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Chocolate as Clay

Caption: Chocolate Sculptress Emily McCracken demonstrates how to make an antique submarine helmet completely out of chocolate. Emily works with chocolate every day in Burlington, VT at Lake Champlain Chocolates and South End Kitchen.

"Oh, yeah!" said Chocolate Sculptress Emily McCracken as she placed a chocolate ribbon around the base of a nearly finished sculpture. At least 50 visitors were hunched in their chairs, their eyes glued to the stage in anticipation of what she would do next. Elaborate finished sculptures stood around the South End Kitchen workshop like delicious paintings at a gallery. On the opposite wall from the sculptures hung several blue aprons, each awaiting a new student for the chocolate bar making class that would be held later in the week. The smell of turkey paninis, cinnamon doughnuts, chocolate ice cream and other tasty treats occasionally wafted through the door from the kitchen’s adjacent cafe; however, no one was paying attention to what was happening outside of the workshop.

"If you decide to make a chocolate sculpture, make sure it’s the only thing you have scheduled for that day," Emily said taking her small carving blade to carefully scrape off the excess chocolate around three newly added drops. With delicate movements, she added painstaking details, applied chocolate glue and wrestled with the heat in the kitchen. Even with rain pouring down outside, the kitchen was heating up and tiny beads of sweat were beginning to build on Emily’s brow. To her left, her assistant, Gary, was whipping more chocolate into a paintable medium. The smell of melted chocolate wafted under noses. He seemed determined not to let the heat get to him as he smiled through the whole procedure, periodically wiping sweat away with his sleeve.

The sculpture, so close to being complete, started to wobble as Emily applied another belt of chocolate around its center. Her hand brushed its base and it tipped sideways toward the table. Sucking in her breath, she shot out her arms and caught it just before it face planted into the steel table. Everyone in the room held their breath. "It's ok, this wouldn't be art without a little drama," Emily said. Nervous laughter sprinkled the room.

Timing was everything. Trimming, molding and shaping had to take place at the precise moment or the chocolate would either be too gooey, and drip all over the place, or too solid, and shatter. Like a surgeon, Emily slowly trimmed at bits of the sculpture that most of us couldn’t even see. "I have to remember to breath," she said after several minutes of silence. She took a hard-bristled brush and began scraping the surface of the sculpture. Each swipe gave it an antique metallic look. Gold luster dust was then brushed on, adding a shimmery authentic touch. Finally, the last details are added and cracks were filled with dabs of melted chocolate.

“Viola!” said Emily jabbing her brush in the air. “A tiny submarine helmet!”

- Clare Hancock

February 16, 2015
Emily McCracken stays busy sculping many different things from chocolate. This owl was one of our favorites. Credit: Chris Scotti.

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