Raleigh candy-makers win Good Food Awards

Geraldine and Dan of GerDan Chocolates started crafting candies back in 2011

Geraldine and Dan of GerDan Chocolates started crafting candies back in 2011


By Jen Primrose and Dathan Kazsuk

Chocolates today have been an ever changing facelift of keeping this sweet treat up to par with the latest and obscure ingredients to keep us coming back for more. Recall the days when peanuts, rice krispies or nougat was risque? Well, in this new world of chocolate you can add just about anything. We've seen everything from bacon, beer, popcorn, sea salt and ginger put into our chocolates.

And even here in the Triangle we have gourmet chocolate shops such as Videri and Escazu which raise an eyebrow with their delicious morsels. We here at Triangle Around Town love both those places, but our actual favorite chocolate confectioneries in the Raleigh-area is GerDan Chocolates.

GerDan have infused beer into caramels in their Brew Chews, dipped thick-cut bacon into milk and dark chocolate, infused Gin in with chocolate and even made zombie bunnies just in time for Easter!

The brainchild of Dan and Geraldine Doren, GerDan Chocolates got its start back in 2011. The two first met at a pizza joint in Solana Beach, California and moved to North Carolina back in 2001 when properties go to expensive and California was becoming way to crowded.We recently met up with the two to discuss their story.

You moved 2,500 miles from California to North Carolina back in 2001. Then a decade later you decided to get into the "candy" game. How did that come to fruition?

We had friends who were chefs and owned catering companies. They were always saying how difficult it was to work with chocolate and challenged us to try and make some truffles. Once we got the hang of it, we could make chocolates for parties and as gifts. Both our family and friends urged us to start selling them, so we did. So one day in 2011, Geraldine went out and took orders for several hundred dollars worth of chocolates – and GerDan was born. Later Geraldine took an online chocolate course at Ecole Chocolat and graduated from its "Professional Chocolatier" program.

One of the first times we ever tried your product was sampling a Brew Chew where you infused local beer or a heavily-hyped beer into caramel. How did the two of you come up with that idea?

Dan is a homebrewer, and that's how he came up with the idea of putting beer into our caramels. He thought up the name Brew Chews while we were in San Diego – infusing beer into our candy and chocolates. We make so much more than beer infused confections, but that is what we have become known for. A few bottle shops around the Triangle carry them such as Greenway Beer & Wine. 

GerDan recently won an award from the Good Food Awards for your Gingerbread Caramel. How did you find out about the Good Food Awards and go about submitting your product?

We have known about the GFA for several years, and in 2016, decided to enter one of our caramels. We had to fill out the entry form and submit it. Then the GFA sends you instructions on where to send your sample. We submitted our entry and hoped for the best, since this was our first competition we have ever entered. When we got the first email advising us we were a high scorer – we were stoked! We saw the list on its website of who the panel of judges were in the "confections" category, and have to say it was an honor to be selected as a finalist, let alone a winner. The judges ranged from cook book authors, candy makers, to buyers for large stores.

And you won! GerDan actually beat out the likes of Raleigh's Videri Chocolates in that category and got your first award. Tell us how that felt and going back to California to take part in the awards ceremony in San Francisco?

It was awesome! The ceremony was held at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. All the winners in each category went up on stage at the same time. Nell Newman (of Newman Organics) placed the medal around Geraldine's neck, then Alice Water (Chez Panissse) as well as Winoan Laduke (an environmental activist) thanked her as well. After the ceremony there was a reception where we got to taste samples of all the winning entries in each category. There was so much food to sample, and it was great. 

Photos c/o Angie Woodard and GerDan

What would you say is the most obscure creation you have ever made?

Our most obscure creation is our Posset cups. It is based on an old English hot drink recipe dating back to medieval times. It uses beer or wine to thicken the cream. Posset is mentioned in Shakespeare plays such as Hamlet and Macbeth. Nowadays, it is a popular dessert in England, similar to a syllabub. We've also used purple sweet potato and tangerine Pate de Fruit to tomato ice cream. We would make fun stuff at the Farmers' Market when we were a vendor to celebrate a particular vegetable or fruit. 

What can we expect from GerDan in 2017? New chocolates and caramels? Something completely different?

Certainly, but we will always make our best sellers like sea salt caramels, bourbon pecan and pistachio Brigadeiros to name a few. We're working on adding gummy candies. Our big news is that we will be moving our production to Double Barley Brewing in Smithfield in March. With both of us focusing on chocolate/candy making full time, we plan on doing more pop-up markets and events in both Smithfield and in Raleigh.

Keep up to date with GerDan Chocolates at their blogger site here.

If you or someone you know would like to be featured in a monthly Five Questions With, please send an email to trianglearoundtown@gmail.com.