10 Questions with Mike, a Confectioner
10 Questions With….
A new series showing you a little bit of work-life in the Chocolate Factory!
1. How did you get started with Wilbur’s of Maine?
Well, I answered a Craigslist ad for the job, actually. Now, it’s been two years since I started.
Here, Mike adjusts the nozzles on the belt coater, as he makes Milk Chocolate Raisins.
2. As a confectioner, you work in the Panning Room making all of the Panned Chocolates, the largest part of our wholesale business. Was that intimidating at first having never worked in the field?
The on the job training that Wilbur’s provided helped me gain confidence. Actually, my favorite part of the job is learning something new. Specifically, the behind-the-scenes of some of the “classic movie theatre” types of candies I remember as a kid. Knowing how they are made now makes you appreciate them even more.
3. What is a “typical day” for you at Wilbur’s?
My shift starts at 11:30 am. I have a mid-day checklist to follow. I clean the machinery and other tasks from the checklist. I find out where the last run ended and pick up where Adam left off. I keep it going or get it running again. We typically produce three batches or “runs” a day. My day ends at 8 pm.
The control panel for the belt coater in the panning room.
4. What does that process look like, running a batch?
Well, these are milk raisins. We start them here on the belt coater, coating them with chocolate, which takes 3-4 hours. Then, we put them in pans to be smoothed and polished, that’s another 1-2 hours.
The chocolates dry on racks for another 2 hours. Then, they are sifted and cased, which is typically 1-2 hours as well. In all, it takes up to 10 hours a batch.
Mike sorts through the Milk Raisins, to ensure the proper quality as they run.
5. Is there ever a slow time of year?
Spring into Summer is definitely the slowest production time for the factory. But, this is the only job I’ve had where the owners go out of their way to find work for you.
I do odd jobs all the time during the slow season like painting, yard work, and carpentry. The list goes on. If you want the hours, they make sure you get them.
6. You have two other jobs outside of Wilbur’s. What do you like about coming to work here?
I really enjoy the familiarity of the routine. I can become skilled at the process, but the outcome is different because we produce different chocolates every run. I don’t dread coming to work every day, which is a relief.
Checking the levels of Dark Chocolate in one of our three melters.
7. Do you have a memorable story about working here?
It was one of my first nights alone after training. I left the heat gun on a batch of malt balls for too long. They clumped up. I got to spend the next few hours breaking up clumps of malt balls into individual malt balls. I never made that mistake again!
Mike checks on the Malt Balls in the large pans as they dry and get polished.
8. What’s your favorite Wilbur’s chocolate?
For a panned item, I would say Milk Chocolate Pretzels. From the other enrobing room, I’d say Mud Puppies and Scotch Kisses.
I have a sweet tooth. My Grandmother did too. Our special thing was sneaking sweets. I think she’d be pretty excited I was working here.
9. What would her favorite treats be?
Orange slices and Necco wafers from the Bow Street and Brunswick stores, for sure.
Mike looking in on the chocolate levels of our stack melter.
10. What is something you would want people to know about your job?
How much pride we take in our work. When I have a finished product of 400 lbs. of espresso beans, I can see myself in each bean.