Mayfield Chocolates - An interview with Peter Ingall
We were extraordinarily lucky to recently have the opportunity to speak with Peter Ingall, one of the founders of Mayfield Chocolates.
Mayfield Chocolates has been tempering, conching and experimenting with chocolate since 1993, and has well and truly become an institution for chocoholics across Australia.
Peter's thoughts below exhibit the qualities I most appreciate in all of the producers that Mumbleberry is lucky enough to support:
- A confident but humble nature -
I found Peter's words quite inspirational, and I hope you do to!
We know small business is hard. Is there an inception story to your brand? What got you started or gave you the push to start your own enterprise?
My first graduate job was as Marketing Manager of Darrell Lea Chocolate Shops in Sydney. At the time, they had about 100 chocolate shops scattered along the east coast. I liked the industry, but moved to Queensland for personal reasons. It seemed to me that there was room in the market for a superior type of chocolate product so I went to study confectionery technology at the Zentralfachscule der Deutschen Suesswarenwirtschaft (ZDS) in West Germany. After returning and doing some product development, my partner Danica and I opened for business in 1993.
Who or what do you draw inspiration from?
Interesting question. At a basic level, I suppose, my parents. Dad was in business and Mum was a positive type: "where there’s a will, there’s a way”.
My partner Danica was and remains a great inspiration. When we met (she was older than me), she was HR Manager for a Brisbane manufacturing company with about 800 employees. She had been a soldier in a special unit of the Yugoslav army, and had studied at a Swiss finishing school near Vevey, and spoke several languages. Danica didn’t know anything in particular about chocolate, but her enthusiasm and general life experience was great AND she was a great cook with a sophisticated palate. Unfortunately she passed away in 2007. Bugger. There’s a little picture of her in every box of chocolates, so we don’t forget.
More immediately, with respect to the chocolate product, making people happy is in itself inspirational, and we see a lot of that with our customers. Also, our philosophy right from the start has been that Australia produces lots of good foods, so why not use them in the chocolates? "Flavours of Australia" has always been our theme. So, Australia is an inspiration in that way. Winning a Gold Medal in Europe was good too.
Other than yourself of course, who is your favourite artisan producer here in Australia? How come?
Well, I detest the word “artisan” which has come into vogue during the past few years. To me it’s just another instant cliche. If people want to identify as artisans, well very good for them. While being generally aware of what is happening in the market, I don’t pay particular attention to what others are doing - we run our own race and do things our way. We are chocolate confectioners (or, if you like, chocolatiers). One thing I will say is that in various fields, there is more room for creativity than one might think, so the development of smaller specialist producers is good in that way.
We know Australia is the best place on earth, but what makes it so special to you? What’s your favourite thing about Australia?
Well, the best thing is freedom to say and do what you like, which is achieved by a constitutional system based on a thousand years of British political evolution, which has led to a sophisticated separation of powers, which is reasonably responsive to the popular will, and prevents any one person or clique from having too much power. While all the elements in this balance are critically important - i.e., the monarchy, parliament, the executive and the judiciary and the people, having a truly independent judiciary is critical. If you look at countries going downhill politically, or authoritarian ones, you’ll notice that they all have compromised or weak judiciaries. Australians should understand this and not take it for granted.
Which of your products are your favourite to gift to others or share with friends around the table?
Taking our 16 piece gift box as an example, because customers can choose what goes inside, there is a great variety of possibilities to explore. Many years ago, using a factorial equation, the Bond University Maths Group calculated that there were over 645,000,000,000 (i.e.,645 thousand million) possible combinations. (Details are buried in our website.) So, especially for novices, it’s an exploration.
Another favourite of course is our dark chocolate Florentines. Actually Danica hounded me to make them originally, so we jointly developed the recipe with the help of our experts. Florentine connoisseurs who have tried Florentines around the world (yes, such people do exist) say ours are the best anywhere. What can I say but “thank you” and “of course”?