Highland Chocolatier Iain Burnett has been named as a Perth Pioneer in recognition of becoming one of the world’s most renowned truffle specialists – placing Perthshire and Scotland firmly on the world map.
Iain grew up on the Isle of Mull and took inspiration from his father, who introduced him to working in a professional kitchen environment from a young age. His father had a passion for using exotic flavours and textures in his cookery to elevate the finest Scottish ingredients.
With a father who was adventurous in the kitchen and a mother who he describes as a “perfectionist”, it’s no wonder that Iain was motivated to make an impact in the culinary world.
Twelve years ago Iain began his journey to master chocolatier using all-natural ingredients, scientific accuracy and meticulously thought out flavour combinations to create his globally recognised truffle. His first goal was to create the completely unique Velvet Truffle which had no solid chocolate shell, which had purity on its side and which was made exclusively from gourmet grade cocoa and fresh cream.
“We did a blind tasting of creams from all over the UK and it was really interesting… at one end you get stuff that tastes like sour milk and at the other extreme was a cream that tasted like yoghurt with honey in it. We found that this cream wasn’t coming from your average consolidated dairy – like a blended whisky – this was a single malt of the dairy world, a single heard of cows in Perthshire, which is very unusual; they are on very good pastures and very well looked after. It was extraordinary, the sweet grassy notes were amazing, and if the weather changes the cream changes and the truffle changes, so that was a great find.”
Iain places the highest importance in his natural ingredients in order to maintain the natural qualities of his Velvet Truffles. Singularly focussed on finding the best dairy, Iain described the advantage of excellent produce in Perthshire.
“If I’d have found better cream in Devon I would be using Devonshire cream, but I’m not, I’m using a Perthshire cream because that’s the best cream I could find, so it’s not just coincidence we’re here… it’s a lifestyle choice to live in beautiful Highland Perthshire, but everyone is proud to be creating something truly world class.”
Following in his father’s footsteps of using unique and exotic flavours, Iain went on to describe what makes his chocolate so special.
“The rare cocoa I use is from São Tomé and Príncipe has very unusual flavour characteristics. 99% of the worlds cocoa crop is what they call bulk flavourless cocoa, and that fraction of a percent you have left over you might call gourmet grade – it tends to fall into either a sweet and fruity noted chocolate, or more savoury noted ones, just like wine… this cocoa from São Tomé exceptionally has both sweet and savoury notes… it’s very intense, essential for a truffle specialist to push through the cream… and has a red fruit body which well suits the Europe leading apiaries and fruit farming of Perthshire … it works beautifully with heather honey, raspberries and strawberries.”
It took Iain three years and over 150 variations to method and recipe before he felt his Velvet Truffle progressed to a stage where he was content to present it to a chef, and his work has now been featured in some of the world’s top restaurants.
“It started with Gleneagles and it very quickly spread… to other Michelin Star chefs, then they started approaching us… Roux, Gordon Ramsey, we’ve serviced quite a few of the Michelin Star chefs in Scotland and the UK and we export all over the world.”
Having worked with Claridge’s in London and Harvey Nichols, Iain was able to generate new ideas by creating bespoke truffles and pairing them with dishes in high-end restaurants. Each truffle takes over two days to complete in order to achieve the incredible texture and flavour balance without using additives.
Iain’s journey to award-winning chocolatier has been fraught with painstaking commitment, beginning his journey in a converted double garage in Grandtully which his small highly skilled team still use as part of his custom designed chocolate kitchen today. The surrounding building has now been converted into a visitor centre called the Scottish Chocolate Centre, a free tourist attraction with a multimedia exhibit.
Iain’s truffles have won a plethora of global awards, decided by experts. Iain noted one of the competitions in which his dark truffle took the top spot.
“it’s won Best Dark Truffle in the World at the International Chocolate Awards in 2015, that was 40 countries, thousands of chocolatiers from all over the world doing regional finals and then they have a world final… Then last year they awarded the Caramel & Twist of Liquorice Velvet Truffle the Best White Truffle in the World! In this wee village in Grandtully by the River Tay, we’re making something really, really special.”
You can find out more about Iain Burnett Highland Chocolatier and the number of awards that his work has earned at www.highlandchocolatier.com