Chocolatier striving for perfection

Sweet skills . . . Judy Vinbrux shows off some of the chocolates she has made by hand, and is selling from Oamaru’s Vinbrux Bakery & Kaffeehaus. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

‘‘There’s a lot of satisfaction out of making good chocolates.’’

Oamaru’s Vinbrux Bakery and Kaffeehaus co-owner Judy Vinbrux has been perfecting her chocolate-making craft for a bit over a year now, and after finishing three-months’ work experience with a top chocolatier in the North Island, she is offering the carefully crafted goodness to the Oamaru public.

Miss Vinbrux has been at the Arun St cafe for about six years, and is in charge of the cakes, other sweets, and coffee, while father Richard and brother Jan’s skills lie with the breads and pastries. Her mother Christel is mostly in charge of serving customers.

Miss Vinbrux had a small amount of professional training, but had mostly learnt on the job.

‘‘I am the fifth generation of makers, so a lot of teaching I learned at home growing up,’’ she said.

She described her journey of discovering how to make the perfect chocolate as ‘‘trial and error, definitely’’.

‘‘I found that chocolate’s a lot less straightforward than most people think it is, because you almost have to treat it like it’s a living thing.’’

She specialised in filled chocolates, and offered 10 different flavours — ginger, raspberry, blueberry, beer, whisky, coconut, espresso, honey, cinnamon and advocaat.

Chocolate-making appealed to her because of the ‘‘challenge and the beauty of it’’.

‘‘You can make such beautiful things with chocolate, and I’ve always loved making beautiful stuff,’’ she said.

‘‘That’s why I got into the cakes quite early on, because the decorative side of things is very pretty.’’

The 22-year-old, who is the youngest of five children, was home schooled on her parents’ small farm, and has grown up being taught how to live off the land.

‘‘We were very self-sufficient growing up, which definitely gave me a very good work ethic, and a practicality when it comes to how I see work as well, and independence,’’ she said.

Miss Vinbrux said she found the meticulous work rewarding, and she also enjoyed running her business.

‘‘I like running it smoothly, and also very much, actually, the local feel of it, because we’ve got such a loyal customer base, you’re always constantly talking and you’re getting to know all these people’s stories, and it’s really interesting.

‘‘So I very much like that as well, cos you get a feel for your town as well — which really makes me appreciate Oamaru a bit more.’’

All Miss Vinbrux’s chocolates were made using Belgian Callebaut chocolate, the chosen brand for the majority of top chocolatiers, she said.

Some bulk-produced chocolate tended to have more sugar, to increase its shelf-life, which she tried to stay away from.

A taster of four bunnies at Easter was where the idea began. There was no marketing of the products, and it ‘‘just took off’’.

‘‘That really showed me there’s definitely a future in chocolates, which I was glad for, because they’re definitely really fun to work with.

‘‘I just like putting things together so they look nice. I’ve always had the eye for detail, which sometimes makes chocolate very hard, because you see all the details you’ve done wrong.’’

The Vinbrux Bakery and Kaffeehous is open Tuesday to Saturday.