The Slattery Story

FEATURE by Willard Manus

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – Going to Manchester? Got a sweet tooth?

Jump in a bus or subway and head directly to SLATTERY, a shop located in the suburban town of Whitefield, about nine miles north of downtown Manchester.

Here you will find, in a glittering three-story building that once housed a 100-year-old pub, a family business devoted to one of the world’s best-loved foods: chocolate.
“The universal language of indulgence,” is how John Slattery, a second-generation confectioner, describes the human race’s craving for chocolate, one which dates back to 1502 when Christopher Columbus landed on a Honduran island and was given a gift of cocoa beans.

Slattery and the eighty-six artisans who work for him spend all of their time figuring out how to satisfy the cravings of even the most desperate of chocoholics. On offer are such hand-crafted delicacies as chocolate mousses, hoops, cakes, cream roulades, Gateauxes, muffins, pops, spoons, baubles and pyramids.

Slattery and company will also build chocolate castles, cars, trucks, handbags and shoes for you. Or if edible statues are your thing, they’ll sculpt one to meet your specifications; on exhibit in the shop is a six-foot-high bride made entirely out of white chocolate!

“We can make just about anything people want,” said John Slattery. “It might take us a week, but we can do the impossible, such as the full-sized bed and headboard we made for a local hotel celebrating a 50th anniversary.”

The largest and most difficult challenge Slattery ever faced was when the city of Manchester ordered a 15 ½ foot-high, 4-tiered cake (with a 6 square foot bottom) for a St Patrick’s Day celebration. “It took us a long time to figure out how to engineer such a mammoth edifice; it was mostly cake but parts of it had to be fabricated. The result was quite fantastic; the story made all the local papers.”

Slattery’s is a patisserie as well as a chocolatier. Thus you will find on sale various kinds of breads, rolls, tarts, pies, flans, biscuits and sandwiches. There is also a dining room on the second floor which serves breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. Here you will also find “The Slattery Chocolate Challenge.” For about $2500 you will be offered “a large portion of our American style chocolate fudge cake served warm, with a portion of homemade chocolate ice cream, a portion of fresh cream and two chocolate pots filled with liquid chocolate sauce. Add a glass of any of our delicious hot chocolate drinks and the challenge begins! If you manage to eat all of this (without the help of your friends) you will be rewarded with a chocolate medal and a 100 gram box of handmade chocolates–in case you have not had enough chocolate! Warning...only serious chocoholics should attempt this challenge!”

The Slattery story dates back to 1967, when Bernard and Margaret Slattery opened a bakery in the town of Crumpsall. Bernard had started his working life as a page boy in the Mayfield Cinema, Whitefield. Military service in WW II followed; when a battlefield injury damaged his hearing, he was assigned to the cookhouse and bakery. After the war he went to work for the shipping company, Manchester Liners, baking bread and cakes while sailing between the UK and Canada.

He then took courses at Salford Technical College and became an accredited confectioneer and chocolatier. The success of the Crumpsall shop enabled Bernard and Margaret (who handled the business side of things) to expand the operation. Their two children, John and Ann, eventually joined forces with them, and their children and spouses after them.

Today, twelve members of the Slattery family work in the Whitefield shop. “It will always remain a family business,” John said. “We’re content to keep it that way, if only because it means we can ensure personal service and effort. It also allows us to grow and change with the times. For example, if a customer comes to us and requests a cake or pie that they might have sampled on their travels, we can fulfill that request almost immediately. It’s important for us to embrace change and be responsive, especially in an age of ferocious competition from the supermarket chains.”

The Slattery business plan also includes a cooking school. Twelve students at a time can sign up for intensive classes in baking and dessert-making; most of the students are professional chefs or enthusiastic amateurs looking to learn new skills.
The company is also partnered with the Richemont Club, a cookery school in Switzerland; and it is a member as well of the British Confectioner’s Association and the National Association of Master Bakers. John Slattery has also won multiple awards from these groups over the years, including one for being the “Confectioner and Chocolatier of the Year.” He is also the author of two books, “Creative Chocolate” and “Chocolate Cakes for Weddings and Celebrations.”

“I’ve been working in the family business for 46 years now, six days a week, ringing up 65-70 hours a week. I still love my work, but I wouldn’t mind slowing down a bit in the future, especially now that my two sons, aged 36 and 34, are capable of taking over from me,” John said. “That doesn’t mean that my love for chocolate will ever wane. It’s such a delicious and healthy food, especially when taken in moderation. A life without chocolate isn’t worth living.”

(197 Bury New Road, Whitefield, Manchester M45 6GE,, call 0161-740-2892)