Omar Zahirović & Rachel Bossett | Power Couple and Instagram Chocolate Hustlers Speak on Launching Sovereign & Monarch
On Sunday May 15, A Deliciously Decadent Afternoon of Chocolate and Cocktails: 2016 was held in Midtown Manhattan. Omar Zahirović and Rachel Bossett were on hand to preview their new chocolate and pastry brand called Sovereign And Monarch. Sponsored by Internationally-renowned Chocolatier Valrhona, the event was highlighted with cocktail and desert pairings by premier liquor companies and noteworthy New York pastry chefs. True Cooks was on hand to sample Omar and Rachel’s creations, find out how they got into making deserts and get the lowdown on their new company.
Give the back story on how you got into making deserts.
Omar: I grew up in my mother’s kitchen, she was an all-around cook. She fed everybody, but she also made deserts. We always ate desert with our food. I was split from my family during the war in Bosnia. I was taken away from all of that stuff, and went to waiting in line at the soup kitchens, the Catholic charities. Also, going through the fields and stealing shit off ranches and stuff like that. Then when I came here, I worked in the kitchens. I think with food, it’s more subconscious with me. There was always some sort of connection that brought a feeling to it. It was like a sanctuary or something. I worked in the kitchens, then eventually my son was born and I started looking at life a little bit different. I wanted to get a little more serious with it, so I went to school. That’s when I really stepped my game up and focused on what I was doing. That’s really when I became a professional. Rachel and I met in school, but she can tell you how she got into it.
Rachel: I grew up in a home where both my parents cooked. My dad’s family is from the South. So there was always some Southern food cooking. My mom did all the baking, so I had two parents who cooked. I tried other careers, and I failed horribly and hated them. One day someone suggested that I should be a pastry chef. It was like a light bulb lit up. I was stuck in the mentality that you have to get a job—go to college and sit behind a desk and all of that. Then I got a job in a bakery in 2006. I had no experience, it was a little down-home rustic bakery in Seattle. It didn’t take me long after working at two bakeries in Seattle to recognize that school would help me out a lot. So when I came out here for school, I met Omar and we started doing some damage with this pastry stuff. I like it, it’s fun.
Being that you guys are a couple, what’s it like collaborating in the kitchen?
Omar: We always run things by each other. There’s times when she’s at work or I’m at work, and we’ll text one another—“I came up with this idea.” Or sometimes I’ll be working on something that I want to work on, and I’ll have her taste it first. For Sovereign And Monarch we decided to put our skills together in one project. We live together, work together, and feed one another, so there’s always some sort of a collaboration happening. As far as launching the company, it’s the perfect timing, because we learned how to work with one another. We know how to read one another. We know how to step in and step out, and give space to one another at the same time.
Rachel: And sometimes we argue.
Omar: We fight, we argue, we’re like a normal couple. It’s normal, but at the end of the day, we’re grownups and we have our priorities straight. It took a little while to learn how to live with one another and work with one another. A lot of people say don’t start a business with your partner. I don’t think that’s something that’s etched in stone. Because it didn’t work for one couple, doesn’t mean that that’s going to be the case for every couple out there. You have to invest time into growing and getting to know one another. And really be willing to sacrifice in order to grow together. When you find that strength and comfort knowing that this is the partner that I’m going to have for the rest of my life, taking on a project like this is not really that difficult, because you already know that this is the person that you can not only absolutely trust, but depend on too.
Tell Us a little bit about this event and how you got involved?
Omar: I met a person at the True Cooks Gold Bar event. They were recruiting people to do this event, and she pitched my name in there. They contacted me, and I said “yes,” I’ll attend. What it is, is they have people with the different alcohol companies, and they match them up with a pastry chef. Then, they collaborate on matching food with alcohol. We got paired up with Pepsi. Pepsi came out with the 1893. The black one is the original cola flavor, it’s like a ginger. They designed it specifically for bartenders to mix drinks. That’s about as much as I can tell you, because that’s what they told me. I’m not here representing them. We made chocolates to pair with it. Everything kind of goes with cola. We made a variety of different chocolate. I made milk chocolate and porcini, I did chamomile with Szechuan pepper. On the dark chocolate, there’s Kalamata olive. So, we’re hear and mingling around. I’m gonna be honest with you —this is the perfect opportunity to showcase some of the stuff that we’re going to be doing with our company.
When are you going to be launching the company?
Omar: July 1st 2016.
How long did it take you to prepare all of this?
Omar: It took us a week, because we have jobs and everything. A week’s notice is all we had from when we found out about this opportunity. Usually, when you make chocolates, you want it to sit for about 24 to 48 hours. So it was the perfect amount of time for us to prepare everything.
How do you feel about doing pop-ups like this, do you think it’s a good experience?
Omar: It’s a good experience, because you get to sell more product to the people that wouldn’t necessarily know about you. It’s fun. You get to meet people. I have more fun meeting people in the industry, because when you see what other people are making, you get inspired o make different things. I actually kind of learn from them. When I see them talking or presenting certain things, I know how to approach a customer.
Have you interacted with the other pastry chefs and interacting with them?
Omar: I’m definitely going to be doing it, but we just got here. But absolutely, that’s the whole point really, networking.
Where do you see yourself taking Sovereign And Monarch in the future, do you see yourself opening your own shop?
Rachel: We kind of don’t want to have a brick and mortar. We’re thinking we want to do it all online, wholesale, corporate accounts, hotels, things like that.
Omar: To keep the integrity with what we have, we don’t want to mass produce. We want to have select food, and every month we want to switch up the product. That doesn’t get boring for us. We get excited about our work. Our work is reflected in the taste. Like Rachel said, we don’t want to open up a shop. The overhead is ridiculous here in the city. We want to do online, and we want to do speakeasy desert-tasting menus—which happen around the city at specific locations at upscale apartment buildings. We have a few different apartments. What we do is sell tickets for those, and people get a four-course-desert menu. We pair it up with drinks and things like that.
Rachel: We both have full-time jobs, so this right now this is the side hustle.
How do you guys balance having full-time jobs and building this underground desert thing?
Omar: That’s exactly what it is, you said it perfectly. It’s hunger. When you have a dream, and you don’t want to have a boss, you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and get to work. You have to grind. When you don’t have to grind for somebody else, you’re going to continue grinding harder for your. You can’t be afraid of work. Every now and then we sit down and say, “man, I wish I was at the beach or I wish I was not doing anything.” We’ll take two or three days off, and by the time the second day comes around, I feel like I’m wasting time. If you really are determined to succeed, and you’re not afraid of work, you keep moving.
What does True Cooks represent for each of you?
Omar: I want to say that it’s a simple answer, but at the same time, it’s so complex that I can’t put it into words. It’s a community. True Cooks is a community of people who work in the food industry. For me, it’s a group of people who inspire me and support me at the same time. They are people that I learn from, look up to, that I support, motivate, and inspire. It’s a collaborative effort. It’s a group of individuals that like what they do, and understand that this type of work is not something that most people can actually do. This is a labor of love. You’re working 14 and 17 hours days, and you can’t call off. There’s all sorts of crazy shit. When you have a group of people that understand where you’re coming from and what you do, you get the support from them. They can listen, and understand the words that are coming out of your mouth. It makes life easier, and helps you understand that you’re not alone at this. We’re not the only ones that are doing the side hustle, and we’re not the only ones that grind for our dreams. Supporting one another, and cheering each other on, it’s actually cool.
Rachel: True Cooks is a community. It’s a network. There’s a full line of apparel and all but for me it’s more about the people that are brought together. It’s the group of folks that support True Cooks and they also support everything that we do in this crazy industry that we’re in. It’s a people thing.
Is there anything else that you guys are working on that you want to plug in this?
Omar: We’re working on our very first collection for our July 1st opening of Sovereign & Monarch. We’re also looking to do some speakeasy desert tastings pretty soon. Thank you every one in advance for checking us out at Sovereign & Monarch.