Some of us learned to bake bread during the pandemic; others were lucky to successfully mute themselves on Zoom. As for Liron Gal? The Needham mom of two created ChocAllure, whose bright, shiny, artistic bonbons— often intricately decorated using nail-art tools—are making a splash on Instagram and beyond. I caught up with Gal from her at-home “chocolate lab” to learn the secrets of her sweet success. (Word to the wise: She’s still shipping treats for Passover!)
Gal wasn’t always a chocolatier: In fact, she had a full-time job in cybersecurity, although she always longed to pursue her artistic side. She moved to the United States from Israel 11 years ago and went to pastry school by night, even traveling to Paris to train in chocolate-making, studying at L’Ecole Lenôtre. But, over the years, it became a “time-consuming, neglected hobby” that faded to the background as she juggled her job and her kids.
The pandemic offered a surprising silver lining. With work travel curbed, she had more time at home to make sweets alongside her 2- and 6-year-old. “This totally began as a COVID business,” she says. She worked from her kitchen while balancing Zoom calls, eventually making more sweets than her family could possibly (or healthfully) consume.
“I had my full-time job in cybersecurity and another full-time ‘job’ chocolate-making,” she says, laughing. “I just wasn’t sleeping or spending enough time with my family.”
Something had to give. So she left her primary job and launched ChocAllure as her primary business.
“And I’ve loved every minute of it,” she says. Her kids—now 4 and 8—act as unofficial taste-testers. Her specialty? Multi-layered, intricate bonbons that look (almost) too good to eat, designed as “Minions,” eyeballs, golf balls and much more.
“All of my bonbons have two or three layers of different flavors and textures. And just for example, one of my popular flavors is crème brûlée. I start by thinking, OK, what is that to me? It’s vanilla bean and a crunchy caramel layer on top. My interpretation of that is doing a first layer of very smooth ganache made with caramelized white chocolate and vanilla bean. The second is the crunchy layer with that same chocolate and a caramel that I make, ground and mixed into the chocolate. So you get that crunchy caramel, you get the vanilla bean and you get the caramel flavor as well,” she says.
The bonbons are kept in high-quality molds made of polycarbonate, scrubbed clean with rubbing alcohol to be free of watermarks. Molds are hand-painted colored cocoa butter; she applies designs to the molds themselves, not to the chocolate, a process that demands precision. Chocolate shells are piped with layers of fillings, and they sit for 12 hours overnight, before she seals the molds with one more sweet layer. The whole process takes three days. She uses only high-quality Valrhona chocolate.
“There’s a lot of handwork, painting with all these sorts of weird tools that you wouldn’t expect to be used, like nail-art tools,” she says.
Not shockingly, her company has begun to overtake several rooms in her house. Her home office is now a chocolate lab, where she conducts coloring work; in the kitchen, she focuses on fillings and the chocolate itself.
“Thankfully, we have a pretty big kitchen,” she says. (She uses kosher ingredients but her kitchen is not kosher-certified.)
She’s currently working on a Passover collection, both with chametz-free flavors and limited-edition varieties: hazelnut cream bamba, with hazelnut praline ganache over a crunchy bamba and blonde chocolate praline; pistachio halva, with pistachio ganache over crunchy halva brulée; and mango passion fruit, crème brûlée, caramel hazelnut, raspberry lemonade, blonde caramel, cassis hazelnut and more.
Sometimes, her kids help with packaging—and, if they behave, “they get chocolate,” she laughs. “And my older one is very proud: Every time he has a friend over, he wants them to try my chocolate. When he has a birthday party, they’re the favors he wants to give out. It’s a lot of fun.”
As for advice for other new entrepreneurs? Know your market. At first, Gal was fielding requests for things like chocolate-covered Oreos and pretzels, which weren’t her sweet spot.
“I mean, I probably use better-quality chocolate, but I don’t think that’s enough to make the product stand out. So, in the end, those people that bought, say, the chocolate-covered Oreos aren’t necessarily the same people who will pay the price for my bonbons that are more expensive and time-consuming. I learned to say no,” she says. Her cybersecurity background helped her track consumer data and website visits, and she could home in on what repeat customers would buy.
“I did golf balls filled with three different layers. They looked like real golf balls,” she says. And while her chocolate is top-quality, she also keeps it real when it comes to design tools.
“I walk around the health section of Target,” she says.
Ultimately, she hopes her creations make people smile.
“There is not a person on earth who will eat chocolate and not be happy from eating it,” she says.