Faith Dionne started as a pastry chef, living and working all over the United States. She says that each town has a unique identity that she experienced through food. Now living in Portland, Ore., Dionne says that place is a paradise of ingredients and has grown a food community that celebrates locality. The 2013 Good Foods award winner has set out to showcase the region with an ingredient-driven candy bar line, http://beesandbeans.com/.
Q: Can you talk about your personal background and how you came to be an artisan candy bar maker?
A: My background is as a classically trained pastry chef. After culinary school, I worked in hotels and restaurants around the country for 10 years. I had been making salted caramels for friends and family for a while and noticed that they were typically eaten by threes and fours. I decided to start dipping bars of caramel to save time and things evolved from there.
Q: You use so many products from Oregon and you call it a paradise of ingredients. Why is that region such a great place to get items from, especially honey?
A: Oregon has a vibrant and diverse farm culture. Chefs have been working hard to develop relationships and build systems in our community for decades. It’s easy to get inspired by a drive through the Willamette Valley. Wessels honey is another way to experience the Valley. We currently host a hive in our backyard for Beelocal, which places hives around the Portland area. Honey, like my candy bars, capture the specific place in which the bees live.
Q: Focusing on the honey bar, why was it important to you to use honey in this product?
A: The honey bar was my flagship product. I made the choice to use honey as my invert sugar in all of my products instead of glucose or corn syrup. It functions similarly, tastes amazingly, is produced locally and helps the local food system.
Q: What do you love most about working with honey?
A: I love the slight variations I see bucket to bucket. I wish I could read the honey like a little bee log. I know each harvest reflects what was happening in the bees’ area.
A: The Good Food Award was an incredible honor. I was attracted to it because it is purely merit based. Products are blind tasted (no packaging, PR firms, or voting) and the finalists are vetted to assure good practices are employed. The purity of it is lovely and I hope that it is what remains in the specialty food world.