SHSU junior and engineering technology major Eric Unfried has dreams of becoming a chocolatier. Unfried makes a variety of confectionaries, from ice cream cakes, chocolate, doughnuts, bonbons and lollipops, to his most developed candy – toffee.
Unfried explains how he stumbled onto his passion.
“It was a couple of years ago for the Christmas party here at the Baptist Student Ministry,” Unfried said. “I was looking for something to make and randomly chose candy. I used to work at Cold Stone making ice cream cakes, and enjoyed that, so I saw toffee and thought ‘I can do that’.”
Unfried had no idea that one treat would lead to a full-blown hobby and come to mean so much to him. For Unfried, candy making is focused on how it makes him, and others, feel. Candy and confectionary creations take him back to simpler days and Unfried hopes to share that experience with others through every batch.
“It’s a really good stress reliever,” Unfried said. “It makes me really happy when I do it. It takes me back to innocent childhood memories of trying sweets. I think the best part is when I make it well and see others enjoy it.”
Unfried relies on his friends to encourage and put the ‘can’ back in ‘candy making’. It is a trial and error process, especially when he’s experimenting with original recipes.
“Making these candies for and with others makes it more fun because I’m so critical of everything I make,” Unfried said. “Everything has to be perfect, which might sound silly. It can get frustrating and I try to catch myself.”
Unfried revealed his best and worst chocolate creations.
“I’ve been experimenting with different toppings for chocolate which has been an interesting experience, but my favorite is peppermint,” Unfried said. “I’ll grate or slice thin pieces of peppermint and put it on the chocolate which is great for Christmas. There’s one I’ve tried blocking out in my memory because it was just so bad. I tried adding dried fruit with the chocolate, but it was awful.”
Unfried’s creations take a lot of ingenuity, time, money, and effort. With so many components to the art and science of chocolatiering, he is doing everything he can to maximize his knowledge and efficiency.
“I used to spend a couple of hours a week at least on it, but this semester has been really busy,” Unfried said. “So, I’ve been reading different cook books for chefs and culinary school students. That helped a lot with refining my methods, like ‘mise en place’ (a French term for “putting everything in its place”) and mentally preparing beforehand.”
Though Unfried plans to finish his engineering degree, he hopes to one day pursue the culinary track.
“These past few years, I’ve noticed how much I love food service and culinary arts, but I don’t want to jump in because I’m very impulsive,” Unfried. “I have a habit of going from one thing to the next, so I’m trying to be careful by getting my degree first and then pursue something culinary.”
If all goes well, Unfried is considering the Culinary Institute of America in hopes of becoming like his idol, Gordon Ramsay.
“His shows are fine, but I like the web series on his YouTube channel, or when he’s a guest on a show and brings his daughter Tilly,” Unfried said. “It’s a lot of fun seeing how much he loves it, how soft spoken he is, and how different he is from his main shows.”
According to Unfried’s friends, he’s less of a Ramsay and more like a real-life Willy Wonka. Unfried finds the comparison to be flattering and humorous, but not too far from his dreams.
“Oh gosh, what an exaggeration,” Unfried said. “That’s really funny because I’d love for that to happen someday. To follow the candy making path would be ideal for that exact scenario, or that kind of experience. I’ve never actually been to a chocolate factory, but I’d like to have one like a Willy Wonka factory. I think that’s pretty funny, but maybe someday.”
Unfried doesn’t sell his treats, but does it for the love of baking and creating. The Houstonian and SHSU Creates is looking for more students like Eric Unfried; someone with a unique talent that deserves recognition. If that’s you, or someone you know, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We thank you for your art and submissions.