Sam Sloan. / J. R.

Chef to chocolatier; Scotland to Spain

Sam Sloan's creations are sold at farmers' markets in Malaga province and orders come in from as far afield as Canada and Japan via his online shop

Jennie Rhodes

If a craving for Belgian chocolate truffles has been exacerbated by not being able to travel to the country itself to sample some, or indeed you have ever wondered what combinations like salted liquorice caramel or Amaretto, honey and fig might taste like, then you need look no further than the Axarquía.

Sam Sloan is a Scottish chef turned chocolatier who has lived in the area for 20 years and has been preparing his creations from his kitchen, since selling his two restaurants in Nerja in 2013.

Sam, 65, who is originally from Paisley, started off in the catering industry in his native country, before deciding that he wanted to combine cooking with travelling and began working as a chef on cruise ships, a job that has taken him all over the world.

It was while on the ships that Sam discovered his talent for creating incredible taste combinations for petits fours and in particular chocolates.

"I started out preparing them for the midnight buffets and it went from there," he reveals.

The chef has also worked "on land" in the UK as well as France and Italy. However, in 2001 he and his late wife came to Nerja where he opened two restaurants. Here he made his chocolates to serve with coffee and sell to customers. He eventually sold both premises after suffering a heart attack in 2013.

A slower pace

Shortly afterwards, Sam tragically lost his wife to cancer and while he wanted to continue working after a period of recuperation, he knew he needed a slower pace of life.

"Working in kitchens is such high pressure," says Sam, explaining why it is not uncommon for chefs to suffer from heart attacks, bouts of depression and even contemplate or indeed commit suicide.

"I have learned to live without stress. I have adopted the 'mañana' attitude to life and not worry about anything," Sam says.

He decided to continue making his popular chocolates from his own kitchen and started selling his creations online, mainly to the UK, but also as far afield as Canada and Japan. "Some Japanese people tasted my chocolates while they were on holiday here and now they order them from me twice a year."

Since Brexit the UK market has died, he explains, largely due to the import tax the buyer would be subject to if they were to buy chocolate from an European Union country.

The chocolatier still sells to other EU countries - including Belgium and Switzerland - "talk about coals to Newcastle" Sam laughs. He is also a regular at Malaga's farmers and charity markets, including those at Trapiche and Sotogrande.

Sam explains that his creations have no additives or added sugar and as such they have a shelf-life of around six months.

He sources his raw chocolate from Venezuela and makes sure that he uses fair trade suppliers. Each truffle is made from between 70 to 82 per cent cocoa, depending on the blend.

Many of the ingredients he uses are grown locally, or even in his own or friends' gardens, like the raspberries that go into the raspberry truffles or the lemons that go into the lemon and lime chocolates.

Combining flavours

Sam says of his combinations, "As a writer knows which words go together, I know which flavours marry. I've been a chef since 1969, so I know what works well."

He currently has 28 different truffles, but admits that he's always experimenting with new combinations.

The chocolatier points out that as he doesn't smoke or drink alcohol, he has a "very delicate palette" which allows him to really taste the different flavours.

Sam is passionate about chocolate-making and says he has researched the history of chocolate dating back to the Aztecs and adds that anything he does he likes "to know about".

That passion is helped by the "instant feedback" he gets from people when they sample his chocolates. He says it's a job which is "guaranteed to make people happy" and that he loves seeing people's reactions when they try one of his chocolates.

"There's nothing better than seeing someone's eyes light up when they taste a chocolate they really like," he says.