TV: Utah's little chocolatiers
Steve Hatch and Katie Masterson were apprehensive when television producers asked them to star in a culinary reality show about the ups and downs of running their Salt Lake City chocolate shop.
"We didn't want to be just another 'little person' show on TLC," admitted Hatch, referring to the cable channel's "Little People Big World" and "Little Couple."
After thinking it over, the owners of Hatch Family Chocolates decided the on-air exposure could help their store, showcase a different side of Utah and -- most importantly -- continue to educate people about dwarfism.
"Bottom line is that little people are just like anyone else," said Hatch, who is 3-foot-9. (Masterson is 4-foot-2.) "We all have our own personalities."
Of course, this married couple also happens to make some of Utah's best hand-dipped chocolates.
Their show, "Little Chocolatiers," premieres as a full-run series Tuesday, March 30, on TLC. Two 30-minute episodes will air back-to-back, starting at 11 p.m.
Like other reality food programs, the show -- which will run 10 episodes --focuses on the stress involved in making big projects on a deadline. Only this time, the stars just happen to be small in stature.
In the March 30 premiere, for example, Utah college students ask the couple to create a life-size desk for a beloved professor. The all-edible project will stand more than four-feet high -- taller than its creators -- and must be done in three days. Disaster strikes as the pieces are loaded into the van and the chocolatiers must find a way to fix it quickly.
Building massive chocolate displays is the outer layer of the show, but family is the sweet center, as Hatch plans a surprise anniversary dinner for his wife at Em's Restaurant in Salt Lake City.
The show offers clips of other notable Salt Lake City landmarks, including the Capitol, the Main Library and the LDS Temple.
"I like it. It captures our personalities," Hatch said of the series. "The charm is not so much that we are little, but that we have really cool customers."
Adds Masterson: "I love that we can showcase Salt Lake City and our diversity."
The shop » Most of the action takes place inside the tiny kitchen at Hatch Family Chocolates, at 390 E. 4th Ave., where Hatch and Masterson sell several dozen varieties of hand-dipped chocolates with caramel, nut and cream centers. The Avenues corner store opened in 2003, and the recipes date back three generations to Steve Hatch's grandmother.
Hazel Hatch Kaiser learned to dip chocolates when she was 13 and made them her entire life for family and friends, most notably at Christmas. She passed the recipes and the artisan hand-dipping technique to her children and grandchildren.
"She was the hardest working person," recalled Hatch. "But she didn't like a lot of attention. If she knew we had our own television show, she would be flattered, but she'd say I was crazy."
Masterson has a similar family history. Her family has operated an Irish Pub in the suburbs of Chicago for about 60 years. After high school, she earned a degree in pastry arts from the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago.
In 1998, Hatch and Masterson met at a little people's convention. They dated for several years before getting married and moving to Chicago. When the couple pondered their future, a chocolate shop in Salt Lake City seemed liked a natural fit.
Today, it's a joint operation. Steve takes care of the business details, while Katie makes the chocolates.
"She's a natural," Hatch said of his wife. "She's a lot like my grandmother. She just wants to do her job and she doesn't want a lot of attention."
Hatch, the more sarcastic of the pair, is the opposite.
"I'm more of an eater than a maker," he joked.
The show » It was those contrasting personalities that attracted the attention of TLC producers Jay Bloomingfield and Tony March. Last year, while filming a different project in Utah, someone recommended they visit Hatch Family Chocolates.
"We met them and found them to be great compelling characters and loved the environment they worked in," said Nancy Daniels, a senior production executive at TLC. "Being little people is only part of what made them intriguing. They were a great couple with a cool shop."
TLC initially shot a one-hour pilot to test audience interest. It aired in December and was seen by 1.3 million viewers - a respectable figure for a basic-cable show, and enough to warrant a full series.
"It really connected with people," Daniels said of the pilot. "We decided there was much more to tap into. Steve tends to overpromise and Katie tries to deliver. But at the end of the day, they are truly a loving couple trying to carry on the family business."
Barbara Szweda is an Avenues resident and regular customer at Hatch Chocolates. During a recent visit, she learned her favorite candy store was about to be featured in a television series. She wasn't surprised.
"I usually come in and buy presents for my friends back East," she said. "I have to let them know that we have good chocolate here in Salt Lake City."
Millions of television viewers are about to discover that, too.
"Little Chocolatiers" premieres as a full-run series Tuesday, March 30, on TLC. Two 30-minute episodes will air back-to-back starting at 11 p.m.
The culinary reality show features Steve Hatch and Katie Masterson, owners of Hatch Family Chocolates, 390 E. 4th Ave., Salt Lake City. The Avenues shop specializes in hand-dipped chocolates with caramel, nut and cream centers. It is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.