Updated: Mar 21
A note before I begin: I started writing this post before all the COVID-19 stuff started happening. It is more important now than ever that we support the local businesses we care about. Order deliver or carry out, pick up some coffee or beer from your favorite coffee shops and breweries, get some candy from your local confectionary. With restaurants and bars closing, many people will be out of work for the near future and if we don't support these places they may not have a job to go back to when this all, hopefully, blows over. Keep safe, keep to yourselves, and support your local businesses as much as you are able. On to the original post!
I am beginning a new project in which I work with local business owners to photograph the work that goes on behind the scenes to make the products you love, run the shops you frequent, and provide the services you rely on. The first local business owners kind enough to let me tag along behind the scenes were Sean and Jenny from Bonbon Bombardier (@bonbon_bombardier).
To start, I must recount the story that inspired me to pursue this project; the picture that got away. I was back home in the Chicago area visiting my parents for the holidays and driving out to meet a friend for drinks. This was winter (obviously) and cold (obviously, it's Chicago) and dark (again, Chicago in the winter). I approached a red light and stopped in front of a local jewelry store that had recently closed for the evening. The lights were still on inside, the windows were partially frosted over in the cold, surprisingly wet weather, and when I looked over, I saw through the frosted windows a woman in a light blue suit and heels vacuuming the floors of her business.
That sounds anticlimactic to me when I read it now, but I wish I had my camera ready because the picture was perfect! That's not a side of that business that customers ever see! They see this professional woman in a nice suit selling them expensive jewelry, but they don't see the time spent after close keeping the store clean, making sure the merchandise looks well, and generally caring for the business she is supporting. I have no idea if this woman was the owner or an employee, but the image sticks with me as an example of the care and work that goes in behind the scenes to keep a business running that we might take for granted. I started this project as an attempt to bring some of the care these business owners have for their trade to the forefront and celebrate their hard work.
Since the holidays I have begun bugging friends of mine who own local businesses to let me tag along and take pictures of them while they're putting in the work that keeps their business running. Sean and Jenny were the first to let me tag along. Unfortunately, Sean wasn't feeling well and was unable to work that night, so Amanda and I went out to the kitchen where Bonbon makes their delicious candies and met Jenny for some chocolate education and behind-the-scenes pictures.
To set the stage for my BTS shoot with Jenny, this was a couple of days before Valentine's Day; a busy time for candy makers as you might imagine. They rent a kitchen from another establishment in town, so they only work when the daytime tenants are gone. This means they often pull all-nighters making delicious treats.
We showed up fairly late at night to find Jenny hard at work preparing to finish some of their amazing salted caramels. I won't pretend to know the intricacies of chocolate making. Jenny tried to teach us a bit about tempering and processing temperatures and crystal structures, and it was super interesting, but I don't know enough to write about it here. Suffice it to say that they know what they're doing and it's not simple!
I believe this is the seed chocolate used to force the rest of the chocolate she ends up melting to end up in the correct crystal structure to look and taste amazing. I'm probably at least a little bit wrong about all of that, but it looks delicious!
The most physically demanding part of the process seemed to be cutting the sheets of caramel into squares to be dipped in chocolate later. It was a bit cool in the kitchen, so the caramel was harder to cut than it sometimes might be. It sure looked tasty though.
It's important to note that they had already made this chocolate and caramel in previous kitchen sessions. Everything they sell is hand made from scratch. Here Jenny is adding the seed chocolate to the...chocolate heater thingy. Making sure the chocolate is just right before dipping.
Preparing the caramel squares to dip.
Every piece of Bonbon's chocolates are hand-dipped here in Colorado Springs. If you have ever eaten their candies, I'm sure I don't need to tell you about the care and attention that is paid to each and every piece. Here Jenny is carefully coating each piece of caramel in perfectly prepared chocolate.
Next she salts each candy before they have time to cool completely and harden. This keeps the salt from slipping off the candies in the package. They taste better than they look, and the look amazing!
Jenny spent some time walking us through the various candies they made for the season. They included collaborations like bourbon nougat filled chocolates with bourbon from Axe and the Oak Distillery, and coffee deliciousness made with coffee from Loyal. I got to sample each of their offerings and they were all really good.
I think you can see some of the joy they find in their work in this picture of Jenny bringing out their heart-shaped candies.
I first met Sean and Jenny through the amazing popup dinners they do occasionally in Colorado Springs. They are both incredible chefs beyond the delicious candy that they make at Bonbon, and they are both genuinely kind people. I've included a few pictures from some of their popups here so that Sean makes it into this post.
These first two are from their "Fancypants Dinner", the first popup dinner that I attended, where I was introduced to Sean through a mutual friend. I caught this picture while Sean was giving a rundown of the menu, a sort of haut cuisine take on junk food like pizza poppers and fries. I think it really captures the joy they both express through their work and lives.
I snuck this shot from the dining room above the kitchen while they were hard at work finishing the dessert course: toaster strudels done really well!
The next few pictures are from their "High Desert Dinner" a couple of months later. The menu for this one included some southwestern classics with a mountain west twist. At this point I had gotten to know them a bit better, so I bugged Sean for a few closeups once the dinner rush was over.
During the current COVID-19 crisis, Bonbon Bombardier is taking email orders for shipments or doorstep delivery in Colorado Springs. I know they are working diligently through this crisis to continue creating great candies for the community. In more normal times, they sell candies all over Colorado Springs, including at Eclectic Co., Blank Coffee and Food, The Local Honey Collective, Peak Place, and many more. I highly recommend checking them out and supporting their awesome work as much as you are able.
If you own a local business and would be willing to let me take pictures while you do the before- or after-hours work, the weekend time in the kitchen, whatever it may be, please contact me. And please try some of Bonbon Bombardier's candies, currently sold at these retailers! They are honestly super good.
Tags: #bonbon #bonbonbombardier #localbusiness #smallbusiness #candy #candymakers #behindthescenes #coloradosprings #coloradospringsbusiness #colorado #coloradobusiness #coloradospringsphotographer #coloradophotographer