28 Sep Therapy by ‘las Chocotejas’
For fifteen years, Carmen del Solar Almenara created her take on some of the most delicious Peruvian-style chocolates in the kitchen of her Sydney home.
After a dream about chocolates she used to have in Peru as a child, known locally as Chocotejas, Carmen couldn’t quite shake the idea, so she decided to try making them.
“One day, I was really happy with what I was making so I started going to the markets to try selling them and people loved them because they were a little different,” Carmen said.
They didn’t have a ganache as a filling, but it was rather a dulce de leche, or in Peru what’s called Manjar Blanco.
“From the feedback I had, clients were really happy, because other than loving the flavour of the chocolates, they also liked the very personalised service I provided.
Building the business from the local markets, Carmen was led to create Del Solar Chocolates, which grew to service an extensive, yet loyal, client list.
Previously working as a councillor with women and children, Carmen said although on the surface her career change seemed drastic, there were still many similarities between the jobs.
Although it may have been completely different, it really was another form of therapy and people kept calling me to tell me their experience, and then they would start talking about different things.
“It’s just about being able to relate and interact with people, and developing so many friendships,” she explained.
Having now retired and closed up shop in 2017, Carmen said she has had no regrets since selling her recipes and equipment to other passionate chocolatiers.
However, this decision to move on was not easy, and it took the chocolate-loving Carmen a year to make her final decision.
“I really loved what I was doing, but on the other hand, I really just wanted to have a more simple life, just waking up and not having to worry about things, spend more time with my grandkids and my garden,” she explained.
Now, I look back and think of it as a very happy and positive time in my life, and I really loved it, so I can keep that with me.
Sticking to tradition, Carmen has passed on many of her traditional Peruvian characteristics to her children and grandchildren, and she regularly visits the South American nation.
“It’s a country that is a mixture of magic and religion and superstition and history, so it’s just wonderful in that way,” she said.
“We share stories, which is really good to keep going, and we love Australia but you always need to keep a little bit of what you brought with you,” Carmen said.
Now, Carmen is working on making a sustainable home, reading books and becoming inspired by others who have followed the same route, providing one piece of advice to those unsure whether or not to take a leap of faith and follow their passions.
“I just would love to say to everyone to always follow your dreams,” she said.
“You can do anything and if it’s time to move onto something else, just do it; always look for another adventure.”