This Couple Turned Their Passion for Chocolate Into a Career

These Georgia-based chocolatiers built a business around something they loved.
(Photos: Courtesy Chef Brulée Chocolates and Gâteaux; Illustration: Jessica De Jesus)
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Dec 10, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Bekah Wright is a Los Angeles–based journalist who specializes in travel, entertainment, and lifestyle.

Entrepreneurs Natalya and Arthur Shapiro followed their passion for high-quality food when they founded Chef Brulée Chocolates and Gâteaux. Their business faced many obstacles, such as educating their customers on artisanal foods, dealing with seasonal demand, and shipping temperature-sensitive products. With a strong passion for cooking and by working with key partners, the couple has grown Chef Brulée into a thriving artisanal chocolates and specialty cakes business.

Natalya and Arthur Shapiro. (Photo: Courtesy Chef Brulée Chocolates and Gâteaux)

The Shapiros initially created cakes for their friends and family, but after prompting from delighted relatives, they turned their hobby into a business. In 2008, they took a risk and founded Chef Brulée’s Pastry and Cakes from their home kitchen. They grew their product base beyond cakes to include artisanal chocolates, which their clientele became infatuated with. By the winter of 2012, the products were so popular that the company sold out of its holiday season inventory.

As a small business, Chef Brulée had the benefit of being agile, which meant that the Shapiros could quickly pivot from cakes to their in-demand artisanal chocolates. With that change, it was also time for the family-run business to take its next steps: moving to a commercial kitchen, earning professional chocolatier certification, and leasing a retail store in the Atlanta suburbs. In the fall of 2013, the store and the company’s new name—Chef Brulée Chocolates and Gâteaux—made its debut.

Chef Brulée then expanded its sales to larger corporate clients. Building awareness for and trust in the product was the key. Chef Brulée adopted a pied piper strategy: Give people a taste, and they’ll become fans. It won major corporate clients such as the W Atlanta and the Hyatt Atlanta Midtown, which include Chef Brulée chocolates as part of their VIP amenities.

Despite a growing client roster, Chef Brulée needed to cover its expenses. “We knew we couldn’t cover seasonal lulls out-of-pocket,” Art says. So the Shapiros began focusing on growing their online customer base to keep demand consistent throughout the year. They started by revamping their DIY website into a fully functional online store. The goal was to give customers the ability to select their own combination of chocolates when placing their orders online. This customization allowed customers to buy different seasonal flavors.

Next the Shapiros focused on making the delivery experience better. With the online orders steadily increasing, the needs of the company grew. Art encountered challenges with the influx of online orders. Chef Brulée reached out to UPS to help it work through some of the logistical challenges. Art met with a UPS representative, who helped him find a solution that fit Chef Brulée’s needs. “They worked with us closely to get it going—along with the calculator and discount rates—without charging extra,” he says.

(Photo: Courtesy Chef Brulée Chocolates and Gâteaux)

UPS also worked with the Shapiros to ensure their chocolates would arrive intact. “We did testing with UPS,” Art says. “The solution ended up being soft coolers with gel packs paired and two-day shipping.” Thanks to these cost-effective packaging solutions, Chef Brulée’s cross-country customers won’t receive melted chocolates. UPS further provides shipping solutions that fit Chef Brulée’s various needs. It uses ground service for local customers and Next Day Air for those across the country, so that the chocolates arrive fresh, cool, and ready to enjoy.

For the Shapiros, starting and growing Chef Brulée has been a rewarding labor of love. “It’s one of the few businesses that makes people happy,” Art says. “Give people chocolate, and they smile.” Who doesn’t love that?