Jason Hallaman was molded to take over Mitchell’s Fine Chocolates. When he and his wife heard owner Bill Mitchell was ready to auction the business, the couple rushed to the Cleveland Heights shop, and Hallaman struck a deal to take over the landmark store started in 1939 by Mitchell’s parents. Hallaman pledged to continue to handcraft truffles, nougats and pecan turtles, so Mitchell has been teaching the Cleveland Heights resident his family recipes for dark chocolate Italian orange peels, Fiji ginger chews and almond bark. Hallaman indulges us in tales of becoming a chocolatier.
Q. Did you ever make chocolate before this?
A. No. I’ve been around food. I wasn’t even a pastry chef or anything sweet, but I have a very good working knowledge of foods and temperatures and cleanliness. I remember telling Bill, I’m a little nervous, man.
Q. You went to Mitchell’s after school as a child. What was your favorite chocolate?
A. I would run over there, and [Bill’s late mother], Penelope, would say, “How’s your mother? How’s your father?” She gave my first apricot to me. Eating a candied apricot that’s been dipped in dark chocolate is not what your typical third-grader eats, but boy, did I love those.
Q. How do you plan to honor the shop’s legacy?
A. I walk people over to the black-and-white picture from 1939 where Mr. Mitchell posed with his wife. I show them the same chocolate case they put candies in 77 years ago, and we use it every day. This is a wonderful piece of Cleveland history.
Q. What has it been like learning all of those years worth of chocolate recipes?
A. I rely on people to come in and they say, “Thank you,” and they say, “Mrs. Mitchell, around New Year’s, would make these raspberry Champagne jellies.” Bill says, “I will show you where the recipe is. We’ll go through it a few times so you got it down.” There’s one story like that after another. Everybody’s got their favorites. We can’t really move things around or change anything, and I don’t want to.