Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Co.: Southern artisan hones his craft
Scott Witherow translates the South’s food heritage into bean-to-bar chocolate in Nashville.
When Scott Witherow decided he’d like to become a chocolate maker, there wasn’t any doubt it would involve artisan craftsmanship. After all, the trained chef — a Le Cordon Bleu London graduate who worked in some of the world’s best restaurants, including Nobu and The Fat Duck — had come to understand the importance of quality ingredients, passionate preparation.
In late 2007, when Witherow began formulating his concept for Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Co., he began to do his homework, purchasing several small table top machines to begin making three to five pounds of chocolate at a time.
Slowly, his notion of Southern Artisan Chocolate began to take shape, as Witherow melded the region’s rich food heritage with the meticulous and mysterious art of chocolate making. Using select origin beans from the Dominican Republic, which were then slow-roasted and then stone-ground the beans, he added a Southern signature into the smooth yet robust chocolate by incorporating brown sugar.
It was the first of many Southern Artistan Chocolate “tweaks,” as Witherow continues to evolve his concept, embracing ingredients and processes such as buttermilk, hickory-smoked cacao beans and bourbon to create a regional provenance that’s capturing a national audience.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?
Rock candy. It’s straight to the point. Besides, if I got around to cooking, I could use it as a sweetener.
What’s the last cool thing you saw online?
My friend, Matt Mahaffey, doing a solo cover of Back in Black by AC/DC.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’m been obsessed with food from the day I was born.
What issues concern you most about the confectionery industry and why?
I’m always concerned about rising commodity costs.
What’s the last book you read?
Not much of a book reader. However, the last record I bought was foreverly by Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones. It’s a collection of songs from the Everly Brothers.
What is your pet peeve?
If given the chance to choose anyone, whom would you like to collaborate with?
I already collaborate with several great individuals, such as Allan Benton of Benton’s Country Hams in Madionsville, Tenn. He makes the best smoked bacon and country hams. He also smokes our cacao beans, which we use to make our smoked nib brittle. Nicest man you’ll ever meet.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered. In other words, don’t get greedy.
What excites you most about your job?
Working with my friends, working with my hands.