By Radhika Gulati:
At any point in time, if anybody asked me, “What do you aspire to be?” my only answer would be ‘Willy Wonka’. I was about six years old, when I would eagerly wait for my father to return from work and open the topmost door of his closet, where he would lock a big bag of imported chocolates. This daily exercise taught me how to be patient, how to keep a tab on time (the minute/hour-hand concept), and most importantly, it taught me how to savour my daily dose of chocolate with content and appreciation. Later, as a teenager, you would normally find bars of chocolate hidden under my bed or my drawer of towels – secretly, away from both my siblings.
Most people (including myself) thought I was being dreamy about my plans with chocolate. It was only later when I realized that chocolate was not just my hobby, but was my passion. I wrote my college essay on Willy Wonka (from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as my inspiration. I still believe that this inspirational and entrepreneurial essay was the only way Babson College accepted me (because quite honestly, I sucked at math a tad bit too much to be accepted at a leading business school).
As a third year exchange student in England, I decided to work at a little shop of chocolates. I would take the train up about 50 minutes outside the city and spend my day at the shop where most chocolates came from Belgium. I also had an opportunity to spend time in the kitchen of a local chocolatier there who repeatedly asked me, “How do you plan to make a life out of chocolate?” All through my experience, I kept imagining how I could shape my future with it, going back and forth between “I need more experience in life” and “I need more things about chocolate in my life”.
All my six internships and one year of work experience had no connection whatsoever with chocolate, but all my employers knew for a fact that they could talk to me about anything when it came to their chocolate needs. After graduating from Babson, I came back to India with no idea of what I would or what I could possibly do. Fortunately, I got placed at India’s largest e-commerce platform- Snapdeal, where not only did I learn manifold, but also got an opportunity to work with so many varied personnel with cherished experiences. It was all so great and irreplaceable but…it was not enough chocolate.
For me, chocolate was more than just a snack to binge on. I liked to tie the story of where it grows, how it is processed, how many farmers are involved, which temperature is appropriate, to how it came here. I started sourcing chocolate from different suppliers who helped me with single-origin chocolate from different parts of the world including Madagascar, Java, Arriba, São Thomé, and Grenada. The physiology of taste fascinated me so much that I started going an extra mile to understand the flavors by experimenting extensively. I enrolled myself at Ecole Chocolat to gain a professional perspective. Before I knew it, my signature range of three chocolates was already being talked about.
While I was working at Snapdeal, I normally practised chocolate over the weekends, or sometimes on late weekdays. But, months into my job, I got restless to go back to my kitchen and work with chocolate. All my imaginations started following me in dreams and hallucinations. All the dots began to connect with each other. Before I could realize it, my passion evoked the chocolatier inside me! My love started shaping my work plans and my experiments became a ritual. Cocoa became my dream palette and the humble spatula turned into a brush. With inspiration from my mother’s saying “No dream is too small or too big if you are working hard to fulfil it,” and with the decision of “doing what I love and loving what I do”, I am both nervous and excited. This is the story of how I reached here and this is just the beginning.