Chef and Vosges Haut-Chocolat founder Katrina Markoff uses chocolate as a medium to tell stories. "For some reason, I went into my kitchen, and I made an Indian curry, coconut, milk chocolate truffle," she says. "And that was when the epiphany occurred."
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Katrina grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, near her grandparents. She says her grandmother was the one who taught her how to cook. Katrina studied chemistry and psychology at Vanderbilt University, but found herself struggling with choosing a career as graduation approached. Katrina moved to Paris to study cooking at the famed culinary school Le Cordon Bleu. She worked in top European restaurants, but took a leave of absence to embark on a round-the-world trip.
She spent nine months traveling through Southeast Asia, discovering the close connection between people and food. When she returned to the United States, however, she realized she didn't want to be a chef. Katrina moved to Dallas to help her uncle with his mail-order business, and he asked her to find chocolates to sell in his catalog.
Finding several unappealing options filled with preservatives and artificial fillings, Katrina set out to make her own chocolates in her kitchen, using spices from her travels, like saffron, wasabi, and Hungarian paprika. That night she came up with 22 different recipes. Katrina started Vosges officially in 1998 in her home kitchen. Today it's a $30 million business with chocolates sold in stores nationwide.
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Katrina says chocolate is the most complex food in the world. "The flavor components, the characteristics, the notes," she explains, "it has such a range that it can complement, from savory to sweet."
"I think people love passionate people," says Katrina, "and if I'm really passionate about the work I'm doing, you're naturally going to be attracted to it." Katrina says she loves her job because she gets to creatively express herself through her work and it allows her to share ideas. "And it's through chocolate, so what's better than that?"