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Dec. 12, 2022

Part I Chef Jeffray Gardner The Willy Wonka of Los Angeles, CA


Jeffray Gardner from Marsatta Chocolate is a chocolatier who is committed to serving the community by providing the highest quality of chocolate to his customers. He has spent the last two decades creating and crafting the best chocolates from locally sourced ingredients and is currently most passionate about the work he is doing to promote a healthy lifestyle and other local businesses.
 
 As a professional hockey referee turned confections creator, Jeffray Gardner has developed a unique perspective when it comes to delectable treats. Influenced by his family, he aspires to see Marsatta Chocolate become a global chocolate sensation.

 In Part I we take you into Jeffray’s kitchen as he wraps bars and walks us through his life from Hockey to Chocolatier. We talk about how he met his wife and proposed on a gondola in Italy. We will meet Naomi and learn about their romance and proposal. Come along on our adventure and learn how Marsatta Chocolate and bean to bar came to be with the Willy Wonka of Los Angeles.

https://marsatta.com/
https://www.instagram.com/marsattachocolate
email: info@marsatta.com 


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Transcript

Michael Dugan:

I'm Michael Dugan, your culinary host, guiding you through the chef's journey. Join me at the chef's table where you'll experience stories secret sauces, signature dishes and kitchen disasters. Today on the show, I want to welcome Jeffrey Gardner. He was a professional hockey referee, turned Chocolatier and confections creator. He now owns a chocolate shop in Southern California called Marsatta and he's a chef and chocolatier. Jeffrey, Chef Jeffrey, welcome to the show.

Chef Jeffray:

Hello Michael. How are ya just wrapping some 100% bars that have to be done before we're actually going to be moving factories in the next couple of weeks. So we've got our work cut out. Now we're just busy packaging you know, a lot of chocolates. So

Michael Dugan:

so we are truly in the kitchen with Jeffrey This is live

Chef Jeffray:

Yeah actually live with Jeffrey we're in the packaging room but yeah, we are here. Cool. Thank you for having having me.

Michael Dugan:

I am so excited to have you Jeffrey. We've been talking about this for a while and I know how busy you've been, you know with the holidays and how busy it gets them. So I'm just really glad that we're able to make this happen. Absolutely. Yeah, let's let's start out a little bit and let's drop back to your childhood. What was it like for you growing up and how would you say you were connected to food at an early age?

Chef Jeffray:

I think I was connected to food in an early age through my mother, my mother's native from France and at a young age Although born in Canada, I was my mother born of course in France. I was really in tune with a lot of the French cuisine and of course living in France at a young age turned us on to the wonderful world of chocolate. And so at a very young age I still recall you know having the the French bread, you know, early morning with with butter, fresh butter and a piece of chocolate inside so that was our pano chocolate back then, you know,

Michael Dugan:

oh my gosh.

Chef Jeffray:

Oh my god. Yeah. And then, of course when we move back to Canada sorry, we are in a kitchen here so hey, we're

Michael Dugan:

live

Chef Jeffray:

background noise. It's it's I love it. He running. Yeah. So yeah, at a young age, we moved back back to Canada. And I always recall I couldn't wait for the next package we also always got parcels in the mail from mA which is my my grandmother you know my mom's mom and always be always be chocolate in there. You know whether it was Marzipan, which was always my favorite, which is an almond paste. For those that don't know it. embraced in chocolate enrobed in chocolate, you know, so those were always a favorite and some of my fondest memories. Absolutely.

Michael Dugan:

As you were growing up, you obviously had a passion for chocolate and food. But tell us a little bit about what your first career was like.

Chef Jeffray:

Yeah. And so my my father was Canadian and was in the Canadian military. But have a very big hockey enthusiast he grew up in the what we call winter peg, but is of course Winnipeg and Manitoba Canada. And so that's I assume, I would think that's where I got my hockey, my passion for hockey. And so I recall that also at a young age playing hockey in France and Germany. And then of course, you know, when we did make our move to Canada, playing Of course, youth hockey in Canada, and then, you know, at a young age you think like everyone you think have a little bit of cash in your pocket and I turned to officiating, so I was a referee, actually referee slash linesman. So that was kind of my passion for many years. I progressed up the ranks from minor hockey to junior hockey to professional hockey, so I worked a lot of leads including the National Hockey League. The Internet, the old International Hockey League, and the leagues have changed throughout the years now but I worked the World Championships. And this is really dating myself because back then, Timo solani, who, those that know, hockey, you know, I believe, yeah, you've retired with with Anaheim. The Anaheim Ducks. He was actually a just a young whippersnapper playing for Team Finland, you know, and it was Eric Lindros for Canada and a handful of players from, you know, the United States that progressed and made their careers in the National Hockey League and and continued on so I worked many years in pro hockey and ended up bouncing between Victoria, Calgary, Ontario and these are all provinces in Canada. Yeah. And including Manitoba, Winnipeg, particularly and Winnipeg. I ended up setting roots there and ended up purchasing a house there and you know, I traveled out of out of Winnipeg guy worked a lot of hockey between, you know, Canada and the United States. And at the time, I met a girl whose mother knew chocolate and we got into chocolate. So we ended up having a kiosk at a shopping mall. And I recall selling you know, we sold out at Valentine's Day and of course, any type of success a human being has you think you're the next best thing, right? Sure, yeah. We ended up opening a store. So we opened up a store in Winnipeg, make a long story short, we ended up you know, manufacturing out of that location, and I ended up getting our chocolate actually in Walmart. So that was a really big feather in our hats and we were in 210 or 220 Walmart stores across Canada. And the next challenge was getting it into the US. I ended up you know, there was a lot of pressure, a lot of stress and we were trying to get investors in and I ended up you know more for personal reasons I ended up leaving the company. And I actually just moved down to the US you know, I knew the US back in actually 1984 and I failed to kind of mentioned my my other passion my other passion back then was cycling. Yeah, so I used to raise Oh, wow. Across the Pacific Northwest in Oregon. You know, Portland, Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver. Did a lot of racing with my brother and and down in LA actually as well. And this was just before the the Olympics, the US Olympics that were being held in Los Angeles. And so I was regularly racing against some really big names, you know, there was Alex DITA Eric Heiden. There was a few others I just can't recall right now, but we regularly raced, you know, across there so, I was very familiar, you know, with the Pacific Northwest and including Los Angeles. So, you know, when I did decide to make that move, Canada to the US, it was unnatural to come down, back down to Los Angeles. So, back then, you know, I was still refereeing some hockey in Los Angeles and still racing, you know, back in back in 84. Moved back again to Canada when I decided, well, my focus isn't going to be on pro cycling. It's going to be on pro hockey. And so that's when I you know, I moved from LA back in 84. To to Canada. And then, you know, like I said, I put down my roots and in both Calgary and in Winnipeg and and just outside of Toronto, and just really trying to pursue that, you know, that career in hockey. And so when I was done with hockey, and I alluded to moving down here in 2000 I never thought I'd go back into chocolate again. I really didn't. And so it was a fresh start. I knew the area. I started running tournaments, hockey tournaments, particularly roller hockey tournaments across the country. So I was going from Florida right back to you know, the, again the Pacific Northwest did a lot of different tournaments every weekend. And then I was, yeah, I was rollerblading Park me. In Newport Beach. There was a young lady in front of me rollerblading, and I had my pasta salad and I'm eating it not looking at anything in particular until I saw her. And I rolled up to her and introduce myself. And when she said she was from Minnesota, I said to her, Oh, that's got to be part of like, that's part of Canada. She's got to be at least a good person, you know. And I, at that point, I didn't want to I just wanted to grow myself, you know, rather than going into a relationship after getting out of one, you know, very kind lady. I had her. By the way, Miko she's giggling in the background right now. She is here so she's going I love it. I love it. We hit it off right away really with it. It was kind of quiet in a way but that also I you know, I could tell that he was very exciting person and a very just very fine, you know, and I had that energy of wanting to be out. Rollerblading. I did it regularly worked out. We ran together. We did a lot of different things together. And yeah, it was never a dull moment with Jeff. And so let's take it and with kids, I mean, our kids are right are great humans too, and they're just fun to just go along the journey of life. You know, they're there. It's it is challenging. We are going through right now some really we're just moving is there is a lot of work you know, as a lot of things to put together a recall I did take down her email address so I had that email address in my pocket and I didn't email her till you know, a few months later. Oh, okay. So my wife, her name's Naomi. Naomi, so she's the love of my life. And we've been married now. 18 Yeah, 18 years now. So Oh, my God. Yeah. That's and the funny story is, after we, you know, our first date was me cleaning her rollerblades, you know, and getting that done. And we discovered we live very close to each other in Huntington Beach because as I said, I you know, I put roots down in in Southern California prior and I knew a lot of people in hockey. And so I stayed with a family in Huntington Beach and soon discovered, we were like, you know, three four blocks away from each other. Her staying with a roommate and I was with a family. So it was pretty funny. But we ended up you know, dating and I told her what I used to do, I said, Oh yeah, I used to be in professional hockey and and as soon as I mentioned, and I made chocolate, that was a game changer. Because she just said, oh chocolate. And that kind of got me going in a way that I thought oh, maybe I'll consider going back to it. I don't know, you know, and so, I That's how Jeffray Gardner is a chocolatier who is committed to serving the community by providing the highest quality of chocolate to his customers. He has spent the last two decades creating and crafting the best chocolates from locally sourced ingredients and is currently most passionate about the work he is doing to promote a healthy lifestyle and other local businesses. As a professional hockey referee turned confections creator, Jeffray Gardner has developed a unique perspective when it comes to delectable treats. Influenced by his family, he aspires to see Marsatta Chocolate become a global chocolate sensation. kind of came to fruition. You know, I we ended up moving in together to see how that was like then. You know, everyone, I recall little Sophie we had a dog and you know, when you're dating and you get a pat it seems the next thing is either marriage or children, right? So everything seemed to seem to work out and was jiving well and Naomi just gave me a bar here. And I'm just thinking back to those days but I ended up like any entrepreneur, working out of our house first with chocolate, and then you know, renting space off others and my two products were a back then being a chocolate tear. We're were a Belgian chocolate bar. It was a caramel macadamia bar. So the dark bar has end we still have the packaging and do sell it to this day because my first order was, I don't know, like 20,000 boxes or something. So I just figured I'm gonna keep selling it because it's a great product, you know? And so the image is the old Santa Monica Pier on the front of the bar for the dark bar. And the milk bar is an image of the Manhattan Beach Pier, which I will, you know is very dear to my heart because it's an actual image of when we got married and you know, it's it's an image that has accidentally only someone like myself would know who's in the in the image of course, right. It's got a picture of my father in there. It's got a nice, US and Canadian flag hanging out there. You know, it's got Surfers on their typical California vibe. But the images that are in there have a lot of our wedding party, you know, okay, which is really cool. So it's superimposed on this milk chocolate bar. So we've we've got it forever. You know, my my father's passed now but it brings back some beautiful memories, you know? Those two boxes are products, the dark bar and the milk bar. Were my very first two products so I wasn't necessarily scaling up but I certainly weren't getting, you know, a lot of orders and, and really, it was just, you know, b2b. So I was, you know, still refereeing some adult hockey at night. And I recall, you know, finishing getting off the ice at midnight. Or 1230. And then going right to the rented space, and creating bars, creating these bars, wrapping them, bringing them home, and then going out the next morning and finding clients finding businesses that we could sell these bars that yeah, that was a lot of fun. And then in that same space, just across the lane, a spot opened up. And so I got thinking, maybe we could take over that spot and we did I put a lot of money into a commercial kitchen. Really fun times because that was the advent of my adventure into bean to bar chocolate. So you know, I was always up on on education and, and was going to different schools, you know, including a school in Canada in Montreal. And, oh, I posed a question to a prominent chef to this day. I will not name him. I just like it to be that way because I still don't understand why he discouraged me from making my own chocolate. So I posed the question, How come there's so many ingredients in chocolate in some chocolates? And why can't I make my own chocolate? And I suppose being an official, a referee. You know, you've got that someone in control, you know, and you want to looking back I wanted to make my own chocolate and I posed that question. To him and in no uncertain terms at all. No, you can't make your chocolate. You know, you can't make chocolate and I still recall the day because, you know, a guy that owns the Newfoundland chocolate company was standing right next to me when I asked that question. And and so on the next flight out back to Los Angeles. I you know, don't say no to a human being but we run for the hills and and we do the opposite, you know, so, back then. 2007 2008 bean to bar chocolate was still really the you know, something that was unheard of and had had been explored but you had a brilliant mind and John Nancy had a lot of information for a lot of us online, bean to bar chocolate and he's just human. You know, he's just like, I think of him as a mad scientist. You know, he just he all and he always share information, which was really, really cool. You know? There was also the chocolate life which was play, play Gordon's deal he had any is still running to this day lot information as well. That was really cool for a lot of us because we, you know, I mean, back then Google was you know, the forum to find answers, right. And so, there wasn't anything really on on chocolate making, except people's experiences. And of course, John nancies and, you know, Clay Gordon stuff as well. So you took different scenarios and people trial tribulations and you kind of formed it and morphed it into your own. So, I recall back then we had you know, a Frankenstein which is a hopper to to separate the, you know, the husk from the cacao bean. Bought a primitive material I look at now i gosh, I just shaved my head because now we have state of the art chocolate making machinery where back then

Michael Dugan:

you have one that you What did you call it? Yeah, it's

Chef Jeffray:

Big Mama Big Mama. Tell me about big Baba. Yeah. It holds close to 200 pounds a chocolate. It's probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest craft chocolate making machine in the United States. I mean, there's a lot of the smaller ones that hold, you know, 6070 pounds, but this one certainly is a beast. Yeah, we haven't come close yet to filling it right to the top yet. I can't wait for that day. As it's you know, back then. I look at you know that old crank Stein Hopper putting it into a bussers tray, shaking the tray, reversing a shop vac so it doesn't suck air but the lows there and tilting the buss tray. So the shaft or shell floats to the top with a little bit of shaking. And then you with the reverse Shopback what gently blowing at a certain angle that has gone off and of course into the parking lot of our of our factory and that's how we did it back then. You know? And so oh my god quick sidebar. To this story. I'm just imagining all this. Yeah,

Michael Dugan:

I'm closing my eyes, right and your subscriptions are amazing. And think about think about our audience around the world, right? Because that's where it reaches. We're in 21 countries now. Oh, I'm so thankful you are dream come true to talk to you and to interview chefs and culinary artists.

Chef Jeffray:

And listen so these these this these husks.. I'm thinking, wow, you know, they they're inside a pod encased in a pod so it's food safe. And the pod grows on the tree. So I'm thinking, God, it's gotta be full of nutrients, you know? And so I'm like, it would be a shame to just sweep it up and throw it in the garbage. So I got this idea to go to the local Home Depot at the time, and I bought myself a lemon tree and it was just tiny, but it was my way of not wasting wasting the cacao husk right the chef again so I would sweep it up and continue to put it in the lemon tree on top anyways, so I ended up looking at that lemon tree one day, and I couldn't believe it. I was jumping up and down. There was little bites on the lemon tree. There was lemons actually growing on this tree and I guess you in retrospect you look back a while yeah, dummy. It's a lemon tree right? I so excited because yeah, it didn't have anything on it. And, and so all of a sudden, this lemon tree in a pot started sprouting, and it was growing for five lemons, like healthy lemons. Oh my gosh. And I could clearly see you know, after months that it needed a new pot, you know, and so I must have changed that lemon tree pot. Three times did I change maybe three or four times I change to the last time. I really needed two people to lift this big clay pot and I transferred all the soil and all the mulch which now turned into just incredible, incredible soil. And I've never seen Michael so big of earthworms inside. I'm like, Where Where the heck did these come from? They were huge. But so healthy, have soil and it continued to grow. And I had so many lemons it was it was amazing. Amazing. But I I point to the the cacao and the shaft that's what it was. It's just the nutrient nutrients. Yes. Yeah. So now today, we never waste our shell. We've been doing it for many years now we make amazing cacao tea. So we have it in in three flavors a pure tea, a lemon robust and a Hawaiian fruit plant. Oh my god. So we have three that we sell online which is really cool and it moves. It's great. It's a great seller for us. And the flavor is extraordinary. It really is sounds like you're feeding the memory you know I'm thinking these memories back then. I had our old our old manufacturing. This is what it's all about. We ended up getting a very large order I started talking to Chef Daniel of ciao bella, which is up your way in, I believe Eugene, Oregon, and they have another plant in Pennsylvania I believe it is. And they tasted our chocolate they requested some of our mocha bits I believe it was and back then I was flavoring it with Indonesian Sumatra coffee and it was just to die for it was really cool stuff. And we continued with a, you know, harvested a relationship and we ended up or they ended up using our chocolate in one of their five, five or six flavors that were you know being to this day they sell not our flavor. Our flavor ended up that's another story, but it ended up being discontinued but the other you know, sorbets gelato sells at Whole Foods, amongst other you know, stores across the US, but it was an amazing flavor. But what happened was, it was really cool because I was I recall these are more memories but I had a bit job at a couple of airlines in Canada was Air Canada and here was Northwest Airlines and Delta Airlines. So I work you know cargo I pictured particularly like you know, moving luggage and cargo, pushing pushing back planes and so forth. And it was physical work, but I always liked it, probably from my hockey days. But we I ended up having the experience to drive forklifts right so I shook my head one day I couldn't believe that me as a chocolate maker is now driving this forklift with a pallet of Marsatta chocolate. Oh wow going on to as samurai and I'm lifting it up and I'm like, Is this a dream or why? So? Yeah, that's really cool. It's like gold. It's like you're lifting gold. Yeah, chocolate was being shipped to Eugene and to Pennsylvania at the time. So gosh, it was fun times and it all unfortunately came to a crashing halt. And what happened was, me being the hockey enthusiast. I am I just have a passion, you know for hockey and my kids all play hockey. My one girl is in Maine. She's a goalie. Oh, wow. Very good goalie and in her high school and going to college next year,

Michael Dugan:

so my wife had a question. Oh, yeah. Retirement hockey. She loves hockey and I've seen it a few times. I love soccer. Oh, we love soccer too. Yeah, but have you ever spent a lot of time in the penalty box? That's what's your

Chef Jeffray:

it's really funny. You say that because maybe your wife feels my passion or something because a lot of my players that I play for we have a team called Mars the chocolates Marsatta chocolate. Oh, love it. It's really it's really cool going into the rink and you see on the big monitor, Marsatta chocolate dressing room seven or six or something it's it's so surreal to see that you know it's I'm just thankful that I have such great teammates that, you know, another story in itself when we were the chiefs and moving up to a higher division. We didn't have a name for the team. They said why not the Marsatta chocolates. I'm like, Get out of here. No way. And it stuck. And so it's it's kind of the you know, but getting back to your wife's question. Yeah. Yeah, I guess the passion sticks out and I've had I've served some time but at the same time, I always say that you know, as a referee. We we never lose, you know, we always were always putting everyone in the same bin, you know,

Michael Dugan:

right. But it wouldn't be hockey without a penalty box. I mean, that's part of the passion behind it. I think that

Chef Jeffray:

Players sin all the time on the ice. So they have to be punished for their sins.

Michael Dugan:

You could have become a pastor instead of

Chef Jeffray:

Yeah, I could have been I was I was an altar boy at one time. Okay, all right. But dad, okay, right on. Yeah, I think my brother was as well. We all had our our time, I guess. And when we and I guess the world evolves after a while and, you know, I I'm, I'm still close, but I'm not real close. I guess I could say I'm more closer to chocolate. But I still try and keep humans in my mind. And I try and serve and I try and give as much as possible. And if I can help others. I want to be there

Michael Dugan:

to help them the same. I think it's really a great thing to have in your soul.

Chef Jeffray:

Yeah, and I by the way, I'll never forget. I mean, that's how we connected I listened to your stories, you know. It really resonated you know, when you and your wife are married, you know and then when you were in Europe, you know and those stories of the remember the figs in that soil? Yeah, in Sardinia? Yeah, yeah. So I remember those stories and I thought of my wife when i i blindfolded her and took her on a United flight to Paris and back then i i could bind folder then but nowadays would probably get thrown in jail or something. She never knew where she was going until I think someone said something maybe a flight attendant or something said that, you know, we're flying to Paris and she's like, Oh my God. And she still didn't know what was going on. It was during Easter holidays. And that's when I proposed to her on a on one of those gondolas. Yeah, this was in Venice, Italy.

Michael Dugan:

So your romantic and a chocalatier very powerful. I think there's gonna be a lot of people come into your life.

Chef Jeffray:

Yeah, I had a note I had two notes, one or three, I think, one in Italian, one in French, and one in English. And I gave them to the Oh, the gondola opera. Yeah, the gondola Yeah. And, and I told him to read them out to her.And she goes honey, you got to ask me? Yeah. He didn't know what he was getting into, you know. And so these were in little easter eggs, and they had little jelly beans inside. And yeah, and that was so cool. I kind of let her know my plans that I wasn't sure if I was going to ask her in Venice or if I was going to ask her on the Eiffel Tower. And then she says, Well, you can ask me on the Eiffel Tower as well if you want. And so we did. We ended up going traveling from Venice and going to the Eiffel Tower, and I'll never forget these American girls that were there over the Easter holidays from a you know, an American school. And they caught on what was going on and I was on one knee and they were like freaking out. These are young school girls and they're like, Oh my God, this guy's asking her to marry him, you know? And so it's really cool on top. of the Eiffel tower there and so I still over a trip because we never got to have a honeymoon. You know, we had we decided instead of we got married here in the South Bay, in Redondo Beach here and we had everyone come from you know, Minnesota and all over the US and Canada. And we wanted just to clearly Naomi and I are people you know, where people persons right we love conversation. We like talking we love, love it. We love love. We love life, you know? So Right? Why would we want to leave the people that we invited? So we stayed and didn't go on a honeymoon, you know, and so I still need to take her to, to Greece. I always said I went in and cool. 19 20 years later, we still haven't gone yet. So we've got to get on that plan soon.

Michael Dugan:

Iit's funny because I always tell people when I got married, and I met Carrie I had to hang on because she is obsessed with travel, obsessed. Like every year we travel around the world that every time we get time off it is and it's tiring to because I we live in the Pacific Northwest, which in the summertime is the most gorgeous place in the entire world as far as I'm concerned. And I'm a fly fisherman and I fishes so it's like we could take a vacation and camp but she doesn't want to do it. She wants to go to you know, Australia. She wants to go to South America. She wants to go to France. She wants to go to Italy or she wants to go to New Orleans. We've been there a couple times and oh yeah, but but I love the experience for me because it's the culture in the food. It's the culture and the food and those experiences are priceless you know we at least one time right often imagine this, okay, we're on this desert island basically, in the middle of nowhere. And literally we took a trip a boat for a day to go boating fishing, which is for fly fisherman which is the epic experience of your life. Yes. And we did it and they took us to a Coconut Island that nobody was around, right and there was a dog with them. And we had a really amazing Barracuda coconut lunch with Oh, it's just out of this world. So serene, and there's nobody and you're fishing by yourself in this crystal clear water that is on what they call basically a key. So if you walked a quarter of a mile you would be deep in the ocean but because you're in this area, you're in like two feet of water. And yeah, like a lagoon. Well, it's like a lagoon, but also, they would take us on the boat and we would literally stop in the middle of the ocean. And the guy guide would go get out, jump out right in the middle of ocean. Well, it's only two feet, right and you're walking around there's sharks swimming around you and there's pelicans diving and this whole experience was so surreal but this is all because my wife is obsessed with travel. Which isn't a bad thing.

Chef Jeffray:

No... isn't but Michael you got to do when you're young people say that all the time because you know what? You're forging those memories, right those memories you look back when you're having a so so day and you think back and you both talk about it. And you just sit around and go yeah, let's go let's go here. Let's go there.

Michael Dugan:

We continue to do it. But with the pandemic, we put it on pause and that's also part of why I started the podcast.

Chef Jeffray:

Yeah, I understand. I mean it's it's some trying times out there and, you know, I don't think you guys have children yet. No, so you know. We've got five so it kind of convoluted a lot of things and you'd have to have a huge budget to take the whole family, you know, and so that's pretty cool. Yeah, and, of course, you know, back then for us doing those things and those travels we were it was just the two of us, you know, and we still to this day, love jumping in a car and going wherever, you know, it's part of our family. Our family trips, we still do it.

Unknown:

Yeah, that's awesome. So let's talk a little bit about Marsatta as a whole. Can you kind of help us understand what it would be like if we come to visit you What would your chocolate be like? What would