“When I was a child, my great-aunt called me ‘Goldbrick’ because I loved chocolate so much,” said Dorothy “Dodie” Clement, who admits she would rather be concocting chocolate goodies for neighbors, church groups and fundraisers more than just about anything else.
It’s strictly a labor of love for the University Medical Center nurse, who never charges for her treats.
“And I never will,” Clement said. “When I see the joy on people’s faces when they unwrap a gift of chocolate that I’ve made specially for them, it’s pure joy. How can you put a price tag on that?”
Clement has been spreading around that cocoa-based joy for eight years, ever since she spied the bake sale at Metairie Academy, where her granddaughter Laney attended.
“It was like something was awakened in me, something that had been dormant for a long time,” Clement said. “Everywhere there were cookies, fudge. I just knew that I had to get involved. I made suckers and heavenly hash. I knew that the only thing I couldn’t put in my chocolates was any type of nuts because of allergies.”
Not to worry: The sale was a success, and Clement began the sweetest eight-year romp any person could have. She says she felt like she’d died and awakened working in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
“I started making chocolate strawberries and chocolate covered Oreos and chocolate everything else,” she said.
It wasn’t long before Clement began scouring the landscape in search of molds: bunnies and chicks for Easter, ghosts for Halloween fright chocolates, hearts carrying lovie-dovie messages for Valentine’s Day.
“My chocolate-covered pretzels are always big hits at bake sales,” Clement said, adding she’s made baby shower chocolates as well as wedding treats. “I once made over 200 chocolate favors for a wedding. … I was listed as “The Chocolatier” in the program,” she said.
She has little chocolate alligators for a Louisiana theme; crunchy chocolate Christmas trees for the holidays; edible masks for Mardi Gras; and little chocolate leprechauns for St. Patrick’s Day.
“I have about 100 molds,” Clement said. “There are so many statements you can make with chocolate. The only restriction would be location. Because of our climate here in Louisiana, you have to keep parties and other functions indoors.”
And, no matter the topic, Clement’s conversation always seems to come back to chocolate.
Talk about a rose garden can easily glide into one about “chocolate roses.” You mention a sale at a local market and all of a sudden names like Russell Stover, Ghiardelli, Guittard, Godiva or other famous chocolatiers begin creeping into the conversation.
But Clement is not bragging. She speaks from knowledge gained out of pure love.
Rifling through the stacks of molds on her kitchen table, she’s talks about the difference between good chocolate and cheap chocolate and why she prefers to work with chocolate wafers rather than bulky chocolate blocks. … And into the evening the conversation rolls on.
Or, as the character Charlie Buckets replies when Willy Wonka asks how he liked the chocolate factory, “I think it’s the most wonderful place in the world.”