February 7, 2020

RENEGADE CHOCOLATIER

In the kitchen with Dude, Sweet Chocolate founder Katherine Clapner

When she launched Dude, Sweet Chocolate over a decade ago, Katherine Clapner successfully carved out a niche in the confectionary market. Her specialty: out-of-the-box chocolates with unique chef-driven flavor profiles. Drawing from more than 20 years of experience as a pastry chef (including years as Executive Pasty Chef at Stephan Pyles restaurant), Clapner takes an experimental approach to her craft, turning out everything from Albatross Fudge made with dehydrated blue cheese to aromatic truffles featuring bergamot, jasmine, and orange. To our delight, Dude, Sweet recently set up shop on Main Street next door to The Joule. We chatted with Clapner about her journey here and what’s to come…

Dude, Sweet has been a Dallas staple for over a decade. How did you get here? 
It was pure accident. The idea came in 2008. I knew Redding May, my business partner, from a bar in my neighborhood. He asked if I would create chocolates for clients as Christmas gifts and 50 boxes turned into 150. That was the first time I’d focused on just chocolate. 

What makes your approach unique?
It’s a combination of all the chefs, cuisines, and things I love. We are far more chef driven than confection driven. I see ingredients differently and I stick to my guns about what we make. We have a very specific style. For instance, we typically don’t do white chocolates or milk chocolates. But we’re getting ready to launch white and milk chocolate bars made with matcha and chai, which wouldn’t work in dark chocolate. The matcha is inspired by Japanese green tea KitKats, which are stupidly good. And you can actually break the chai one in half and drop it in water to make chai tea; it’s super magical.

 

 

As complex as the chocolates are, you’ve intentionally kept stores and packaging simple.
The goal is that a teenager on a date can come in, buy a gift, and not be intimidated or nervous—and a lady who drives a Bentley and has traveled all over the world can come in and find something she’ll love. Those are the two people that are important to me and neither is more important than the other.

Do you have a favorite creation?
My favorite is always the last one I ate. We’re reintroducing our sampler box for Valentine’s Day and it’s absolutely delicious, so I’m really looking forward to that. I think our mini skulls are really delicious, too. Right now, they’re made with duck fat caramel. What’s not to like about that? 

 

 

Have their been fails in the kitchen?
It’s happened when I’ve made something that somebody else suggested, so I don’t listen anymore. Nobody good happens when somebody starts a conversation with, “What you should do is…”

Tell us about opening on Main Street.
I like what’s happening downtown. This is my running route. It’s my backyard. This part of town is important to me, so I’m thrilled. 

What’s next?
I have a vision for the downtown store. Valentine’s weekend we’re doing a trial run of bubbles, bourbon, and chocolate tastings for couples. We’re good at tasting events. I have ideas for more events like that moving forward. 

Top chocolate and drink pairings you recommend?
Sauvignon blanc and the Flower Child Truffle is spectacular. The Hanoi Fudge, which is made with coffee, is amazing with bourbon. And the Albatross Fudge is great with Bishop Cider CO’s original cider. Everything we have is good with Prosecco or Champagne. 

Anything else?
Come in! We’re only as good as the people who come in the store. 

The Details: Dude, Sweet, 1604 Main Street. 214.879.1991

Photo | Manny Rodriguez