A Tribute to Mr After Eight – Brian Sollit 1938 - 2013
Nestlé UK & Ireland would like to pay tribute to Brian Sollit, who died aged 74, he was one of the foremost confectioners of his generation. Brian was a leading figure in the development of the After Eight mint, among many other successes in a long and fun-filled career.
Brian was born in York on 16th November 1938 just as wartime shortages were about to deprive his childhood of the sugar that would be his life-long passion.
Brian joined the York confectionery firm Rowntree’s in 1954, aged just fifteen. He was lucky enough to be chosen for the Cream Department where hand-piping chocolates gave him an opportunity to show off his flair for creative work and come to the notice of the department’s managers.
Less than ten years later, in 1962, Brian had risen through the ranks to become the Confectioner for the ‘Crème Experimentation’ division. Brian was called aside and asked, in secret, to help come up with a method for wrapping delicate squares of peppermint fondant in fine, dark chocolate. That was the very beginning of the After Eight mint and 50 years later Brian was still a fan. To mark the 50th anniversary of the after dinner mint in 2012, Brian came out of retirement to help make a celebratory giant After Eight.
The giant After Eight was made of real dark chocolate and peppermint fondant, and weighed 3kg. Brian was given the opportunity to present his creation to the Houses of Parliament in November 2012 and commented that it was one of the proudest moments of his life. He said that he felt like a king.
Brian’s love of After Eight didn’t end with his retirement six years ago, Brian continued to collect anything to do with his favourite sweet, from packaging to posters, eventually amassing one of the largest After Eight collections in the World.
Brian will be remembered for his generosity of spirit, his outrageous sense of humour, his larger than life personality, and his larger than life Christmas lights which, along with an impressive Christmas grotto, raised money for charity at his home each winter.
Brian is survived by his sister, Hazel.
Ex-colleagues spoke highly of Brian:
“I first encountered Brian in the covering room in Cream Experimental department at Rowntree’s he was wielding his pallet knife deftly over the marble slab ‘tempering chocolate’. Watching him at work was like watching a true craftsman at his trade and anyone who saw him was caught in his spell. He spent hours at that marble slab expertly hand covering chocolates each with their own individual markings on. Lovingly they would be piped, cooled and then encased in their own little paper cups and boxed in small white sample boxes to be presented to marketing.
He never lost patience in teaching other people his great skills in both chocolate covering and sugar craft and was a truly gifted and talented man.
He was an ideas man and never had marketing had it so lucky whilst Brian was around as he bombarded them incessantly with his thoughts on what they should sell next. He was instrumental over the years in assisting with the launch of many new products.
“Everyone knew when Brian was around both in and out of work; as his larger than life Character went before him Brian was always so cheery: jolly and full of life.
“Brian often made chocolates for charity, including a giant Pudsey Bear for Children In Need that was over three feet high.
“When one of our new chocolate assortment lines was launched Brian was instrumental in developing the chocolate markings on them and would literally run from the mini chocolate temperer back and forth between all the women who were hand piping (there were at least 15 to 20 of them all round the end of the cooler.
“After Eight packaging was his great love and he would literally beg borrow or steal it from all corners of the world.
“These are a few of my thoughts about Brian you’ll have your own treasured memories, he was my dear friend and I shall miss him deeply, I feel privileged to have been a small part of his life.” Kath Musgrove, confectioner
“My thoughts are that Brian was a larger than life character, you could often hear him before you saw him usually singing or laughing. I met Brian in the early 80’s when I was learning about confectionery manufacture, he was a good teacher and had the patience to show you so many different things, it was a pleasure to learn from him, he had a lifetime of practical experience. He loved to innovate, but was equally at home with making lots of samples for consumer test.
“Brian loved to work in the Nestlé Product Technology Centre with all the international people, it entertained him and them teaching them to speak ‘propa Yorksha’ as well as the odd colloquial phrase. “ Denise Godson, confectioner
Alex Hutchinson, Nestlé Historian commented
“Brian’s impact on the British confectionery industry is incalculable. It’s easy to forget that the sweets we pick up in the shops are things that would have been handmade lovingly in the early stages of development, who have spent months, or sometimes years, agonising over the technical details of their creation. Brian has passed on his skills to a new generation of confectioners and his legacy will live on through students of his work all over the world.”