Local Chef Returns to his Sweet Roots

By Jack Barten

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in a routine. That’s what inspired Red Lion Smokehouse chef/owner John Murray to change pace and start Cardinal Chocolate. Diverging from the typical Red Lion fare, Cardinal Chocolate creates artisanal chocolate truffles.

The seed of Cardinal was planted long ago, when Murray trained to be a chef in London, England. He received training in a Michelin-starred kitchen, working the pastry section. Here he refined skills and learned new techniques. Later, Murray moved back to Thunder Bay and started Red Lion, gaining acclaim for his work in the savoury side of the kitchen. However, his fascination and training with chocolate remained until November 2022, when it finally manifested as Cardinal Chocolate. “The name Cardinal basically is a nod to my grandma. It was her favourite bird,” Murray says.

Chef John Murray, owner of Red Lion Smokehouse and Cardinal Chocolate


Cardinal’s marquee product is their truffles, with a soft ganache centre infused with unique flavours like peanut butter banana, lime and coconut, cherry and champagne, and hazelnut, to name a few. The truffle is then coated in tempered chocolate to get that perfect hard shell on the outside. Cardinal uses a traditional process of hand-tempering their chocolate; the chocolate is heated to specific temperatures and then worked to get the desired result.

You can taste the tradition when you try a Cardinal truffle. The creamy texture and distinct flavour really set it a cut above the commercial truffles commonly available at the supermarket. Launching in late November at Craft Revival, the truffles quickly took off. “They ended up being really popular and we sold out,” Murray says. Cardinal is establishing a new nest in Red Lion, where they will be sold regularly for those of us who have an appreciation for artisanal sweets with a local story.

For more information, follow @cardinal.chocolate.company on Instagram.