A scientist in a candy store
Applying sweet science in developing new products for Swiss Colony’s catalogue of treats affirms Michelle Frame’s role as the company’s Willy Wonka.
For a candy scientist who already has more than 20 years in the industry ranging from product development to ingredient sales around the world, what could possibly be the highlight of a sweet career?
For Michelle Frame, it’s designing and making decadent new candy and bakery items every day at Monroe, Wis.-based The Swiss Colony, part of Colony Brands, Inc.
“I am Willy Wonka!” Frame once told a newspaper editor — and that’s no fairy tale. As the youngest of six kids, she had no intention of growing up, which led her to find a career that encourages consuming rich treats in the name of research.
So when offered an opportunity to lead The Swiss Colony’s innovation team, Frame knew this would be the role of her lifetime. Treasuring old world recipes and methods while mixing in the latest flavor and product trends to bring “gifts of perfect taste” is what The Swiss Colony is all about.
Frame’s team includes a professional hand decorator, a certified master baker, and a food scientist. Developing 30-50 new items each season for the mail order catalog can be challenging, so market reviews of everything from top celebrity chefs to local artisan shops keep the product line fresh and current, and the job exciting.
Founded in 1926 by Raymond R. Kubly, Sr. — and still privately held by the Kubly family — The Swiss Colony began as a mail order catalog company specializing in food gifts targeted toward the holiday season. The bakery was started in 1959 by Austrian master pastry chefs, and that European standard of excellent remains today, with a commitment to the highest quality ingredients and methods.
What did you think you would be when you grew up?
A monkey. My mom told me if I ate enough bananas I would turn into one one — I ate a lot of bananas. By age 6, I considered it only marginally successful (although I was really good at climbing the swing set).
Name one of your favorite movies.
Anything with Jason Bateman. The Royal Tenenbaums, The Muppet Movie, Monty Python (Holy Grail), Ghost Rider, and Miracle on 34th Street. See a pattern? Me neither.
Describe your perfect dream vacation.
Wandering around Australia and New Zealand for about two years with an unlimited budget for hotels on the beach and eating at every single restaurant.
What book are you currently reading?
I just finished Fahrenheit 451 and am starting Of Human Bondage. Going back to all the literature I hated in high school.
Aside from a family member, whom would you most want to be stranded with on a deserted island?
Jane Goodall. Not only fascinating conversation, but if it was a deserted island with a tropical rainforest island, she would have awesome survival skills.
What is your pet peeve?
That no one has actually invented a magic wand that cleans the whole house (including the dishes) with just a wave of a hand. Enough with the new smart phones — I want housework to go away.
I’d give anything to meet:
Angela Merkel. I think what she has accomplished is amazing, and the barriers she has gone around and successes she has had are inspirational.
The best piece of advice I’ve received:
Candy is a fun product. If you aren’t having fun making it, you cannot possibly be successful.
What excites you most about your job?
As I walk into The Swiss Colony each morning, I smell fresh butter toffee cooking, cakes baking, warm cookies, and melted chocolate all mingling together and I think, “I get to work here!”