Rebecca Hartman’s chocolate truffle creation will be available for sale at Phillip Ashley Chocolates through year’s end. (Courtesy photos)

by Michael Waddell, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

“Real-life Willy Wonka” and Memphis chocolatier Chef Phillip Ashley, owner of Phillip Ashley Chocolates at 798 S. Cooper in Midtown, gave one lucky ServiceMaster employee the chance of a lifetime with a Golden Ticket for a rare tour of his chocolate workshop and the opportunity to create her own unique chocolate truffle that will be available for sale in the shop until the end of the year.

Rebecca Hartman had never made candy or chocolate before winning a chance to come up with her own creation in association with Memphis Chocolatier Chef Phillip Ashley.

Rebecca Hartman, who has worked in accounts receivable for ServiceMaster’s Terminix line for the past two years, received the royal treatment on October 10 with a limo ride from ServiceMaster’s downtown headquarters on Peabody Place Drive to the Phillip Ashley Chocolates showroom and workshop in Midtown.

“I’m amazed that I got the Golden Ticket,” she said. “I almost gave it away because at first I didn’t know what it was. I’m really excited for today and the experience of learning to make some chocolates.”

“I’ve never made candy or chocolate before,” said Hartman. “I attempted to make cake balls once and it ended with a cake splat.”

For her custom creation, she and Ashley brainstormed before the tour of the shop about flavor possibilities, and they decided on a tropical wedding cake vibe, with key lime, vanilla and coconut surrounded by a white chocolate shell.

“It’s not every day you can have a chocolate named after you and available for others to taste,” said Ashley. “I want everyone to experience Memphis and what better way than allowing Memphians to help share our uniqueness world-wide.”

The process of making the truffles included custom splash painting the white chocolate outer shells, mixing the ganache, and then casting and capping the chocolates.

ServiceMaster is the first corporate member of the candy maker’s new business membership/corporate gifting program. As part of a desk drop “thank you,” more than 1,200 ServiceMaster employees received a pouch with three chocolates medallions inside: milk chocolate, espresso dark and wild strawberry vanilla bean white chocolate.

One pouch also came with a Golden Ticket.

“We’re helping build a culture of ‘thank you’,” said Ashley. “When companies need to thank employees or external partners and clients – any format or arena that a company needs to give externally or internally – our program allows them to use our chocolate for that purpose.”

Chocolates can be customized with company logos, and many times the chocolatier handles all of the logistics and shipping.

“Currently we’re developing a series of chocolates that will be exclusive for ServiceMaster to use internally,” said Ashley. “From talking with stakeholders, we’ll develop flavors based on the DNA and culture, history and future of their company.”

ServiceMaster’s brands include AmeriSpec (home inspections), Furniture Medic (cabinet and furniture repair), Merry Maids (residential cleaning), ServiceMaster Clean (janitorial and residential floor cleaning), ServiceMaster Restore (disaster restoration), Terminix (residential termite and pest control) and Terminix Commercial (commercial termite and pest control).

Ashley opened Phillip Ashley Chocolates five years ago and has since earned acclaim for his signature hand-painted candy creations with unique flavors. A total of more than 20,000 of his custom chocolates were served at the Governor’s Ball for the Emmy Awards last year and as an official gift of the 2016 Grammy Celebration.

“One day I woke up from a dream and said I’m going to make chocolate,” said Ashley, who formerly worked in the marketing world. “I spent three years just learning about chocolate, having fun with it and also fighting with it to figure out all of the in’s and out’s.”

The chocolatier’s current signature flavors include Smoked Rum Pecan, Sweet Potato, Wild Strawberry Vanilla Bean, French Bleu Cheese, Caribbean Hot Sauce, Grand Mariner Orange Blossom Honey, Champagne, and more.

Phillip Ashley chocolates are available online and at the Midtown shop, and they are soon to be available at Novel in the Laurelwood Shopping Center in East Memphis and at Old Dominick Distillery in downtown Memphis.

A limited edition (of 100) 2019 Advent Calendar set of holiday chocolates is also available now for pre-order. Each of the 24 candies is unique, with flavors including Cranberry Orange Black Pepper Pecan, Black Currant Pomegranate Molasses, Fig Port Wine Goat Cheese, Pumpkin Spiced Latte, Hazelnut Espresso and more.