Here’s the latest installment in my cross-posting partnership with Farmer and Chef South. Here, Christine Sykes Lowe of FCS talks with Jael Rattigan of Asheville’s French Broad Chocolate Lounge. (Farmer and Chef South is a collaboration between nationally published cookbook author, Debby Maugans and Lowe, Asheville-based owner of T3 Creative Group, marketing and PR collective with special focus on culinary and hospitality promotions.)
Tell me about your “lightbulb” moment or planning strategy for eventually building your production facility-
As business owners, we believe that we have a responsibility to take care of the people who are impacted by our business. This includes our community of customers, our employees, and the people who grow and produce the ingredients we use in our chocolates and desserts. We are always seeking ways we can do better, and are constantly refining our supplier list in order to work directly with as many farmers and producers as we can. We’re buying either locally or directly our fruits, berries, herbs, nuts, eggs, honey, maple syrup, and dairy. One day we had the lightbulb moment that we could do a heck of a lot better with the one ingredient at the heart of our business – chocolate! Yes, we were buying organic and fair trade chocolate, but we had no relationship with the farmers who grew it or the processors who ferment and dry it at the source. We decided this was something we could change – and that it would improve our product, while making us feel better about our business. We built our Chocolate Factory in 2012, and have been building relationships with cacao farmers and cooperatives, and directly importing cacao ever since. We’ve personally talked with every organization we’ve purchased from, and after an upcoming trip to Nicaragua in April, will have met them in person as well.
Any plans on the horizon that you are willing to share?
We are excited that we have recently signed a lease at 10 S Pack Square, right next to the Asheville Art Museum, where we will be relocating the Chocolate Lounge! With this move, we’ll be redesigning our systems to better serve our customers and we’ll have the possibility of an outdoor patio. Additionally, we’ll be opening an adjacent chocolate boutique, where folks can purchase boxes of chocolates, chocolate bars, and gifts without entering the Chocolate Lounge. We’re also excited to announce we’ll start producing our own line of ice cream! The use of organic dairy, as well as fun French Broad Chocolates inclusions, like our own cookies, brownies, and caramel will make this ice cream line unique to Asheville. We’ll also be retooling the factory – bringing truffle production from the Lounge down to the factory, redesigning our educational space, and improving our retail offerings. It’s going to be a lot of positive change! But it is our ultimate goal to have the Chocolate Lounge retain its identity and feel like the same place to our guests. Just better!