Columbus chefs Samantha Aulick and Alexa Lemley knew they needed to do something to increase their customer base as money for special expenses - like catered events - began to decrease during the recession.

The chefs had just taken over Lemley's family business after her father decided to retire. People were a bit concerned about those changes as well as the decrease in extra funds they had available for events.

With a little creative thinking, Aulick and Lemley decided to offer gourmet party platters as an alternative to fully catered occasions. Because of limited funds, the two chefs decided to make up party platter menus and place the menus in local hair salons around the Columbus area. They attached hand-crafted artisan marshmallows to the menus as a conversation piece.

Soon the phone began to ring, but customers weren't looking to order party platters.

"They wanted to order marshmallows," Aulick, a Madison native, said.

After several order requests from customers, 240sweet became a full-time business of it's own, with Aulick and Lemley earning recognition as an Indiana Artisan food business.

"Our food is art," Aulick said.

Most all of the ingredients used in 240sweet's marshmallows are local, all-natural and organic. And there aren't just flavorings in the nearly 300 recipes of marshmallows.

"We use real foods," she said. "Everything is local as can be."

Aulick and Lemley begin the marshmallow-making process with a simple syrup made of Michigan beet sugar, Ohio glucose and Indiana cornstarch. Those ingredients combine with a gelatin to form the basic marshmallow.

While there is the base recipe for the marshmallows, the art is in the changes needed for each flavor and each mixture of marshmallows made.

"We have to change the recipe batch by batch," Aulick said.

Each recipe depends on the kitchen environment, texture and density of ingredients and sugar content of fruits, Aulick said.

To date, Aulick and Lemley have created more than 300 marshmallow flavor recipes, including the best-selling Salty Caramel Swirl flavor and cucumber, cherry, strawberry basil, chicken and dill pickle to name a few.

Visitors to the 240sweet booth often question what the square treats are supposed to be.

"People don't know what they are unless they've heard of us," Aulick said.

Instead, most people think of marshmallows as the round, white fluffs found in stores.

Yet Aulick and Lemley create their puffs from an old-fashioned recipe originally used to make marshmallows before they became a mass-produced item.

"They're what marshmallows are supposed to be," Aulick said of the 240sweet treats.

Originally published Sept. 26, 2013, as part of The Madison Courier's annual Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art special section.