All kids dig candy, but Whimsical Candy’s Chris Kadow-Dougherty loved it just a little bit more than most. “When I was three I packed my little pink suitcase and tried moving to the candy store. True story.” This particular sugary fantasy didn’t happen (Mom and Dad just didn’t understand) but she jumped into the wide world of sweets from an early age, teaching herself to make candy out of the Betty Crocker cookbook as soon as she could reach the counter – everything from lollipops to caramel corn to gumdrops!
It took some years to realize that the passion could also be her life’s work. She took a more traditional day job, but time off was all about food. “I would use vacation time to make cheese, host elaborate dinner parties, you name it.” Finally in 2006, it hit her that she wanted to make her love into a career and she enrolled full time at the French Pastry School in Chicago.
She'd always dreamed of opening a small business devoted to the classic European candies that she’d grown to love in school. “I invented the swirl that would become La-Dee-Dahs on a whim. No matter what else I tried, family and friends always asked for the swirls, so I knew I had something.” Working from a nougat base – hers is a cross between the fluffy, airy stuff we’re familiar with here in the states and more traditional European style – she focused on classic flavors and quality ingredients, like high quality dark chocolate for enrobing, and a simple, buttery caramel filling.
Shelf life presented a bit of an issue, but she learned eventually that the right packaging and sealing process helped. The cost of shipping (especially during summer) was another hurdle, but she says “As with anything, we just get better at it the longer we do it. It’s a big learning process.”
In her adult fantasy, La-Dee-Dahs will become a household name, a nationally known and loved confection. For now, she’s just excited to be opening a small retail shop in her native Chicago, and enjoying the ride.
“I love when people ask what I do. I get immediate smiles. A child understands what a candymaker does.”