Given that Eric Cayton grew up in Hershey, Pa., it’s not surprising that he was always interested in working with chocolate. Even as a small child, he remembers playing and experimenting with chocolate bars in his grandmother’s kitchen.
On his 15th birthday, Clayton started his first job, working for the Hershey Park Foods Dept. at a chocolate sundae concession stand, creating “walk-away sundaes.”
Eventually, Cayton worked his way up through the culinary ranks … from fast food to line cook, from sous chef to finally working as an executive chef and pastry chef at restaurants, hotels, country clubs and even a retirement community up and down the East Coast.“By the time I had settled back down in the Central Pennsylvania area in the early ‘90s, my childhood connection with chocolate had turned into a full-blown adult obsession,” he explains.
Cayton opened his own small catering company in 1994. He then began experimenting with chocolate truffles, fudge and other candies, selling them to his upscale clients.
“The concept of my chocolates company is simple: uncompromising ingredient quality, unique flavor profiles with balanced composition and aggressive, creative, innovative marketing,” he says.
For additional information, visit www.derrychurchartisanchocolates.com.
What did you think you would be when you grew up?
I always knew, even from a very young age, that I eventually wanted to work with chocolate. I was always fascinated with the life and times of Milton Hershey and the wonderful chocolate company that he built with his own hard work and perseverance.
Name one or some of your favorite movies.
It would have to be Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”
Describe your perfect dream vacation.
One thing I really, really want to do someday soon is travel to France to tour some of the great French chocolatiers.
What book are you currently reading?
Well, usually my hands have far too much chocolate on them to page through a book, but I recently received A.J. Rathbun’s new book on cocktails, called “Dark Spirits.” Excellent and lively read!
Aside from a family member, whom would you most want to be stranded with on a deserted island?
I would have to say Alton Brown and Bill Maher. I could spend days or even months talking to either of them about all sorts of interesting topics, but specifically food and politics.
What’s your pet peeve?
Probably my biggest pet peeve about human nature is greed - particularly corporate greed!
I’d give anything to meet:
I wish I would have had the opportunity to meet Milton Hershey before he died. As for someone that is still with us, I think it would be pretty cool to have lunch with Bill Clinton or Roger Waters sometime.
The best advice that I’ve gotten:
The best piece of advice I ever received came from a self-help book I read from Anthony Robbins, about 20 years ago, called “Awaken the Giant Within.” Basically, that advice was to stop letting my circumstances and personal emotions influence my decisions, and to simply decide for myself how I will react and take control of my own destiny.
What excites you most about your job?
The thing that excites me the most about running my own artisan chocolate company is how challenging it is to succeed.