Local chocolatier Debbie Carter chats about Hampshire

Sarah Peters chats to local chocolatier Debbie Carter about Hampshire, holidays and creating heavenly chocolates for grown-ups

Like many women, Debbie Carter had always loved chocolate. But, when she decided to leave nursing after 20 years service, little did she know that she would become an award-winning chocolatier, supplying many of the county’s finest delis and farm shops, as well as the likes of Harvey Nichols, Whittard and Fortnum & Mason. Her artisan chocolate making company, Chocolate Craft, was set up six years ago making handmade luxury chocolates. Using fresh Hampshire cream and natural ingredients Debbie wanted to create a chocolate company that made the most delicious chocolates using the finest ingredients.

ChocoholicHaving studied, sampled, created and decorated thousands of chocolates in her time, is Debbie still moved by the aroma and properties of chocolate?“You bet!” she laughs. “I am absolutely obsessed with chocolate. I eat it every day without fail. I’m creating new chocolate combinations, tasting other producers’ wares and experimenting with chocolate the whole time, so I am always surrounded by it and still can’t resist it.”She is constantly searching for new and unusual ways to blend flavours and create something special. Her most recent discovery is the success of blending salt or pepper to chocolate. “It sounds strange, but it’s true.” she explains. “They’re a perfect match.  Thinking about new combinations and predicting which will be popular is an important part of my job.”

I genuinely feel very privileged to have found Hampshire and be part of the local community

Award winnerChocolate Craft is based in an old converted dairy farm in Alresford, near Winchester.  Although during the early days Debbie worked from her own kitchen.When she was a child Debbie wanted to be a doctor. In fact, she became a nurse and health visitor but eventually became a Doctor of Philosophy in 2004 after completing a PhD. She worked for 20 years in the NHS, based in Eastleigh. Debbie describes herself as passionate and determined and her hard work was recognised recently. “One of my proudest moments professionally was when we won the Fortnum & Mason Artisan Supplier Award in 2009 for providing them with consistently high quality products. It proved that my mantra was true: In whatever you are trying to achieve, persevere and don’t give up.”

At home in AlresfordDebbie has learned so much about business and her success is well deserved. She was recently featured in Woman & Home magazine being guided by entrepreneur, Jo Malone. “I may seem organised,” she laughs, “but I still forget people’s birthdays.  That’s one thing I can’t get to grips with!”Alresford was an obvious place to set up the workshop, because Debbie lived in the area. Even now she is pleased that she made the choice to stay local. Despite aiming high, she has no intentions of moving away. “I enjoy living here and although we do need larger premises we’ll stay local. It’s partly because I enjoy living in Hampshire.  Cycling to work through the pretty countryside is the most enjoyable thing in the world. I admit, I am a fair-weather cyclist, but I do enjoy it when I head off on my bike. The scenery is just so beautiful. “I don’t take the countryside for granted. I get out and about a lot and enjoy walking my Westie, Abbie, all over the county.  “The Old Winchester Hill is a route I love. It takes you from the pretty village of Exton to the top of the county’s most impressive hill fort. If I manage to get to the top of the chalk ridge there are impressive views in every direction – on a clear day, you can see across the Solent as far as the Isle of Wight. The views are just fabulous.“I also like the walks alongside the stream of the Meon and to the village of East Meon. It is so beautiful: gorgeous cottages and houses, and lovely green countryside.”

Hampshire favouritesThe best thing about living in Hampshire may be the countryside, but where there is countryside, there are country pubs and Debbie has a few favourites that she likes to visit. “The Flower Pots in Cheriton is so friendly and they brew their own beer. They do fantastic baps at lunchtime and I enjoy going along there to have a lazy lunch. It’s very popular with locals and on a sunny day it’s just ideal as it has such a beautiful setting.“The Pub With No Name, in Priors Dean, Petersfield, is another favourite haunt. It’s really called The White Horse Inn, but locally it’s known as The Pub With No Name. It’s in the middle of nowhere and there are no signs to find it, but people still come from miles around to have a great meal or a drink. It has a great reputation.”Debbie originally came from Lancashire but she has certainly become part of the community in Alresford. “I genuinely feel very privileged to have found Hampshire and be part of the local community.  It’s small enough to have a sense of community, but large enough that there is lots going on. “The Watercress Festival is always a highlight of the year and rain or shine thousands of people come from all around. I love the atmosphere and the excitement of the event.”  When she’s not working, Debbie enjoys playing tennis at the Cheriton Tennis Club and she loves skiing. “One of my favourite places to ski is in Les Gets, France.  It’s something I can enjoy with my sons, Ben and Matt too, which is nice.”“I can honestly say I can’t wait to get in to work each morning. I am currently working on recipes for winter: Christmas pudding truffles or how about dark chocolate and orange truffles with Grand Marnier?” Sounds heavenly.

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