Today we’d like to introduce you to Uzma Sharif.
Uzma, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My grandfather was a pastry chef in Pakistan during the 40’s on. He had 7 daughters all are avid bakers. I think being born in the states it was easier to choose my path. I did not quite know what I wanted to do or what University I wanted to attend being from an ethnic family, a single mother who worked two jobs we really didn’t have much guidance or support. I started working in a kitchen at 18 and the chef was nicely surprised by my speed and accuracy. It had been the first of many pushes I needed towards my future. I stayed in the food field choosing to leave Chicago and moving to a small town in Colorado to attend culinary school and also to be in the serenity of the mountains, I find it therapeutic.
In my last year, I was working mostly pastry stations and found the sweet side a bit more intriguing and artsy. I was able to use my artistic side to created plated desserts with chocolate designs on the plate. I started working with chocolate in the simplest forms. After the last year, I returned to Chicago and still not having guidance I followed my curiosity and enrolled in the French pastry school in Chicago. I was a student for 6 months and spent 6 months as an intern to chefs Pfeiffer and Canonne.
I learned a great deal working side by side with them and spending quality time with them as an intern. I learned about life having a business and working hard towards your love or like in life.
After I left fps I worked as much I could mostly in Chicago due to a family responsibility, baby brother was only 6 and my brother and I had taken on roles of mom and dad along with trying to find our way in life. I’ve been blessed to have done a lot of traveling in my life its something I work hard to be able to do, The travels had become a way to see what was happening in the food world outside of Chicago.
In 2007 along with being an adjunct faculty member teaching chocolate and pastry classes part time, I had taken a position as pastry chef at the MCA. The people I worked with were great and the pay was decent. In 2008 the crash came and pay was cut and I could be happier doing something else. I still continued to teach it is something that I miss dearly. It was then that I began to create the overall business plan, recipe ideas etc. I left MCA in 2010 and started the wholesale side to see what the demands were in buying and seeing what people liked and asked for, it also gave me exposure to folks in different markets.
I remember being in my last semester a week before school ended and finding the first location in Pilsen. A neighborhood that I had lived in since 2005 and loved greatly. It reminds me of Spain and Mexico the small cobblestone streets and the people are so open and welcoming. I quietly signed the lease and opened with what I had in 3 weeks. I told no one, I had no backing or capital I just made it happen. it was a struggle the first few years but I made it work. That was June 2012.
It took awhile a few years to gain a following but unfortunately, the initial space didn’t quite work out for us and I had to make a decision to close. I took a break traveled and researched. Thought deeply about what I wanted to do and returned to Pilsen. I ended up finding a space that I had always loved. The landlord was gracious enough to work with me and we opened December 7th. Each day is still a struggle when you are on your own however with perseverance anyone can succeed, I am doing what I love, creating a product with so much love and motivation behind it that I have no doubt we will flourish.
Nothing is impossible (I’m possible) is what I say. We are the CEO of our life.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I don’t think anything worthwhile is a smooth road. I also wish it were sometimes. Life, in general, is hard. Our struggles include basically getting people to know about us and come try our products.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Chocolat Uzma story. Tell us more about the business.
Chocolat Uzma, Handcrafted chocolates inspired by our South Asian heritage. We are an artisanal chocolate maker in Pilsen, Chicago. We specialize in handcrafted chocolates made in small batches daily. We are known for our infusion of our heritage (ethnic ingredients) in our products.
Kala Namak caramel (black salt caramel), Kashmiri chai, Nariyaal to name a few. We take the ingredients spices and techniques of Asia and infused them gently into our creations. We are known for high-quality chocolate products and creations.
We are proud to have used who we are as our niche, it comes naturally to us and makes our creations very special. For example, I am currently working on a toffee recipe but am infusing our housemaid chai spice mixture into the toffee when its made. The aromatic spices add a subtle hint of chai in keeping with the toffee flavor.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I have been blessed to have attracted really good hearted hard working people in my life. From personal to business relationships. Its guided me in a way to find my vibe which in turn attracted my tribe.
I don’t really see or react to something not happening as bad luck. I see it more like wasn’t meant to be or was not for me. Usually works out to be true.
- Pricing for our chocolates start at $2.50 per piece and go up to $100 for a large gift box
- classes start at $75 per person
- Address: 1900 South Halsted St. Chicago IL 60608
- Website: chocolat-uzma.com
- Phone: 3126746984
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @chocolatuzma
- Facebook: @chocolatuzma
- Twitter: @chocolatuzma
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/chocolat-uzma-sharif-chicago-5