I take my chocolate very seriously, and I love to seek out the best on my travels.
With the amazing Katherine Clapner's Dude, Sweet Chocolate right here in Dallas, I don't have to travel far for one of my favorite ways to savor good chocolate — by drinking it! (See more about Katherine and Dude, Sweet Chocolate below.)
There's a HUGE difference between true, fine drinking chocolate and hot cocoa or hot chocolate: It's the CHOCOLATE! — there's a lot more of just chocolate — dark chocolate — and much better quality.
Dude, Sweet's Drinking Chocolate uses cocoa powder from Valrhona, long considered to be of the world's best chocolates. And, the 72% dark chocolate wafers also come from one of the world's best chocolatiers, depending on Katherine's muse at the time!
After years of working around the world, from the Savoy in London to Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Katherine Clapner launched her own company, Dude, Sweet Chocolate!, to make a name for herself. Clapner served for many years as Executive Pastry Chef at Stephan Pyles restaurant, working directly with nationally recognized Chef/Owner Stephan Pyles on dessert menu development and execution.
Clapner brings more than 20 years of experience teaching and working in the restaurant industry. Since beginning her culinary career as a pastry cook at Sam’s Café in Dallas, she has extended her training internationally and gained many years of valuable experience at notable establishments worldwide.
She has worked under the instruction of recognized names such as Chef Charlie Trotter and Chef Kevin Graham, and has trained and held Pastry Chef positions at Charlie Trotter’s (Chicago), The Windsor Court Hotel (New Orleans), Hotel Cipriani (Venice, Italy), The Savoy Hotel (London), and in Austin at the Mansion at Judges Hill, Ranch 616, Liberty Tavern and Finn & Porter at the Hilton Hotel, Central Market (Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano and Houston as consulting chef).
A native of Texas, Clapner attended the University of Texas at Arlington. She later enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in New York, where she earned an Associates Degree in baking and pastry. Clapner has been a featured pastry chef in such prestigious publications as Bon Appétit, The Chicago Tribune, Gambit Weekly, The Times Picayune, Restaurants and Institutions, Sante Magazine, FD Luxe, Dessert Professional, Austin Monthly (top pastry chefs), Austin Women’s Magazine (top women responsible for the Saveur Hill Country Wine and Food Festival), Austin Chronicle (top 10 food moments and one of four top women pastry chefs in Austin), 360 Magazine, D Magazine (best chocolatier 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013), and Dallas Observer (best chocolatier 2010, 2011). as well as television shows in New Orleans, Dallas, and Austin.
Clapner was a contributing writer for Southwestern Vegetarian, the acclaimed cookbook by Chef Stephan Pyles, and she was featured on the Cooking Channel’s Food Crafters program. Both before and while with Dude, Sweet, Clapner has consulted with several restaurant groups including PF Changs, Blue Mesa, Coast, Bolla and Brookshires Grocery.
Dude, Sweet Chocolate! started with a phone call from Merrill Lynch, the financial management company. Looking for custom gifts for top customers and employees, the company asked Chef Clapner to craft some special chocolates for the holiday season. The concept was born, yet a name escaped the chocolatier.
“I had a friend who always said Dude!, to which I usually just always replied, Sweet,” said Clapner, “somehow that just seemed to work…so the name came from a long-running joke between a best friend and myself.” Word spread, and local Dallas area shops such as Empire, Scardella, and the Oak Cliff restaurant Bolsa approached Clapner about stocking her chocolates.
Dude, Sweet is a minority owned business, with solid ties to local vendors and a commitment to utilizing green products whenever possible. Local and regional products used in the creation of both the product and the packaging include Lucky Layla Butter and Cream, Tom Spicer fruits and vegetables, Acme Stamp (packaging), Shiner Bock Beer, Breckenridge Distillery, Del Maguey Mescal, Louisiana Parique Tobacco and Zip Code Honey and Pollen.
Chef Clapner has also been a participant of Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival, Sugarland Food Festival, Aspen Food and Wine (Texas Outlaws) and Buffalo Gap Food Festival. She also is one of several Featured Chefs for Wholesome Sweeteners, which is a Fair Trade Certified manufacturer of organic and natural sugars, syrups, and nectars. The Featured Chefs include peers such as Gail Gand and Tyler Florence.
“The Texas influence has colored my approach to the chocolate line,” sums up Clapner. “People don’t realize that Texas cuisine is very global. These flavors have influenced my flavor profiles, as well as my sense of pride to be from Texas.” And Dude, that is sweet!