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Jerry Hicks | Photo: John Gilhooley | December 31, 2013
If life is like a box of chocolates, a canister of Betsy Thagard’s toffee is like a taste of heaven.
A “decadent, delectable delight” is how Betsy Thagard describes the candy she’s been making for years. But it wasn’t until 2009 that she turned B. toffee into a business—first working from her own kitchen, then a rental space. Today, Thagard works out of her own new commercial kitchen near John Wayne Airport and has about a dozen employees. Her toffee is sold in more than 50 specialty stores, including Dean & DeLuca and Whole Foods. She has scores of corporate clients, and event planners have signed on too. Some folks purchase it straight from her website. A 9-ounce package of the dessert comes in a signature canister or a box with a chocolate-colored bow. We sat down for a sweet chat with Thagard, and here’s what she had to say about what’s cooking.
How did all of this start? My father was a wonderful cook who made great specialty sauces. My mother was Greek, so she believed in having three or four main courses every time we entertained. So it just rubbed off on you… Oh, yes—me and my four sisters. Where’d you grow up? My father was a doctor and served in the Army, so we lived all over. My parents made a lot of special dishes when we were in Germany. But I went to junior high and high school in Tustin and have lived in Newport Beach ever since. Did your parents teach you how to make toffee? No, but they sure love mine now! Your life before B. toffee? My husband is successful in commercial real estate, so I had the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom. I was involved in charity work when our children were in school. My background is in the fashion industry, but I never got away from cooking. And the toffee? I’d make it for home tours in Newport Beach or cocktail parties or just entertaining friends. Everybody asked for it and said I ought to start my own business. And so you did! I started with a couple of corporate clients, and it just grew from there. We’re making hundreds of pounds of toffee per day. What’s been your biggest thrill? Zov Karamardian from Zov’s Bistro in Tustin said she sells my toffee because it’s better than hers. What an amazing thing to hear. It was also special to take it to my first tasting at Dean & DeLuca in Napa. Now the company’s a major client. What about those who say it’s not all that healthy? Everything in moderation.