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Meet Diana Malouf of Ococoa in Culver City

Today we’d like to introduce you to Diana Malouf.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
For much of my life, I have made edible gifts for my friends. Oftentimes they were baked treats, but one year I decided to try my hand at making my own peanut butter cups. I hand-painted the inside of paper candy cups with what I thought was tempered chocolate. I honestly don’t remember if the chocolate tempered correctly, but it didn’t matter; I was hooked.

After making that initial batch of peanut butter cups, I became curious about how other types of nut butters might work with chocolate and began experimenting from there.

My Middle Eastern heritage largely influenced the flavors I initially gravitated towards. I use a number of ingredients that are popular in Middle Eastern desserts such as tahini, rose oil, pistachios, and figs.

After a few years of experimenting with techniques and perfecting the recipes, a friend talked me into officially starting Ococoa.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I started Ococoa because I enjoy making chocolate confections, playing with flavors, and learning new techniques. However, running a business isn’t just about pursuing a passion; it involves a lot of nuts and bolts. For many years, Ococoa was more of a hobby, in addition to my full-time job, which required some skillful time management and a willingness to just put in the long hours during the busy holiday season. Now that Ococoa is my day job, there is even more to do to keep everything running smoothly. My business partner Liz and I have to wear a lot of hats. Luckily, she and I are very curious and determined people.

Please tell us about Ococoa.
Ococoa specializes in gourmet chocolates that are handmade in small batches. Our nut butter cups are unique; I haven’t seen anything else like them. We make a lot of our own nut butters and pair them with fruits and ganaches, all dark chocolate and naturally dairy-free. I’m Lebanese and I grew up eating some amazing foods and desserts that I find myself drawing inspiration from, which also sets our chocolates apart from others.

In just a few short years of starting Ococoa, Bon Appetit included me in an article about the Best Chocolates in America. That was such an honor.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
When I was a little girl, I remember my uncle visiting from Lebanon. He brought me a shoebox full of candies and my young mind was positively boggled at the seemingly endless array of flavors, textures, and colors. That moment really imprinted on my mind — all of those treats stretched the limits of my imagination and introduced me to the very wide world of confections.

Pricing:

  • 9 piece Signature Butter Cup Collection, $25
  • Individual Truffle or Caramel Bars, $5 each or a gift set for $28
  • Caramelized Chocolate Almonds, $12
  • Pumpkin Spice Bar (through November), $6

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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