Karalee LaRochelle, pastry chef and chocolatier, has a favourite saying: “The best things in life are shared.” Having been gifted with one of her chocolate creations by a friend over the holidays, I wholeheartedly agree.
Karalee is the chocolatepreneur behind LaRochelle Confections. Confectionery wasn’t always her occupation, however. “After a successful career as a corporate consultant, I devoted a decade to raising my two girls,” she told me. “Then, with my husband’s encouragement I enrolled and graduated from New York’s French Culinary Institute, now the International Culinary Institute. Next, I enjoyed internships and working in the elite pastry kitchens of Fauchon and New York’s Eleven Madison Park restaurant.”
Realizing early on that the hours and weekends required of owners and staff in high-end kitchens and retail operations were daunting, Karalee decided to design her own company with an emphasis on the wholesale market. She has built a successful chocolate business where she sets the hours permitting her a healthy work-life balance.
“My chocolate lab and I are thriving with the relationships built with business suppliers and clients who share my commitment to artisanal craftsmanship,” she said.
She secured her Leaside business location on Wicksteed in September 2019, with some help from her family. “My dad assisted me with the design, construction, and equipment installation. LaRochelle Confections opened November 2019; shockingly, lockdown descended March 2020, which created unexpected challenges. Yet with steady growth on the wholesale side from my network of retail partners and supplemented by growing online retail sales, the setbacks were thankfully minimal.”
Karalee regularly gives back to the community that has embraced her business. She highly values the work of the Daily Bread Food Bank in addressing two issues dear to her: food insecurity and food waste. To support the food bank, she annually donates 10 per cent of her online retail sales revenue. The 2023 donation was $1,900.
“An organization that my business donates products to is Too Good To Go. It is an app from Europe now available across Canada that rescues unsold food, like any of my remaining seasonal products. The organization is committed to reducing business food waste and helping the environment by repackaging the products into mystery bags that can be purchased via the app for a third of retail price.”
Getting back to that delicious LaRochelle treat my family enjoyed. It was surprising in its simple elegance, depth of flavour, and a surprising crunch finish. That’s likely because, as Karalee mentioned, “I’m dedicated to sourcing top quality ingredients that are organic, local, and sustainable whenever possible.”
With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, why not treat yourself to sharing an Artisan Salted Caramel Crunch Bar or some Peppermint Meltaway Hearts with that special someone in your life – or yourself. Enjoy!