Have Your Aurora and Eat It Too

Traffic in Los Angeles was too much for Jae Shim and his wife Ingrid, a trained chocolatier and pastry chef who worked in high-end hotels in Beverly Hills. A typical hotel pastry kitchen, Jae says, employs about 20 cooks, and they all want to be chocolatiers. Through skill and perseverance, Ingrid rose to the top. In LA, “she had the chance to work with some of the top chefs and top chocolatiers in the world.”

Eventually, though, they wanted a change. “I have lived here and there,” Jae said. “New York, Seattle, Chicago. Eventually, I traveled all around the country.” He says there’s something about big cities that is “all the same.” So when Jae and Ingrid decided to leave LA, they thought, “Let’s try Alaska.” The Shims are no strangers to big moves. Jae is from Korea, and Ingrid is from Taiwan. They packed all of their belongings into a U-Haul, hitched their mini-van to the back, and visited every national park along the way. “We behaved like kids, without arranging even a job or apartment,” Jae said with a laugh.

The Shims’ adventurous spirit suited them perfectly to Alaska. After settling in Anchorage in 2014, they opened a pastry and chocolate shop called Sweet Chalet, but the location proved to be a challenge. As they worked through the struggles of being new business owners, they leaned on support from the Alaska Small Business Development Center, taking workshops and working one-on-one with an adviser. The Shims decided to focus more squarely on chocolates. They now have two storefronts, one on Dimond Boulevard, and another at the Hotel Captain Cook.

Ingrid had become enamored by the northern lights in Alaska and turned to her medium of chocolate to create an edible version. The new confections led the Shims to rename their business Aurora Chocolate. Jae says that Ingrid has a delicate color sensibility that makes it possible for her to “paint” the auroras in chocolates. “My wife is a perfectionist,” he says. She hand-paints multiple layers of cocoa butter into the moulds in beautiful patterns reminiscent of the northern phenomenon. Each layer must be chilled and then rewarmed between painting in a delicate, careful process Jae says fits Ingrid’s temperament and skill perfectly. “She has some talent,” he says. “Almost nobody is doing chocolate this way.” Read the rest of the story here.

This story was written as part of a web series with Edible Alaska