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Katrina Markhoff

29, CEO and chocolatier of Vosges Chocolate in Chicago

Description: Confectionary company specializing in chocolates infused with exotic spices, flowers and liqueurs

Start-up: $30,000 in 1998

Sales: $2 million projected for 2002

Culinary travels: Three days after getting her degree from Vanderbilt in chemistry and psychology, Markoff's passion for food led her to Paris, where she studied cuisine and pastry at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu. From there, she set out to learn about more cultures' cuisines and traveled through Europe, Asia, Australia and Hawaii, attending cooking school along the way.

Chew slowly: Inspired by the spice markets she had seen abroad, Markoff started thinking about the U.S. chocolate market. "People are traveling a lot more and wanting more interesting experiences with food. I want people to take the time to appreciate what's going on in their mouth. What better way to do that than with curry and wasabi?"

Spice it up: Her first truffle creation was Naga, flavored with curry, coconut and milk chocolate. Other special spices include ginger and wasabi powder from Japan, dulce de leche from Argentina and a rare white honey from Hawaii, where beekeepers meditate before harvesting.

Taster's choice: Once a month, Markoff and her staff potluck or dine at an ethnic restaurant and discuss the food. "Food can be this incredible, mystical, intangible thing; it bonds people. It's like sensory tasting therapy."

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This article was originally published in the November 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Katrina Markhoff.

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