An Interview with Oh Sheila! by La Confectionista -9/10/11
I was fortunate enough to catch up with Sheila Kleinshmidt, owner of “Oh Shelia! Chocolates”, for a chat.She is the little lady that is shaking STL’s chocolate world.You probably already know she is no ordinary chocolatier, and I won’t tell you how it all began.That story has already been told, see for yourself at www.ohsheila.com.I will, however, share some gems I picked up from Missouri’s homegrown “chocolate makin’ momma”.
One thing you pick up immediately as you talk with Shelia, is that her creations match her personality.A step up from the norm, she describes her chocolate as a kick in the face compared to the standard “kiss”.But she’s no elitist!She taught me quite a bit about “Brown Happiness”, as I call it, and managed to engage me as a peer rather than make me feel like the novice that I am.
Gem 1.Chocolate can be compared to wine; the nuances of various cacaos, the notes they pick up from the soil, and how they can play against each other to make something special if mixed right.But as she talks, I almost wonder if she could be describing herself. Various juxtapositions that just seem to work. Her 50’s throw back look plays against an almost “punk” vibe, complete with tattoo. The mix forms a style that would make both Lucille Ball and any number of skater girls envious.She’s a chocolatier who does all her own packaging, design, and marketing.A “just so” perfectionist who prefers the natural look of chocolate, and yet is still learning to allow each truffle to “just be” pretty, and not be “cookie cutter” vain.
Gem 2. When you’re working with a single component, the passion (or lack thereof) really shines through.It is not like having a 4 course meal to hide behind.This is raw.And from the taste of things, I’d say her passion is strong, rich, and real, just how she likes her flavors.In fact, she’s not really a “sugar freak”, but loves when the actual flavors really make a presence.
Gem 3. Real chocolates are not like some of the chocolate inspired candy you may be used to.Many big guys add a waxy component to extend the life and alter the look of the finished product.Sheila, and a growing number of other chocolatiers, let the natural characteristics speak for themselves, without covering them with too much sugar, milk, or anything else.
Gem 3a. Chocolate, real chocolate, is not designed to hang out on your 72 degree counter top for months.Two weeks at room temp is about all you get. However, a wine fridge will extend the life, being as it is the ideal environment for storing two of my favorite things; booze and sugar.
“Oh Sheila!” just launched in March and is gaining ground fast.But there are no plans to go brick-n-mortar.Quite content in her rented kitchen space, she is a part time chocolatier to leave plenty of space in her life for… her life. Family lady and mother of three, the kids take priority.In fact, when we parted she was picking up one from her first day of school.So don’t expect to see these in the stores.Since she doesn’t keep much stock on hand, she likes everything fresh, don’t call for a last minute crave.Throw a party, host an event, or send gift boxes to get your hands on these babies.That’s where Sheila shines most, custom orders.Give her a challenge.I wish I had a video camera as she gushed about a company calling her with the wines they would be serving.They challenged her to come up with matching truffles.Of course, I also wish I was part of her testing crew!Check out her website for all the ordering details, www.ohsheila.com and keep your eye out, you never know where these lovely little “kicks in the face” will pop up next!