Sweeteeth is the chocolate of Charleston (and beyond). The man behind this operation is Johnny Battles and simply put, he’s a genius (just try his sea is for caramel bar). On this particular day I found Johnny in his North Charleston chocolate factory, munching on a loaf of sourdough and wrapping lots of bars (each in six seconds, for the record ). Fiercely passionate about chocolate and softer spoken than you might imagine, Johnny himself is sweet.
What brought you to Charleston?
I had just come back to Alabama from a bit of traveling and really wanted to keep moving around a little. My long time friend had moved to Charleston a year or two before and really encouraged me to come live here. I traded an Isuzu Trooper that didn’t run for a Hyundai that did and headed toward the salty coast.
What do you love most about Charleston?
The marsh areas. They’re so beautiful.
What's your favorite spot in Charleston?
James Quinton’s chair.
What's your favorite restaurant in Charleston?
Hard question. As a vegetarian, it can be tough indulging in the staples of Charleston’s food scene. It keeps me with a core group of restaurants I just can’t stop going back to. I don’t know if I could say what my favorite restaurant in Charleston is but I can say that I’ve never, not one time, not ever had a less than great meal at Two Boroughs Larder…..and they put an egg on all my food.
How did Sweeteeth begin?
Sweeteeth was just something I liked to do for myself and a restaurant that was 100% brought to full life by the support of the eater. The more people requested the more I made and I just continued to follow their appetite. So instead of spending free time doing dangerous adventures and what not, I was spending that time trying to come up with flavors to fill candy bars with. I’ve been a cook and then a pastry man my whole working career and flavor is what I love to make. I just wanted to make food more like candy and vice versa.
What's a typical day like for you?
I get up at 6:30, shower, dress for success, get Liam up and dressed. He usually helps me with breakfast if it involves cracking or flipping anything. He’s to school by 8 and then I come home and do emails until 9 and have lots of coffee and whatever kind of carb I can get my hands on. I slide into
the shop around 9:30, turn on the tempering machines and the double boilers and start cleaning molds. I make caramel practically every day which keeps the shop smelling nice, so that's a plus. I just make candy bars all day until I go back to pick up Liam. If it’s not too crazy in the shop we’ll head back together and eat some candy or popsicles or something. I’ll take a break for dinner and story time then head back in around 8 for at least a couple hours just to finish or tighten anything up that was left hanging from the day and get ready for the day to follow. I try to get to sleep around 1 or so. Since I make all of the stuff myself, I’m able to put certain productions on certain days so the repeat is just production but it’s never the same production. All in all, not a bad day.
How does Charleston influence your work?
People here love strong flavors and know how to properly indulge. I love food myself and love to see what friends in restaurants and bakeries are doing and try to imagine making candy with flavors they work with. The food scene here can also be somewhat competitive, even if in a friendly way, so the bar is always being raised. I like to feed off that. No pun.
A standout Charleston memory?
In the first apartment I lived in here, my roommate and I somehow let an entire bushel of oysters spoil in the kitchen. The smell was terrible. It’s not the best story and I’m sure I’ve done some really neat stuff since then but that one is always up there. I’ve also talked to Bill Murray, twice.
Describe Charleston in three words.
It gets hot.
Pour me another.
We should go.
Y'all are racist.
Where's the butter?
Where's the Battery?
One way street.