Jill Williams’ love of chocolate has taken her on a journey to the stars. What began as a hobby led her to the Emmy and Grammy award shows.
“It just kind of snowballed,” said Indiana State University alumna.
Williams took to making jewelry and chocolate as hobbies. “All of a sudden it started growing,” she said about her chocolate business. Family members and friends asked her to create chocolate pieces for them. “I fell in love with chocolate making,” she said. She began taking classes and learned different techniques using molds, mixing flavors like peanut butter or jasmine with chocolate and combining nuts or marshmallows with chocolate. Her name began to circulate further than her friends and family when she began creating chocolates for weddings and bridal showers.
Then came her big break.
Niecy Nash, a comedian and actress, contacted Williams to make chocolate-covered strawberries for her bridal shower.
“I wanted to give her a wow factor,” Williams said. She used a special technique in which she created a tower of strawberries. “Sherry Shepherd, who was one of her bridesmaids, just shouted me out on Twitter.”
From there, Williams hobby turned part-time job took off – though she kept her full-time job at a car dealership.
“She opened so many doors for me,” Williams said about catering Nash’s party.
That led to her preparing chocolates for different awards shows, including the 2011 Emmys.
“It was an awesome, awesome event. I was interacting with celebrities I’ve seen on television and I’m seeing them enjoying what I made,” she said.
She took her chocolates to the Grammys next. She was invited to do the Academy Awards, but already had another event scheduled. Prior to each event, she set up her chocolate creations in the gifting suite and served her chocolates to celebrities ushered in to the area where vendors had gathered.
“It’s just an awesome, awesome journey to be able to do something that you love, that you’re truly passionate about and to have people that want to be a part of that,” Williams said. “I’m so thankful that I was given that opportunity.”
When Williams graduated from Hammond High School in 1979, she didn’t know a star-studded future lay before her. She decided to attend Indiana State to remain close to her parents.
“Indiana State was the perfect choice for me,” she said. “Indiana State taught me a lot. It gave me the tools I needed to talk to event coordinators. It helped me to find myself, to find my niche.”
As she finished her senior year at the university, the sociology major discovered she was a few credits short to graduate and with an offer for a summer position in Crestline, Calif. “I thought this won’t happen again,” she said about taking the summer job. “I always wanted to go to California.” At the end of the summer working with people who had special challenges, the organization offered her a full-time job and she stayed.
“Then life happens. I got married, had my daughter, then the marriage failed. I still had my daughter,” she said.
She began crafting chocolates as a hobby eight years ago.
“You know, for most people, chocolate is that sinful, guilty pleasure kind of treat,” she said. “So whenever people see it, their eyes get really, really big and they just want to taste it.”
That includes the children she taught chocolate making at Pasadena City College. With the children, she taught them about melting chocolate, dipping strawberries or pretzels and using molds to create Spongebob or Barbie.
“I tried to make sure the class catered to them and what it was that they liked, and they simple loved it,” she said. “We did it for four years, but, of course, because of budget cuts, they had to cut my class.”
Her daughter, Amani Williams, graduated in May from California State University – Northridge. Now, Williams has returned temporarily to Hammond to care for her mother. But she plans to return to California in the near future, to continue making chocolates and pursuing her dreams.
“What I would really love to do, you know, I love to dream big even if dreams never happen, but I would love to one day to have a Food Network-type of show but with chocolates and involving kids the way I did it in Pasadena on a smaller scale,” she said. “Any maybe sell my jewelry on HSN or something like that. You know, I try to dream big. Seriously, I do. Because you know all those people on HSN had a dream and their dream became a reality, so I’m thinking, ‘Hey, why not me?’ I just need to be in the right place at the right time.”
Jennifer Sicking, GR ’11, is the editor of Indiana State University Magazine and chocolate does make her happy.