There’s nothing like savoring a handcrafted chocolate truffle. Except, according to Joey Burdette, making one. The owner and founder of Little Bird Chocolate, Burdette finds moments of meditation when he
There’s nothing like savoring a handcrafted chocolate truffle. Except, according to Joey Burdette, making one. The owner and founder of Little Bird Chocolate, Burdette finds moments of meditation when he crafts chocolates at his workshop in Winston-Salem. And that’s pretty sweet.
A few years ago, Burdette was a co-owner of a coffee shop that supplied and stocked all local ingredients and products, with one exception — they purchased chocolates from companies in Vermont and St. Louis. “They were great chocolates, but they were not authentic to Winston-Salem,” Burdette says. “So I found a chocolate-making class online, signed up, and haven’t looked back since.”
Today, Burdette crafts chocolate bars, bonbons, and truffles in flavors like pretzel-pecan caramel, pumpkin spice, banana caramel, balsamic fig, savory soy sauce with sesame seeds, and many others. But it was his bourbon honey truffle that won him the top prize in the Food category of the Made in NC Awards this year.
“What drew me to chocolate was how creative you can be with it,” Burdette says. “You can change the shape, the flavor — and who doesn’t like chocolate?”
Today, Burdette sells his creations exclusively at Winston Junction Market on Saturdays in Winston-Salem. “I purposefully want to taste it and sample it with people so that they can walk away knowing the connection between me and the chocolate and the ingredients,” Burdette says.
We talked to Burdette to learn more about how he crafts his sweet creations.
OS: What is your chocolate-making process like?
JB: I typically come in on a Sunday and spend about three hours starting a ganache piping and filling shells. Second day I come back for another three hours or so to cap the shells, dip, and decorate. And then the third day, I come in to package. But it varies depending on which product I’m making that week. If I’m doing bars, it’s in and out, and I can make multiple bars in the same day; if I’m doing caramels, it takes an extra day.
OS: What ingredients do you use and where do you source your chocolate?
JB: I source all my chocolate in bulk from bean-to-bar manufacturer Brasstown Chocolate in Winston-Salem. They’ve created a specific chocolate for me that I use exclusively: a 70 percent dark Venezuelan chocolate that I get in an un-tempered state. I then turn it into finished chocolates with various ingredients. I use local honey and spices, even local árbol and Scotch bonnet peppers.
OS: Why is using local ingredients important to you?
JB: It provides a connection with other people. It adds a layer of quality that people may not understand immediately, but you’re going to taste the difference. There’s a vested interest in every layer of creating the chocolate.
OS: What sets your chocolates apart?
JB: They’re a bit quirky. I have the ability to experiment and come up with fun ideas. I make them in really small batches — usually only 30 to 50 pieces each — which means that I can try out off-the-wall flavors and ingredients. And if it works, that’s great. If it doesn’t? I am not too proud to throw away something if it doesn’t taste good.
OS: What do you love most about what you do?
JB: The solitude. When I’m here, it’s like a meditation. I am individually putting intention and time into all of the individual pieces. It’s not mechanized — every chocolate that comes out of this kitchen is hand created. There’s a big sense of accomplishment when I can create a chocolate that works out the way that I envisioned it in my mind. For example, my take on a Moravian ginger cookie — getting the balance between the ginger and the clove and the molasses is really pleasing. There is such a sense of accomplishment when things work out.