Despite three cookbooks, an illustrious food-writing career, and being recognized for her social media savvy, engineer-turned-entrepreneur Monica Bhide was hungry for more. So she’s developed her own line of chocolate bars.
SpiceSutra Chocolates, which feature spices said to be aphrodisiacs, will debut Feb. 4 on partner Co Co. Sala’s website. They’re priced at $30 a box, plus shipping and handling, and they’re available for three days only.
A few weeks before the chocolate industry’s high season — Valentine’s Day — the Intuit Small Business Blog caught up with Bhide to chat about her delicious new venture.
ISBB: You and Co Co. Sala are both based in Washington, D.C. How did your partnership come about?
Bhide: I fell in love with Co Co. Sala’s chocolates when I first tasted them. I have quite the sweet tooth and adore good chocolate. I wondered how their delightful chocolates would pair with the love of my culinary life: spices. I approached them, and we talked about doing a line of chocolates with a hint of spice. After thinking about it a little more, I decided to start with a line of chocolates laced with spices known for their aphrodisiacal qualities and see how they turned out.
What did you like most about creating a consumer food product? Was there much overlap with how you develop recipes for your cookbooks and articles?
It was something totally new and very exciting. I loved working with chef Santosh Tiptur and Co Co. Sala co-owner Nisha Sidhu to figure out what flavors would work. They have an incredible amount of experience with chocolates and were able to guide me.
What was the development process like? What was your inspiration for coming up with these flavors?
The source of inspiration was, I guess, my own life. I fell in love with my husband as we ate my rice pudding laced with cardamom!
The idea behind these chocolates was to showcase spices in a new light and to highlight aromatic spices like saffron and cardamom. I wanted the approach to be pure, meaning that I did not want to combine the chocolate with complex flavors like chai spice or garam masala mixes. Instead, I wanted someone to take a bite of the chocolate and say, “Yes, I can taste the saffron.” These individual spices are so fantastic on their own that they don’t need much else to shine.
The Co Co. Sala team suggested that we have one chocolate bar flavored with rose petal preserves (or gulkand) since you cannot really have Valentine’s Day without flowers. So we have a bar with roses!
Why did you decide to launch the chocolate bars with an online pop-up store?
In my mind, this is a proof of concept. I wanted to test the market and see if there is demand for a product like this. I know Co Co. Sala’s chocolates sell really well, but I wanted to see if this combination would work.
You fell into food writing after an engineering career. Did your business background come in handy when launching your career as a writer? How about in launching a product?
Definitely. The experience of working in corporate America for 13 years has taught me how to explore and analyze business opportunities. It has also taught me how to move forward and beyond my comfort zone. I constantly find myself evolving and changing and trying new things.
Photo courtesy Monica Bhide.