By LYNETTE HAALAND
Four Points News
Nicole Patel, local chef and owner of Delysia Chocolatier — an award-winning chocolate company with over 60 handcrafted chocolates on the menu — is expanding the business she started nearly a decade ago.
“In 2017 we are trying to grow more here in Austin and become a household name and push more nationwide,” said Patel, a Steiner Ranch mother of two and former corporate America engineer.
She is well on her way. Delysia was recently named a Top 10 Chocolatier & Confectioner in the Americas by the International Chocolate Salon and Taste TV for 2017. This is the second time she has gotten this accolade.
Delysia has expanded its offerings to retail customers over the past year. It offers complimentary chocolate tastings hosted every weekend at its Culinary Center & Chocolate Boutique at 2000 Windy Terrace Suite 2C Austin 78613, near RM 620 N and Anderson Mill Road.
Patel is also introducing chocolate tasting classes this year as well as special events like its free Easter egg decorating competition, which is Sunday, April 9 from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. Families are invited and kids can decorate a chocolate egg, and then Facebook followers will vote on their favorites. The winners will receive Easter themed chocolate treats.
Patel went to college at Texas A&M University and has a master’s degree in industrial engineering. She never imagined how her experience working at a Fortune 100 company as a supply chain and business process improvement expert would prime her for distributing her own products across the country.
“I made my first batch of truffles in 2006 when I was pregnant with my oldest,” she said.
She didn’t have a lot of extra money to go shopping and was watching TV when she came across a show on how to make candy truffles. “I thought, ‘this looks fun and easy, and I can do this,’” she said.
She made peanut butter, hazelnut and mint and sent them with her husband, Rahul, to work. Their first son, Sebastien, was born four days later.
She claimed her first truffles were “ugly” but making them became a stress release, and she was making them a lot. People loved them and told her that maybe she was on to something.
Two years later a trip to Becker Vineyards led her to make truffles using local wines and she became the first chocolatier in Texas to partner with a local vineyard, she said.
Delysia, a spin on the word “delicious” in Latin, was formally launched in October 2008 and mostly catered weddings and events then.
Patel wanted to take Delysia to the next level in 2009. She said she called every bank but the bankers did not want to loan her money without orders. Then the Patel’s looked for investors but instead decided to cash in retirement and college funds to expand Delysia.
She remembers thinking, “We will build on this and it will become an investment in ourselves not for someone else… and we don’t have to answer to investors.”
She was working at Motorola, then Freescale, after her first son was born until she was five months pregnant with her second son, Colin, when she was laid off. Shortly after that she went to work for a small engineering firm but with the goal “to bankroll Delysia, which is 100 percent personally financed.”
“We are trying very hard to instill in our kids that you don’t get everything you want and that money doesn’t grow on trees,” Patel said. Today Sebastien is in 4th grade and Colin is in 1st grade at Laura W. Bush Elementary.
In the early years, Patel’s chocolates were hand rolled and not consistent, driving her engineer side “crazy”. The Patels came across a machine that puts designs on the truffles and her husband said, “Do whatever it takes to get that.”
Not long after Becker became Delysia’s first client, Patel created an award winning dry rub bark blending the Salt Lick restaurant’s dry rub — that it uses on brisket and ribs — with bittersweet chocolate. “It offers a sweet but spicy finish,” she said.
In 2011, Patel created chocolates to celebrate the opening of Austin’s W Hotel and since then, she has added corporate clients who want their logo branded on chocolate for events.
Delysia developed a drinking chocolate too. “We grind pure chocolate into small pieces so it blends smoothly, providing the richest flavor possible,” she said.
In 2012, Patel purchased her building and remodeled it. Construction took longer than expected and the process was more frustrating than anticipated but it is now Delysia’s production kitchen, retail site, client meeting room and chocolate storage area.
Delysia has one full-time staffer, and on a really busy day, Delysia can make around 1,500 chocolates.
In the past year, Delysia has been focusing on its new website and gift boxes through online sales. It continues to build upon its event, corporate and wholesale client business.
Delysia chocolates are available through several retail sites including Becker Vineyards, Breed & Co., Con’ Olio Oils & Vinegars, Whole Foods and the airport.