Sarahbeth Marshall, otherwise known as Yeli, has been studying and performing the art of Middle Eastern Belly Dance since 1999. When she traveled overseas to Italy, she discovered flavor-infused chocolates — flavors such as rosemary and cedar — that she had never seen nor tasted before. She brought back that inspiration to Dallas and started making her own chocolates in 2007. Since then she has worked at perfecting various flavors, to entice her friends and family.
Those same friends suggested to Yeli that she should consider selling the chocolates in boutiques around the “Metroplex,” that is the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The first boutique to carry the chocolates was a dance studio where Yeli was teaching belly dance.
After searching for a name that truly told the story about her chocolates, a friend suggested melding her name and her passion — dance! Hence the name Yelibelly Chocolates and its incorporation in 2009.
As a registered dietician, Yeli comprehends the science of chocolate. As a belly dancer, she appreciates the art.
“Each of our chocolates and flavor-infused ganaches are hand-crafted in small batches using natural ingredients,” she explains. “No preservatives are used in our chocolates and our chocolate is ethically sourced. We use real cream and butter in each batch of ganache, and you will be able to taste the difference.”
The storefront where Yeli plies her chocolates stems from a partnership with a company called Delicious Cakes. The two companies share the kitchen as well as the storefront. As expected, Yelibelly Chocolates does a strong wedding business.
It’s also recognized locally. The company won first place for its chocolates at the Grapevine Chocolate Festival, a chocolate and art festival benefitting Travelers Aid in Dallas/Fort Worth, for the past two years.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?
It would have to be something minty, like a peppermint patty. Peppermint is so calming for me, and I would want minty fresh breath when I’m rescued!
What’s the last cool thing you saw online?
I am mesmerized by the dessert videos I see coming out of Japan. I love watching their techniques and unique takes on traditional desserts.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A doctor...forever...that was the plan. I got really sick in college, though, and did horrible my sophomore year, which guaranteed I would never get into medical school. I changed my major to dietetics and had a really successful and fulfilling career as a dietitian (14 years) until I found chocolate!
What issues concern you most about the confectionery industry and why?
In a wider sense than just the confectionery industry is the misleading and mislabeling of products just to gain consumer attention with fad words. When I see things that are naturally gluten-free, like chocolate, labeled as such, I think producers are just playing into an overdone narrative in the industry.
What is your pet peeve?
Overuse of the same fad ingredient or technique in the industry. It seems like everyone has to make a chocolate infused with yuzu right now or every chef has a mirror-glazed entremet. Make something that tastes good and looks beautiful! I want to impress my clients...not other chefs.
If given the chance to choose anyone, with whom would you like to collaborate?
I would love to collaborate with other small businesses like mine. We understand each other and the struggles we endure to grow our passion every day.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t give up. Listen to yourself. Kick your inner critic to the curb.
What excites you most about your job?
Seeing the look on people’s faces when they try my confections. It brings me so much joy. I love to share something with people that brings them so much happiness!