Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Meet the Woman behind Mel's Toffee

Michelle at All Things Detroit
Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate, we've looked at a lot of chocolate toffee over the years but it has been a while since we found a new brand. Today I want to introduce you to the woman behind Mel's Toffee, a brand and a product that our own Chocolate Coconut Acolyte, Lisa, discovered and has been enjoying for some time now. This coming Saturday we'll feature some of that toffee but today let's meet, Michelle Williamson.

Thank you for answering some questions from us, Michelle. 

Thanks for the interview.  Let the fun begin!!

Let's begin with your job title, "Chief Toffee Officer" what does that mean and how long have you held that office? 

Chief Toffee Officer means I am IT.  I do everything in this company from the production of the toffee, the packaging, marketing, delivering, event planning......I wear many, many hats.  Some better than others.

On your website you say that Mel's Toffee began as a "5 layer pretzel company" -- what was that called and it it still around today? 

The name of the company was called MEL'S Toffee and Treats, it was a chocolate company.  I used to make chocolate covered pretty much anything.....then it just became too diverse. I made 5 layer pretzels for gifts, showers and different parties. The layers were: Caramel, Rice Krispies, Chocolate, whatever I sprinkled on top and a drizzle of chocolate.

The company just kept growing in many directions and I wasn't able to keep up with what everyone wanted.  So, I chose toffee....and still can't keep up.  I wish I were able to make every flavor that pops into my head.....but.....sadly...can't.  The toffee business is fun, growing by the week, hard work, but rewarding at the same time. 

Do you have formal training as a chef or has your creation of those layered pretzels and now your toffee grown from a lifetime of cooking? 

Growing up, my Dad was always into gourmet cooking. Think pheasant under glass...yep, that was him.  In order to get my way through college, I was a waitress in fine dining restaurants.  Being in that environment reawakened my zest for food and deepened my appreciation of the word foodie. I have no formal training.  I am 100% self taught and have many burns on my hands to prove that.

Why is your brand "Mel's Toffee"? Are you Mel?

I am the "M" in Mel's.  Mel's stands for (me)Michelle and daughters Erin and Lauren.  I was hunting for a name and it came to me in a dream one night and it stuck.  And....to answer a popular question, NO, my girls don't help.

Of course this is The Chocolate Cult so we are interested in chocolate but toffee does not need or even normally have chocolate. Yet all of your flavors include chocolate. Why did you decide to include it?

Lots of toffees I have seen/eaten are enrobed in chocolate.  You mostly get the chocolate with a bit of toffee.  Mine is mostly toffee with a drizzle of chocolate. As I was concocting the flavors, I had to think of a way to keep the toffee from sticking together.  By placing the drizzle on the toffee, that helps.

How did you come up with the idea of using alcohol to make four of your seven flavors? What challenges did you have to overcome when using this unique ingredient?

One of my first flavors was Honey Dark Rum.  I found the recipe someplace and wanted to give it a whirl. At first, it was selling, then it petered off.  I had to replace it with something.  Thus, Maple Bourbon Pecan. To this day. Maple Bourbon is one of my best sellers. THAT one is just like a Pecan Pie in a toffee form.

The first inspector balked at me using alcohol.  I told her that it cooks off after 20 minutes, so it's all good!!

I haven't had any challenges with the alcohol, really.  The only challenge I have is which brewery do I hit up next to see if they'll do a collab.  So far, Right Brain has used it twice for their collaboration day.  The toffee beer has gotten all the way down to Indiana.

You have seven flavors of toffee, of these do you have a favorite, and if so, which flavor is it and why?

Picking a favorite is like picking my favorite daughter.  I like all the flavors for different reasons.

Sea Salt Pretzel is sweet and salty and just plain irresistible

Maple Bourbon is like a Pecan Pie in a toffee form.  I love the maple-y flavor and the rich pecan flavor

Plain Jane sometimes just hits the spot.  It's simple and pure.  Just really good.

Peanut Butter is made with salted Virginia peanuts.  You still get that sweet/salty taste with that.

Totally a guy flavor Coconut Almond is like a Mounds bar in a toffee form.  Anything that is coconut and chocolate is good to me.  

This one is made with Arcadia Ales Cocoa Loco which is a triple chocolate stout.

CEO Stout is a rich espresso-y, chocolately and crunchy toffee.  kinda gives you that caffeine jolt you need. This is Made with Right Brain Brewery CEO Stout.

Chocolate Raspberry is the latest and greatest.  Anyone who loves chocolate and raspberry together would be a sucker for this one.  Made with Dark Horse Raspberry Ale.

What is your best selling flavor?

The Sea Salt has always been #1....closely followed by Maple Bourbon.

Right now your in-store sellers are spread around Michigan and you are a Michigan made brand but do you have plans to spread into Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, or even Canada?

I would LOVE to be in other states.  If the opportunity presents itself, I'm grabbing it and running with it. So...if anyone out there knows someone who'd like to sell this in a store/gift shop out of state, let me know.  You can contact me at my email.

Michelle, is there anything we haven't asked about that you'd like our readers to know about you or Me's Toffee?

I think we have all the bases covered here.  You did a great job concocting the questions.  Thanks to everyone who took the time out to read this!

Thank you, Michelle, for answering all of our questions and sharing your photos with us. We're looking forward to revealing your toffee creations to the world in the near future.

2 comments:

mavido79 said...

What great timing. I'm back in Michigan this weekend and I'll keep my eyes open for more chocolate treats.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

You got enough cards? If not, just point them to our blog and FB page.