Archive for Thursday, January 27, 2005

Business confections

De Soto woman opens “Chocolate Occasion,” provides a sweet addition to area celebrations

January 27, 2005

Normally well-mannered adults, hovering around the dessert table and unable to resist licking their plates at formal parties is just one phenomenon brought about by Becky Cooper's new business venture -- a chocolate fountain.

A 34-inch, three-tiered, waterfall of fondue is the service provided by "Chocolate Occasion," a business Cooper and her husband, Jeff, began this fall. Cooper rents out her chocolate novelty for weddings and other special events in the Kansas City and Lawrence areas.

Cooper saw her first chocolate fountain last year at a friend's wedding in Las Vegas, and it was a big hit.

"It was just incredible," she said. "It's the gathering place; everyone just gathers around it."

When her sister looked but couldn't find an affordable one to rent for her wedding in Kansas City, Cooper got the idea that maybe she could buy her own fountain and make a business of it.

People are intrigued by the idea of a chocolate fountain, Cooper said, but the taste really sells itself.

"The chocolate is incredible," Cooper said. "I thought I liked chocolate, but when I tried this... there's not really a word to describe it."

Cooper fills her fountain with pure Belgian chocolate morsels. The brand is Callebaut, considered a Cadillac among even the best chocolate, which she buys in bulk from a chocolate wholesaler in Lenexa.

Customers can choose from white, dark or milk chocolate, Cooper said, but milk chocolate is the most popular.

To get the fountain going before an event, Cooper preheats the machine and pours in the chocolate -- 15 pounds of it. And that's just to get started.

As the chocolate melts, Cooper stirs it to keep it from burning. When the morsels are smooth and melted, she turns on the machine and a mechanical auger carries the fondue up from the bottom, out and over the top.

That's when the dipping begins.

Bananas, pound cake, pretzels or pineapple are just a few recommended options to use on the end of a skewer. Strawberries and maraschino cherries are some of customers' top picks.

"Your dipping items are only limited to your imagination," Cooper said.

One child at a recent event chose to forgo dipping items altogether, instead sticking his skewer in and out of the fountain and licking it off.

"That's why we have an attendant during the running of the fountain," said Cooper, who eventually gave the child a cup instead.

For Cooper, a De Soto resident and a stay-at-home mother of three, a venture with business happening mostly on evenings and weekends was ideal.

She said her husband is willing to watch the kids while she traveled to weddings and events with the fountain.

A tasty novelty like a chocolate fountain is something that's fun and appropriate for anything from weddings and anniversaries to bar mitzvahs and office parties, Cooper said.

She recommends a venue of at least 50 people but said the fountain could serve 1,000 or more.

"Really, you just keep adding chocolate," she said.

For more information about "Chocolate Occasion" or to contact Cooper, visit her Web site at www.chocolateoccasion.com.

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