Stockport-born chocolatier Sharon Drysdale opened Bonbon in the Northern Quarter four years ago. Her beautifully crafted chocolates are renowned for their delightfully unusual flavour combinations.
The tiny and quirky shop on John Street takes its inspiration from Mexico’s Day of the Dead ceremonies, where chocolate is often used as a ritualistic offering to the spirits, with human skulls a frequently used design element symbolising life and death. Skull chocolates happen to be one of Sharon’s best sellers throughout the year, not just at Halloween, but if you are looking for something a little more festive, her Stilton and Caramel Bonbons make perfect gifts for Christmas.
What got you started in your field of work?
The love of chocolate. And the film Chocolat based on the book by Joanne Harris. I wanted to be Vianne Rocher played by Juliette Binoche. I was helping out a chocolatier friend on a couple of markets and events who taught me the basics and his love of chocolate rubbed off on me. He introduced me to Bonbon where they needed a manager. He left and I stayed. I think I’m pretty close to her character now.
Who have been the biggest influences on your work?
Paul A. Young. He is an English chocolatier and has three chocolateries in London. He uses no preservatives like me. I went on a workshop with him at his shop on Islington High Street last year and he has been a big influence in his approach and the way he works.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
Making the chocolate and the friends I’ve met here at Bonbon. Chocolate is a real heart opener, often given for love. It makes people open up and share their experiences. It’s a real privilege when they let me into their lives.
What does your typical day involve?
I get up at 7am and drink lots of coffee. I come to the shop and check the diary for events and orders that week and make a list of what needs making. I spend all day Tuesday and Wednesday in our kitchen near the Cathedral making the chocolate which will see us through the week. Although occasionally I will need to make a top up on Friday. I work in the shop with my assistant Thursday to Saturday and tend to have Sundays and Mondays off, although this time of year is our busiest so I will be around as needed.
And how do you relax on your days off?
Yoga. Lots of walking up in the hills. And Cacao Ceremonies which I attend across the country. I hope to hold my own ceremonies eventually as they are very powerful and a great way of connecting people emotionally. Cacao has so many positive associations.
What is the best advice you have been given or can give?
Work and life balance is hugely important. Try and keep to that and enjoy what you do. Putting love in makes all the difference. If you don’t love what you do, why do it?
If things hadn’t worked out, what else could you have seen yourself doing?
I worked as an Art & Design teacher for thirteen years so I would have worked in this field still, probably for The Stroke Association where I taught eight week courses. The time I spent with those students made a profound difference to their lives.
Tell us one thing about yourself people might be surprised to hear
I am a member of Turbojugend. It’s an international fan club of the Norwegian rock band Turbonegro. We all wear specially made denim jackets, or kutte, and meet up all over the world to support the band.
Name your three favourite places in Manchester.
Rockers of England on Oldham Street is my favourite shop, I buy loads of clothes there. Federal Coffee for their coffee obviously and gorgeous staff. And I love The Star & Garter, I’ve been to so many gigs there. It’s so down and dirty.
If you could change one thing about Manchester what would it be?
Litter. I see so many people throwing down their rubbish and there is no excuse as there are so many bins. I see rats all the time in the city centre and it’s horrible. I hate it. I wish people would love Manchester enough and use the bins. Simple.
And finally, what do you love most about Manchester?
The friendly people. And the venues. We are so lucky here, it’s easy to forget just how many music venues there are, and all the different genres. But go anywhere else and it soon becomes very apparent.