SASKATOON – Local entrepreneur Claude Hardenne’s family history is as rich as it is tasty.
“My parents are immigrants. My dad is from Belgium so the connection to Belgium chocolate is really on my father’s side,” says Hardenne, who owns Harden & Huyse Chocolates.
“When I was a kid my parents would travel to Belgium. When they would come back they would always have a suitcase full of chocolate so my siblings and I got exposed to chocolate at a young age.”
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You could say being a chocolatier is in his blood. Hardenne’s father, John, encouraged him and his brother, Anthony, to open the original Harden & Huyse in Saskatoon in 1983. Thirty years later the shop on 2nd Avenue North is still making fresh and local Easter favorites.
“My favorite thing about the business, which is very present at Easter, is the family aspect of it. People come in and you can see that they’re planning family celebrations and it’s an honor to be a part of that.”
In preparation for Easter, production ramps up to 330 pounds of chocolate a day. Hardenne says Belgium chocolates are known for a semi-sweet taste and having intricate designs.
“It’s a very numbers oriented task. We do a lot of things by hand and repeating the task. It can be a lot of fun and also a lot of work at the same time.”
And if you’re wondering, Hardenne’s favorite Easter treat is an egg.
“At Easter time I really think the eggs are the ‘pièce de résistance’. They’re hollow on the inside and you lift off the lid and then there’s chocolates inside. When you’re finished the chocolates inside you can breakup the shell and eat the shell as well.”
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Saskatonian Mike Petty agrees, he’s been getting a custom dark chocolate egg made for his wife for almost three decades.
“I think it’s probably the last twenty-seven years I’ve been coming down here and getting one for my wife. It’s made up specially for me.”
Whether you agree about the egg or not, one thing we can all agree on is that chocolate sure does make Easter a little sweeter.