Hotel F&B Magazine
All Back Issues » January/February 2010
Handmade History
Longtime F&B outlet delights guests with chocolate confections.
By John Paul Boukis

Greenbrier hand-crafted chocolates
Candy Chef Cheryl Gum has been hand-crafting chocolates at the Greenbrier for more than 20 years. In addition to making hundreds of truffles and other candies each week, Gum also conducts hands-on candy-making demos for guests..
Greenbrier hand-crafted chocolates

“Oh, the children we’ve seen grow up in those windows,” reminisces Cheryl Gum, candy chef at the historic Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The windows of which she speaks are those that frame the hotel’s Candy Maker chocolate shop, where faces of all ages press in for a peek. “One boy is going to be 20 years old this year—I met him when he was five.”

The Greenbrier’s successful chocolate program began nearly 30 years ago in the pastry shop with one chocolate nut bark. The pastry chef hauled a marble and some stainless steel containers up to an old test kitchen in the West Virginia wing to make truffles. Not long after, he struck out on his own, and Gum found her new life in candy.

“I’ve been here over 26 years. I first worked a season at the golf club, then as a round chef in the kitchen,” she says. “In the early days, I’d go up to help the pastry chef and learn in the new candy kitchen before my shift started downstairs. They knew I was interested, and I had some knowledge, so I got my chance.”

In 1989, hotel management “decided to bring us out into the open,” Gum says. Space formerly occupied by a travel agency was converted into a candy kitchen. That kitchen now has more than 3,000 candy molds and a marble designed just for Gum’s height.

All Candy Maker chocolates are handmade by Gum and her team, and more than 40 historic favorites are made weekly, including caramels, chocolate-covered cherries, and toffee. Fudge is cooked, poured, set up overnight, cut in squares, and dipped by hand. Truffles are mixed in a huge vat then separated for flavoring with a variety of liqueurs, including Baileys, Grand Marnier, and Chambord. And Gum wants to make sure everyone is happy. “If a guest requests something, we never let them down,” she says. “All they have to do is ask, and it will be there within the week.”

The Candy Maker is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and has traditionally averaged from $1,000 to $1,200 per day. “We’re still doing that on weekends, but weekdays may be slower depending on groups.” Chocolates average $55 per pound, with gift boxes from $32 to $64. A small individual piece is $1.10, while clusters and larger chocolates run $2 to $3 each.

“For the guests, it is an experience,” Gum explains. “It’s comfortable to come into the shop. We have windows on the front and side where they can watch us make the chocolate every day.” Gum says the well-established confectionary shop gets repeat business from guests as well. “People are used to the shop; they want to see if there’s anything new and if their favorite is still here,” she says. “We also have people from across the country who call in orders for us to ship to them.”

Beyond the retail store, the candy kitchen provides chocolates for the entire resort, including coins imprinted with the Greenbrier’s springhouse logo and a new molded truffle featuring the logo for Prime 44 West steakhouse. Additionally, Gum spreads milk chocolate over trays of toffee so the new restaurant can give a bit to each guest as they leave.

Gum takes pride in empowering guests to try candy making at home as well. “If a group is interested, we’ll do a private demonstration,” she says. “I love small groups where we can make it hands-on. I try to make it special for people—see who’s celebrating an anniversary or birthday and show them something they can do at home, like a tuxedo strawberry. I did a private demo for a woman who was getting ready for her daughter’s sixteenth birthday party. She called me two weeks later to tell me she had done the berries—it gave me such joy!”

John Paul Boukis helped develop the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s publishing division and is a founding editor of HOTEL F&B. He is based in Tampa, Florida.

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