We are always fascinated by the day-to-day lives of our athlete friends. We love to see how the endurance learned on the course translates into resilience when facing real life obstacles. We asked Matt Willis how he became OCR's most sought-after chocolatier, and it wasn't without challenges.
In 2019 I was headed to the OCR World Championships and decided to spend some time in Switzerland ahead of the race weekend. We spent eight amazing days going through the countryside in Interlaken through Grindelwald and the Jungfrau area. We even made a day trip to Zermatt for the Matterhorn and stopped at Chez Vrony restaurant for food and a photo that we blew up for the mantle.
Our ninth day though was going to be mired in clouds and rain. There was no avoiding it; so we took a chocolate tempering class for fun. Why? Because, why not? It’s freaking Switzerland, and who is going to turn down a chance to make your own chocolate?
Through the course, it seemed that I kind of have a knack for tempering chocolate. Throughout the class, the lead Chocolatier just kept pointing at me and saying, “Look at Team Texas, exactly like that.” We had a blast, turned in our bars and went to eat. On the way back, I decided I was going to ask if I actually was decent enough to possibly do this at home. Their response “YEAH! Totally!” They let me take photos of everything, showed me my bars vs others and how the chocolate stricture was set properly vs separating coco butter. They even went as far as telling me what brand of couverture every Chocolatier in Switzerland uses. It’s not even commercially available in Switzerland. This was the moment chocolate went from something that I enjoyed to something more - a true passion.
After coming home and trying various chocolates (including other Swiss brands), I decided to give it a shot. It took me two months to source the equipment I needed and the couverture chocolate I was shown into the US. Once it all arrived, I failed. I failed a lot. It took SO MANY HOURS before I got my first good temper at home. After weeks of trying, I finally had a good number of bars and then decided I was going to make some truffles, because, why not?
Then, in January of 2020, I started going to my first pop-up markets. I started out as a one-man cottage kitchen with one milk chocolate bar, one 60% dark chocolate bar, and four flavors of truffles. I didn’t have much, but what I did have was joy in a bar.
I’ve taken that small start to now having my own commercial kitchen, extending out through the city of San Antonio, and now expanding to Austin while still creating everything by hand. I’ve been able to curate many new flavors of chocolate bars and truffles to fit the taste of anyone and everyone. The true joy in working with chocolate comes from people trying my products for the first time and seeing their reactions. I truly can’t describe the feeling I had the first time I had Fine, Swiss Chocolate. But you can only experience something for the first time once. Through this, I get to see so many people have that experience, and it just makes all the hours and effort worth it. Every single time.
I’m thankful for many things and people in my life that the sport of OCR has given me over the past ten years. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would go somewhere for a race and come home with a hobby that turned into a business, that is now a thriving and growing brand.
Matt Willis is a veteran obstacle course racer and owner of Swiss Chocolate Shoppe with multiple locations in Texas. Shipping is available in the Fall and Winter. Learn more at https://www.swisschocolateshoppe.com/.