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Sugar and Indian Spice – A Q&A with Chocolatier Aarti Khosla

Indian food is loved all across the globe, but Indian desserts are another story….

With that in mind, Aarti Khosla created Le Rouge-Chocolates by Aarti. Be it the yearning for Nani/Dadi’s handmade Indian Mithai or the memory of Sichuan peppers, exotic mangos, paan, or the simple crunch of orange infused almonds enrobed in dark chocolate, Le Rouge delivers an eclectic collection of handmade and hand-decorated chocolates for a discerning global palate.

The initial inspiration to start Le Rouge came from a desire to use chocolate as a medium to showcase the rich diversity of Indian desserts, and the subsequent collections are an effort to capture the flavors from around the world in the divine language of chocolate.

Le Rouge has many different delights, but we’re hooked on the Heritage Collection: rich, creamy truffles infused with sweet lentil, pistachio, rose petal, cardamom, or mango.

These unbelievably wonderful treats and others can be bought online or purchased at Aarti’s Westport, Connecticut shop.

To learn more about Aarti and her sensational chocolates, kindly visit Le Rouge’s website.

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Aarti Khosla

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1. Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in India and am privileged to call many countries across the globe home…. The U.S., London, and Hong Kong to name a few. Born with “foodie genes” and blessed with a mom who is an amazing cook, it was easy to follow my passion to become an artisan chocolatier.

The initial years of my life were spent following a somewhat traditional script: earning degrees in Economics and International Marketing, working for large corporations, starting my first company in my early 20s, traveling the world, raising two beautiful children and two dogs, and calling many places home along the way.

The idea to open my own chocolate company was born on our return to the U.S. after living in Hong Kong for two years. The decision was fueled by the desire to bring back all the wonderful flavors from around the world that I had the privilege of living or visiting during our extensive travels around the globe.

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2. Where do you get your ideas for flavors? 

The initial inspiration came from Indian desserts which are represented in our Heritage Collection. The Oriental Collection was inspired by our time in Asia. Apple Pie a La Mode was inspired by a request from a Dutch friend. And Guava Chili mango was especially created on the request of a Mexican restaurant in New York City. I love to experiment and enjoy mixing flavors.

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3. What was the best thing anybody has said about your chocolate?.

“Chocolate coma.” “Chocolate Nirvana”……….

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4. When did you open your shop? Any expansion plans? And any advice for people thinking about becoming a chocolatier or sweets-maker?

On my return from Hong Kong in 2012, it was clear that I wanted to reinvent myself, and on a whim, thought of dabbling in chocolate making.

The idea was fueled further by the fact that no one was doing anything inspired by Indian desserts. After hours of experimenting and learning from the masters in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, it has been a roller coaster as I try to capture the flavors from all the places we had the fortune to live or visit around the world.

Initially, I worked out of a rented commercial kitchen and sold the product through various farmer’s markets, chocolate shows, and holiday boutiques. In early 2013, I introduced our unique line of European Ganache cakes. As the business grew, I launched our website in 2013, and finally opened our first brick and mortar store in downtown Westport, CT, in November of 2014.

At present, our products are shipped all over the U.S. and are also offered for limited shipping worldwide.

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5. Other than your own brand, what are your favorite chocolates?

Patrick Rogers, Jacques Torres, and Norman Love are my favorite chocolatiers. They not only offer unique collections of eclectic chocolates, but are renowned for making chocolate an art medium.

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6. What’s the best, worst, and strangest request for a chocolate product that you’ve heard?

Best: Le Rouge preserved rose petal (Paan Bahar) truffle.

This creation is inspired by the traditional Indian Paan, a concoction made with beetle leaves, preserved rose petals, beetle nuts, and other spices, and offered as an after dinner mouth freshener in India.

Worst: Request by a very high-end lingerie company to make product for them; and

Strangest: Using tequila to create a line of chocolate truffles.

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7. You’ve lived in some cool places. What’s one of your favorites?

I was born in India and had the privilege of living and traveling extensively around the world. Though I love the chaos of Delhi and Mumbai where I grew up, the fast pace of London, Chicago, and New York, and the bucolic life in suburban Connecticut, Hong Kong is hands down my favorite….. everything about it strikes the perfect balance (tradition vs. modernity, movement vs. calm, development vs. nature), and some day I would like to call it home again.

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8. What’s your favorite movie? Music? Book?

MovieWhen Harry Met Sally

Music: Jagjit Singh, Simon & Garfunkel, the Eagles,Lata Mangeshker, and Kishor Kumar; and

BooksAtlas Shrugged; Love Story; and The Kite Runner.

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9. What’s the best piece of business advice you ever received?

Learning is a continuum, try to learn from the best and follow your passion; the rest will follow.

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About Le Rouge:

Le Rouge Chocolates by Aarti are created in small batches using fair trade dark chocolate and the freshest ingredients. Each creation is hand-painted and hand-decorated.

To order: go to Le Rouge’s website; visit NewsWhistle’s catalogue; or stop by Le Rouge’s new flagship cafe (190 Main Street, Westport, Connecticut), where you can enjoy all their chocolate creations as well as fresh new hot chocolates and plated desserts.

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Photos Courtesy of Aarti Khosla and Le Rouge’s Official Facebook Page