Meeteese Chocolatier

Posted 2/12/09

Behind the counter, a chocolatier clad in a black cowboy hat and Western shirt puts finishing touches on one of his chocolate creations. He looks like he works on a ranch — and he does. When he's not creating and selling chocolate, that …

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Meeteese Chocolatier


{gallery}02_12_09/chocolate{/gallery}Tim Kellogg, the Meeteetse Chocolatier, puts the finishing touches on a chocolate cake. In addition to truffles, the cowboy chocolatier creates caramels, cheesecake and miniature Devil's Towers crafted out of Belgian milk chocolate. Tribune photo by Carla Wensky For more photos click here Area cowboy creates chocolate with a Western flairTruffles in flavors ranging from mocha to sage to Coors line the shelves. Warm scents of baking chocolate cakes waft through the air. A sticker on the wall reads, “Eat beef. The West wasn't won on salad.”

Behind the counter, a chocolatier clad in a black cowboy hat and Western shirt puts finishing touches on one of his chocolate creations. He looks like he works on a ranch — and he does. When he's not creating and selling chocolate, that is.

Nearly five years after his first truffle sale, Tim Kellogg, the Meeteetse Chocolatier, is well versed in balancing the roles of a cowboy and a chocolate chef.

“I'm a working cowboy, a roughstock cowboy and a chocolatier,” Kellogg says. “It's a chaotic life, but it works for me.”

Cattle one day, chocolate the next

Kellogg splits his time between the M.C. Land and Cattle Co. ranch outside of Meeteetse and the Meeteetse Chocolatier shop on main street, which is open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., seven days a week. On days he's at the ranch, two employees man the counter, but Kellogg is the only one in the kitchen preparing the chocolates.

Being the sole chocolatier for the shop results in long days and short nights.

“I don't sleep a whole lot,” he said. “Actually, I don't sleep much at all.”

Kellogg, who moved to Wyoming from Colorado in 2001, can't imagine it any other way.

He can make up to 800 truffles per day, and has a rhythm when it comes to balancing ranching duties and the chocolate business.

While his time at the ranch varies from two to four days per week, in special situations ranching takes precedence. Last summer's Gunbarrel Fire forced the ranch to evacuate cows on the North Fork, so baking chocolate got put on the back burner.

“It took a couple of days to get all the cows,” he said. “The ranch needed me. I wasn't going to say, ‘Hey, I've got to go make chocolate.'”

Though his chocolate business is thriving, Kellogg doesn't plan on giving up his life as a cowboy.

“I can't imagine my life without the ranch in it,” he said. “Those days on the ranch are my saving grace.”

He also loves his role as a chocolatier.

“In here, I get to use my creative side, my business side,” he said.

Others also understand and appreciate his dual professions.

“I say that my dog loves me either way,” he joked. “I either smell like manure or chocolate.”

How it all got started

Kellogg's grandmother, Anna, taught him how to make truffles.

“My grandmother was a phenomenal cook,” Kellogg said. “But she didn't like people in her kitchen. If you were in the kitchen, she put you to work.”

When he needed around $1,300 for a new bronc saddle in 2004, his mother, Jane, suggested he could make a bit of cash by selling chocolate at the art fair in Cody over the Fourth of July.

“I really didn't want to do it,” he confessed.

Despite his doubts, Kellogg's truffles sold out all three days.

He set up a booth at the Harley rally in Meeteetse later that summer, then during the Meeteetse Labor Day celebration.

“I had a lot of repeat customers,” he said. “People started calling and asking for chocolates for dinner parties and anniversaries and birthdays.”

He started selling chocolates on Saturday afternoons in Meeteetse, but it was hard to find time for chocolate with ranch work.

“I'd have to pull an all-nighter every Friday,” he said.

Eventually, he moved to the main street, selling chocolates in the Meeteetse Mercantile.

And while he enjoyed selling his chocolates at the mercantile, he was only using a small corner of the building and wanted a place for his burgeoning business.

In November 2007, Kellogg opened a main street shop of his own in the former Broken Spoke Café, which was the former Blue Ribbon Bar.

Kellogg's shop sparks the curiosity of passersby.

“I get a lot of people driving up from Thermopolis to Cody. They stop and say, ‘What are you doing here? There's a chocolatier in a town of 300 people?'” he said. “I say, ‘Actually, there are 351.'”

A variety of flavors

Kellogg has adapted his grandmother's chocolate recipes to create new flavors. At one time, he offered 34 varieties of truffles, but has since pared it back to the most popular 18.

Kellogg's favorite flavor, sage, exemplifies Wyoming, he said.

“What's more Wyoming than sage?” he said. “You're not going to find a sage truffle in Manhattan.”

Kellogg tailors flavors to his customers.

During the Harley rally, he created a Jack Daniels truffle. The popular Coors truffle was born out of a joke.

One day, Kellogg was baking and having a Coors — it's his kitchen, after all. Someone joked that he should make a truffle flavored with the beer.

“I said, ‘Why not try it?'” Kellogg said. “I opened a new beer, made the centers … and it didn't taste bad. I sold 30 in one afternoon. People were buying it because it was so bizarre.”

For the few non-chocolate eaters in Meeteetse, including a woman who gets migraines from it and a girl who is allergic, Kellogg prepares cheesecake.

Expanding business

Kellogg hosts monthly open-mic nights during winter months, complete with music, wine and chocolate, of course. The next event is slated for March 14.