Chama Cammoum

Owner of CHAMALO - La Marsa, Tunis
In 1988, nobody would have guessed there would ever be a Tunisian chocolate shop, let alone one that would thrive. Thirty years on and Chamalo has become an institution for many Tunisians.



1- Could you tell us about your professional career?
I was in my first year of post-doctoral chemistry studies when my mom told me she was thinking about selling Chamalo. I realized two things. First, I didn’t want Chamalo to no longer be a part of my life. After all, I had grown up with it, with the scent of melted chocolate and candied orange peel, bergamot orange, aniseed and raspberry... So many fond memories! The second thing was I couldn’t bear to think that all the hard work my mother had poured into it over more than 25 years would have been for nothing. Starting a chocolate shop in Tunisia was a huge risk, especially for a woman like my mother, Frida.
I asked my mother to hold on for another few years, until I finished my post-doctoral studies and the MBA in Marketing I was studying for too. I wanted to get some work experience in France so that I could return to Tunisia with a solid knowledge of the basics needed to run a company. I started in the perfume industry, which had always fascinated me, and then started working as a project manager in B2B industrial marketing and communication.
The Tunisian Revolution in 2011 was a catalyst. The time was ripe for me to come back to Tunisia, as hopes were running high in the country.

2- How was immersion in the art of chocolate-making?
In 2012, I started training at Chamalo, and so began my hands-on apprenticeship in the art of chocolate-making and confectionery.
Alongside this, I was able to be of use in launching the website and developing communication tools, new packaging, a catalog for festive gifts, and the likes.

A lot of people asked me if I felt my many years of studies had been a waste. I think the opposite is true. My studies allowed me to develop the skills I have today, and helped me understand my limits. I’ve never been afraid of changing jobs or fields; in fact, I find it exciting and incredibly enriching.

Chemistry and chocolate-making are both forms of magic... When it comes to tempering chocolate, for example, I understand what’s happening on a molecular level, and I think it’s important to understand how products react and why.

3- Why does your shop work so well?
In 2018, Chamalo turned 30, and my priority is to uphold my mother’s primary objective, the overarching vision she never compromised on: Offering quality products. That is our single most important goal. The choice of raw materials is key. There’s the chocolate itself, naturally, but we also make our own pralines (almond, hazelnut, pistachio) and we sort and select our own dried fruit and nuts (for our sugared nuts and coated chocolate pieces). We also make our own orange peel, picking our own oranges, and candying the peel ourselves. Holding on to this artisanal approach is important to me.

4- What are your plans for Chamalo?
Today, my job is to build Chamalo’s visibility across Tunisia and forge ties with our customers. Online sales strike me as crucial to those processes. I also have a duty to explain what exactly makes premium, artisanal chocolate, because chocolate culture is a fairly recent phenomenon here, and I work to offer new products and ever-more customized options. In the long term, I’d like to bring Chamalo to other countries in North Africa, and perhaps even further afield. But there’s work to be done yet!