huge difference between saying "I went to the CIA" and "I graduated from the CIA" so I don't understand how you, Lauren, could change "went" to "graduated".  Why do you write your interviews in a style that suggests the words from the chef are verbatim?  I take issue with that entire CIA section.  Did she say those words or not?

primi timpanao
primi timpanao

"I miss driving there and stopping at Best Stop for the best crackling in the entire world."

Best boudin in the world, too.

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