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York chocolate genius dies at the age of 74
THE man behind some of the country’s most beloved chocolate treats has died.
Brian Sollitt was a real-life Willie Wonka who played a key role in the development of chocolate snacks that became household names.
Mr Sollitt, who has died at the age of 74, helped create Yorkies, Drifters, Lion Bars and Matchmakers – but it was the After Eight that was his crowning glory.
One of the foremost confectioners of his generation, he was born in York in 1938, just as wartime shortages were about to deprive his childhood of the sugar that would be his life-long passion.
In 1954, when still a teenager, he joined the York confectionery firm of Rowntree – now Nestle - and was chosen for the cream department where hand-piping chocolates gave him an opportunity to show off his flair for creative work and brought him to the attention of bosses.
Less than ten years later, in 1962, he had risen through the ranks to become the confectioner for the “Crème Experimentation” division.
He was asked, in secret, to come up with a method for wrapping delicate squares of peppermint fondant in fine, dark chocolate.
It was the beginning of the After Eight mint which has gone on to sell in its billions – and the process he developed for stopping its liquid centre from oozing out has never been revealed.
In 2012, to mark the 50th anniversary of the renowned after-dinner mint, he came out of retirement to help make a celebratory giant After Eight.
He went on to present his 3kg creation creation to the Houses of Parliament last November and described it at the time as one of the proudest moments of his life. His love affair with the After Eight continued after his retirement six years ago – collecting everything from posters to packaging.
Nestle historian Alex Hutchinson said: "Brian's impact on the British confectionery industry is incalculable.
"It is easy to forget that the sweets we pick up in the shops today are things that would have been handmade lovingly in the early stages of development by Brian.
"He spent months, or sometimes years, agonising over the technical details of his creations. He was an incredible man. He was asked to come up with this new chocolate and he did."
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