Streaks of deep grassy greens and cloudy whites undulate, intertwined with a splash of sunset pink. A vivid abstract piece, for sure, but in miniature, and replicated in neat rows standing at attention on a marble countertop. This isn’t paint on a wild canvas or the hues of a clay pot. This is artisan chocolate, cooked carefully, molded with precision, colored fancifully and finished to nearly a new-car sheen by local mother-and-daughter duo Aliaa and Maram Khalaf.
“Making something and expressing yourself helps create energy for other things,” Maram says. “It brings so much to life.”
Launched in early 2023, their brand Chocolate Bijoux was originally inspired by Aliaa’s international travels. Everywhere the mother-of-four went, she brought a separate and empty suitcase just for filling with chocolate discoveries, a packing technique that often led to curious conversations at customs desks.
At the height of the pandemic, unable to travel, Aliaa began experimenting at home to not only feed her passion, but to involve her daughter, an LSU student, social media marketer and researcher, in a new creative endeavor. Soon, their unique blend of European and Arabian-inspired chocolates took shape.
Loaded with varieties like honeycomb, caramel and ganache, Maram brought batches of their not-too-sweet desserts to her professors and classmates, many of whom described them as “little gems” or “too good-looking to eat.”
For these handcrafted desserts made without chemicals or preservatives, she chose the name bijoux—French for “jewels.” Orders began rolling in after she posted process videos on Instagram.
“You don’t want to share anything half-done,” Maram says. “Once you’re confident in what you’re putting out there—when you know it’s good and it’s something you like—then that makes all the difference and good things start happening.”
Chocolate Bijoux is available at Mulberry Market, Lighthouse Coffee and Teatery, and the duo holds regular pop-ups, with proceeds from their first one even going to aid those affected by the devastating earthquake in Turkey. But Maram’s long-term goal is a café in New Orleans for their high-end chocolates and quality coffee and tea—a welcoming fusion of their family heritage and love for Louisiana.
“I think our teamwork is something we really value, and it’s essential for customer service,” Maram says.
With Aliaa overseeing chocolate production and flavor varieties, and Maram focusing on marketing and the visuals of the pieces—“Color is a sign of happiness,” she says—the biggest challenge for the duo has been the Louisiana heat.
“It’s a lot of ice, a lot of hurrying and care for these chocolates at pop-ups to make sure they survive,” Aliaa says. “But it’s all been worth it. I love the process too much. It’s not about the money right now. We love making good chocolate and offering something new to Baton Rouge.”