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Justin Johnson has just about the coolest job title one could imagine. He’s a Master Lolly Maker.
Not just a mere lolly maker, but a master lolly maker.
Having spent 10 years perfecting his craft, Justin now co-owns Hardboiled Rockcandy, headquartered in Melbourne’s South-East and, in the six months they’ve been open, estimates he has pumped out more than 286,000 1-cm lollies for clients.
As a child (like most of his friends), Justin had a taste for all sorts of lollies, the sweeter, the better, but unlike most kids, he grew up wanting to make them (rather than just eat them), and he ended up spending more than 10 years working in Suga’s specialised candy kitchens learning the art of making hard-boiled lollies.
“It takes a lot of practice and it was at least five years before I found my feet,” says Justin, 34, whose two children, understandably, love visiting Dad at work. “It’s like stacking building blocks, but you’re working to a time limit. You have to mould a hot substance as quickly and efficiently as possible – and still make sure the end product is legible – all before it cools.”
But it’s not all fun and games. Making lollies can be a dangerous business that involves boiling the base ingredients of sugar, water and glucose to a whopping 156 degrees Celsius. As such, Justin’s no strangers to burns and has the scars to prove it.
“You do have to be very careful when working with substances at this temperature, which is why I always wear gloves and protective clothing when making sweets.”
Today, most of Justin’s clients aren’t kids, as you’d expect, but large (and small) businesses, as we as bridal couples wanting personalised lollies to give to friends and family as a reminder of their big day.
“The most popular wedding-related request we get is to incorporate the bride’s and groom’s names inside the candy, usually with a love heart centred between their names,” says Justin who, understandably, no longer has too much of a sweet tooth.
“Most bridal couples choose colours to match their bridal theme, but we’ve done everything from adding very odd nicknames to using the groom’s favourite footy team colours.
“We’ve sent lollies to couples in the US, Japan and even Russia.”
On the non-wedding front, Justin said one of the most novel boiled candies he’s had to create was for a bloke who wanted his mobile phone number incorporated into the lolly so he could hand it out to women at nigthclubs!
He’s also created candies for a 100th birthday, as well as for one of Las Vegas’s biggest casinos.
Justin’s candies look simple, but they’re the result of a very intricate and refined three-hour process, one that involves first boiling the mixture to 156 degrees Celsius before flavour is added.
“It’s then poured onto a cooling table and at this point, we add the colours into different sections of the candy and then cut them up.
“After that we begin to sculpt the individual characters and images in three dimensional blocks before assembling all of the pieces in order and wrapping them up into a large 10kg cylinder.
“Then, we have to extrude the candy by hand, shrinking it into long thin rods. At the very end, we chop the candy rods by hand into 1cm candy pieces that will, eventually, find their way into jars and bags for your wedding guests to enjoy!”