Cincy Chic: When did you start Chocolats Latour?
Shalini Latour, founder of Chocolats Latour: In the fall of 2009.
Cincy Chic: Why did you decide to start this business?
Latour: The short answer is that is that I love chocolate and wanted more of it in my life! The long answer is that I fell off a ladder four years ago and injured my foot. At the time, I was making wedding cakes from home and teaching yoga. The foot injury made it hard to carry heavy cakes and challenging to walk barefoot while teaching yoga.
So, it was time for something new. I started to play with chocolate to see what I could come up with and became very excited about the possibilities. In order to be able to buy more chocolate, I sent an email to all my friends and clients just before Valentine’s Day to see if anyone would buy a box of chocolates. I figured if I sold ten boxes I could continue working on the business. I got orders for 75 boxes! I have been getting great feedback ever since, so I’ve kept at it, and I "officially" started my business that fall. I still teach yoga, just less then I used to.
Cincy Chic: Have you always loved chocolate?
Latour: Yes! My Mom is from Belgium, so you could you say it’s in my blood. When I was a kid, each year at Christmas we’d get a package from our relatives in Belgium, and the highlight was always a ballotin filled with chocolates. As a teenager I lived in Brussels, which is where I discovered that all good breakfasts include a little chocolate.
Cincy Chic: Where can people find Chocolats Latour?
Latour: It’s at the Northside Farmer’s Market every Wednesday, Findlay Market most Saturdays -check my Facebook page to see if I’ll be there, Coffee Emporium in Hyde park and OTR, Park + Vine in OTR, Market Wines at Findlay Market, Aquarius Star in Clifton, Le Bon Vivant in East Walnut Hills, Keegan’s Seafood Market in Anderson. People can also call or e-mail me to order directly.
Cincy Chic: Tell me about your Chocolate Club.
Latour: The Chocolate Club is a great way to ensure you enjoy chocolate regularly! It also gives you a discount for being a loyal member, of course. Once you sign up, you get a box of eight chocolates each month with four different flavors – two of each. The flavors change each month, so it’s the perfect surprise for any chocolate lover.
Cincy Chic: Why is fair trade so important to you?
Latour: When I was starting this business, I read a lot about chocolate. I learned not only about the history of chocolate, but how cocoa is grown. I learned that in some countries, like Ivory Coast, child labor is used in harvesting the cocoa pods. In other places, cocoa farmers are extremely poor and can barely feed their families. I believe that a food as divine as chocolate should be good for everyone involved, which is why using fair trade chocolate is so important.
Cincy Chic: You’re also passionate about using local ingredients and earth-friendly products. Tell me more about this.
Latour: Local ingredients are fresher and more flavorful. It leads to chocolates with tastes that are explosive. I love strolling through the Cincinnati farmer’s markets to find new ingredients and flavors to use in my chocolates. Following local grower suggestions has lead to some of my favorite flavors, like juniper, sumac and spice berry.
I also use earth-friendly packaging. Who wants the plastic insert used in a box of chocolate to end up floating in the ocean? Chocolats Latour is good for everything, including the earth.
Cincy Chic: Tell me about your book!
Latour: In 2004 I wrote a book on cake decorating for North Light books. It’s called The Icing On the Cake. It has step-by-step instructions for decorating with butter cream, fondant and of course, chocolate! It was an unexpected opportunity that was lots of fun.
Cincy Chic: What’s next on the horizon for you?
Latour: I am expanding my sales locations, so that Chocolats Latour will be easier to find. I am also getting new equipment, specifically a chocolate temperer, to make production quicker. Chocolate is tricky to work with; in order to get a good snap and shine, it needs to be heated to a precise temperature, cooled down and reheated. It’s called tempering. Then the chocolate needs to be kept in the tempered while working with it. The temperer will do all that for me.