Hi. My name is Karen Schneid, wife to David, mom of Saffron and Scarlett and founder of Ooh La La Confectionery!
For many years I had a flourishing commercial practice at the legal bar in South Africa as an advocate. I loved my profession. I was also a passionate traveler and foodie. In between court cases, I would hop on a plane and immerse myself in world cultures. I worked hard, I traveled hard.
In the summer of ’93 while traveling with my husband David in Aix-en -Provence, I tasted a confection unique to that region, called a calisson. It was love at first morsel! Little did I know, but that first taste was the beginning of Ooh La La. I embarked on a path to create this fine confection. My journey took me to historians, scientists, local confectioners in French villages as well as famous chefs in Paris. My new friends were purveyors and tasters of French confectionery including Madam Acabo, owner of a beloved chocolate and confectionery shop in Paris called A L’Etoile d’Or. Annually, I took my calissons to her for tastings. After each visit I would tweak and refine, a little bit more of this, a little less of that. Then one day one I opened the quaint wooden door of her little shop, excited to bring my latest calisson to the master. She tasted my ‘worked-on’ calisson and declared ‘C’est magnifiique’. I had arrived!
Little did I know that this journey into the world of calissons was the beginning of Ooh La La. I started making confections in my kitchen. I maintained my law practice by day, but at night you could find me, carefully crafting delicacies to perfection. As my interest grew, I would sneak off from my day job at every opportunity to travel abroad where I studied advanced confectionery at the Culinary Institute of Lenotre and L’ecole Ritz Escoffier. I also took separate courses in the history and chemistry of sugar. I visited the French Biblioteque to study Nostradamus’s mystical theories on sugar, written in his original manuscripts, heavy, dusty, tinged with gold.
In between my busy law practice and my sweet night-time habit, I had a revelation. I was arguing a very important case in front of the High Court of Appeal in South Africa. As I developed my argument in front of five pre-eminent judges, my mind kept wandering to new marshmallow flavours I wanted to try. Picture it: Tonka bean and violet were competing with Sasfin vs. Beukes. Luckily, I had a good record of winning my cases and this didn’t change the ratio. But as I flew home that evening, I realised that as much as I loved the law, my heart had been overtaken by this burgeoning business. I finally came out of the confectionery closet!
Time went on and I developed other confections; traditional French nougat, gourmet marshmallows, a range of caramelised-nut Pebbles (which quickly became a hot favourite), Turkish Delight and high-end chocolate infused with intriguing flavours. More recently, I have added matcha to our confectionery range and I am excited to introduce my new passion for Japanese-French fusion confections to Ooh La La.
As Ooh La outgrew our family kitchen, we moved to a factory designed by my husband on our farm style property. Our new little factory felt like the realisation of a dream. It was just as quaint and magical as the little, artisanal factories in the French villages that had been my original source of inspiration. We now hire a team of twenty people whom I have trained in the art of French and world confectionery and who I am proud to say now share my passion.
I look back on my life as an advocate with warmth and appreciation. But, I wouldn’t give up my life as a confectioner for anything. As the fragrances waft in from the factory to my office, I continue to have new ideas and new dreams. I seek new tastes, new horizons and new ways of sharing our delights with the world and you. Following the spark of that little calisson has become the realisation of a dream beyond my wildest imagining.
Ooh La La is proud to have won numerous awards: We were voted best confectionery for Eat Out magazine and we have won numerous awards from the Great Taste Awards in Britain, known as the Oscars of the food industry. In 2017, we brought home 21 gold stars for our confections from the Great Taste awards!