The Real-Life Willy Wonka: A life of Success

Brian Sollit, the chocolatier that brought a perfect ending to countless dinner parties and family gatherings with his famous "After Eight" chocolates, passed away at the age of 74, after 53 years working at the Rowntree’s factory in York.

He began his working life at the age of 15 when he was recruited to the cream department with responsibility for hand piping Black Magic chocolates.  At the age of 23 he was swiftly transferred to the Crème Experimentation Department to become a confectioner and an artisan of his trade.

By 1962, Mr Sollitt was head of the section tasked with coming up with a new luxurious chocolate that was to be wrapped around a peppermint fondant. Under a veil of secrecy, he was taken to one side by a senior executive and asked to create the wafer-thin mint.

To this day, the process he developed of preventing the liquid fondant from oozing out of the chocolate casing is still an industry secret. His creation was sold by the billions ever since and the Queen Mother was a big fan!

During his 53 years at the factory, Mr Sollitt was known for leaving seasonal treats like chocolate Santas on a tray outside his office for workers to take home.

Born in 1938, his childhood was deprived of most chocolate and sugary sweets due to war-time rationing. But he joined the Quaker family company after leaving school and worked with chocolate all his life.

Mr. Sollitt carried on collecting anything, from packaging to posters, that was to do with his favourite After Eight sweet. And last year he came out of retirement to make a giant three kilo version of the mint chocolate to mark its 50th anniversary.

He was also a brilliant teacher and trained many confectioners in their craft. Most of all he was a very likeable ‘larger than life’ figure.

Mr.Sollitt was a great example of how dreams plus determination bring success. He always dreamed about working as a chocolatier and he did not only do that but he became the chocolatier of a nation and world known.


Source: Mia de Graaf, “The real-life Willy Wonka: Brian Sollit, the sweet-maker who gave the world After Eight mints, Lion bars and the Yorkie, dies at 74”The Daily Mail 11.09.13.