Cameron Ring comes from a technology background, but he’s ended up in chocolate. And why not? At Dandelion’s new shop in San Francisco, you can watch them make the chocolate while sipping a hot or cold chocolate (with homemade marshmallows, naturally) or snacking on one of their baked goods. If you’re lucky, they’ll have cocoa fruit pulp in stock and you can try a smoothie. It’s delicious.
One of the larger bean-to-bar gigs in the US, Dandelion’s also supplying some of the smaller makers with beans. It’s win-win-win, since Dandelion gets more buying power, farmers can sell more and smaller makers can piggyback on Dandelion’s efforts. More interesting to me is the fact that so many chocolate companies are dealing with the same beans, but each one of them creates distinctly different products. Different recipes, different styles, different chocolate.
I spoke with Cam at last year’s Northwest Chocolate Festival, a few months before the shop opened.
What does Dandelion Chocolate do?
We make bean-to-bar chocolate bars. We’re in San Francisco, opening our combination factory-cafe in the Mission district on Valencia Street. It’s been a long time coming but we’re really excited. [ED: When we spoke, Dandelion’s shop was still in the works. It has since opened and is constantly packed.]
How did you come to chocolate?
Todd and I are the two people that started the company. When we started making chocolate, we didn’t set out to make a chocolate company. We just started tinkering in the garage and were just having a really great time making little batches of chocolate, learning how to do it and make really good chocolate.
Along the way we got pretty excited because we loved the chocolate we were making and really fell in love with the act of making chocolate itself: building the machines, sourcing the beans, putting all the pieces together and sharing our chocolate with people that really seem to like it.
So, when we started thinking about how to turn this hobby into a business we got really excited about sharing the act of making it with people, because it seemed like there were lots of people who loved chocolate—but even self-described chocolate lovers don’t know so much of the story. It’s such a great story so we wanted to put together this combination factory-cafe where people could see it being made and really learn a lot more about the food they already love.
What’s the best part of your job?
I think right now, every day is different. So sometimes that’s good because that means that you have this new thing you’re working on, you make this small change and now this part of the process is much better. And sometimes it’s bad. A machine breaks or some part of the process breaks down or you have beans you don’t like. But I like that whenever I get up in the morning, I don’t know whether I’m going to be foiling 100 bars or oiling our wrapping machine or doing a bunch of taste tests on 100% bars that one of our employees is really excited about.
What’s your biggest challenge?
Trying to fit all the stuff in that needs to get done. There are way too many things that need fixing or need working on, and trying to figure out what we should be working on at any one time is definitely our biggest challenge. There’s just too much to do.
What do you do in your spare time?
I like rock climbing and ultimate frisbee and hanging out with my girlfriend and my dog.