The marshmallows at MMELO are far from your average ‘mallow. Vanilla is the tame end of the flavor spectrum with more playful flavor combinations like pear, lemon and fresh thyme (all in one treat) ranking at the top of the best-seller list.
The mouthful morsels are the handy work of Michelle Allen. The owner with a major sweet tooth decided on the fluffy treat because, well, she loves them. And they’re fun to eat.
“I think they are truly representative of the magic of confectionery,” Allen says. “They’re like a little piece of magic.”
She loves the way a few simple ingredients transform into something amazing. The actual chemistry behind the process and food chemistry in general is part of what led her to a marshmallowy world.
Allen say she has always been a foodie with a sweet tooth, but liked to stay conscious of what she was eating and didn’t like a lot of the ingredients she saw popping up in her sweets. After she became a mother, she took an even more concentrated interest and started studying food science.
“I started learning about the chemical reactions that ingredients have with one another,” Allen says.
She figured out a few simple swaps to replace original confectionery ingredients with some healthier options, like arrowroot for cornstarch. Allen isn’t saying her marshmallows and other creations are health foods, but if you’re going to eat sweets, “Ideally you want to make sure it’s made with whole food ingredients.”
It was really a perfect storm of things that landed Allen in Columbus making marshmallows.
“MMELO is my fourth business, actually, and in reality, my fourth career,” she says.
A Columbus native, Allen went to OSU before heading to New York to work as a producer for 14 years. There, girl would meet boy, fall in love and move to Spain. During the couple’s 12 years in Spain, Allen started and sold a natural hair care products company. After relinquishing the business, she started in on her love of food science and confections and eventually began making favors for weddings and designing candy tables for clients. It would be the first iteration of MMELO.
Allen eventually convinced her, as she describes it, very English husband that it was time to head back to the States, both for family and business reasons. After some time to settle from an international move, Allen started working in earnest on the budding ‘mallow biz about five months ago.
MMELO’s flavors are a trip down Allen’s culinary memory lane.
“A lot of my flavors come directly from my personal experience with food,” she says.
The vanilla chai marshmallow is a nod to her experience learning to make chai on a train in India. The pear, lemon and fresh thyme comes from a Greek friend and the country’s food. The very English husband had a little something to do with the Earl Gray and lime confection.
“I really just try and bring interesting flavors together,” Allen says. She wants the flavors to be fun and unexpected, it is candy after all.
That mission is largely accomplished with flavor combos like espresso mocha, pink champagne, and licorice with white chocolate and black salt, all three strong sellers.
The folks at ECDI and the Food Fort were lucky enough to have the coveted position of MMELO taste-testers as Allen developed these recipes.
“I can’t say enough about ECDI and Food Fort and that crew over there,”Allen says.
Both were instrumental in getting the business off the ground. MMELO uses the Food Fort for production and secured financing through ECDI’s services.
“Local businesses have been amazing,” Allen adds. She says many have been generous with support and advice.
As for getting your sweet tooth on the treats, MMELO is available online and soon, in person at their holiday pop-up store at Easton. Chocolates will be added to the mix at the Easton store, but still adhere to the whole foods, no junk rule. (For more on that, head over to Columbus Underground.)
After the seasonal pop-up, “The goal for MMELO is to open up a confectionery cafe,” Allen says.
While she’s traveled the world and quite literally come full circle, Allen is nothing but glad to be back and a part of the city’s booming food community.
“I’ve learned so much from the local food community here,” she says.
For more information, visit mmelo.co.