After Eights

Goodbye to a real life Willy Wonka

One of Britain’s most distinguished chocolatiers, whose proudest achievement was fathoming how to get the mint filling inside After Eight’s without it spilling from the sides, has died at the age of 74.

Brian Sollitt had an illustrious 53-year career with Rowntree’s in York, helping to devise many of the nation’s best-loved chocolate bars. Tirelessly devoted to his craft, he was also involved in the creation of the Yorkie, Matchmakers, the Drifter and the Lion Bar.

Alex Hutchinson, a historian for Nestlé, which now owns Rowntree’s, said Sollitt’s impact on British chocolate-making was “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 – 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.”

Sollitt was not always surrounded by sweet treats. Born in 1938, he grew up in a time of scarcity when chocolate was rationed. He got his first job at the Rowntree’s factory at 15, hand-piping chocolates for boxes of Black Magic. Swiftly promoted to the fantastically named Creme Experimentation division, he was asked to invent a luxury dark chocolate filled with a peppermint fondant.

The project was shrouded in secrecy, and to this day the process by which an After Eight’s fondant centre is encased within its fragile chocolate shell remains hush-hush. After its release in 1962 it fast became a dinner party staple. More than a billion boxes have now been sold…..

The Independent: Read the full article