Baking with French Broad Chocolates
I was standing in Pack Square recently when I was approached by a tourist. He pointed to a long line of folks across the street, their huddled bodies masking the powder-blue building behind them, cocked an eyebrow and asked what all the fuss was about. I explained that the queue was for French Broad Chocolate Lounge. “Is it worth the wait?” he asked. “Absolutely.”
French Broad Chocolate’s is a story that almost wasn’t. Dan and Jael Rattigan moved to Asheville back in 2006 to create, as she calls it, “a sweet, little, home-based chocolate business, selling chocolates at farmer’s markets.” Though the chocolates themselves were a success, the business model was not, and the Rattigans began closing up shop. But when a friend emphatically wailed, “You can’t give up! The world needs your chocolate!” their passion was reignited. Their time running a cafe in Costa Rica served as further inspiration. “What we knew from our days in Costa Rica… is that it is an honor and a privilege to create an inviting space for community to gather,” Jael says. “[Our] plan for French Broad Chocolate Lounge [was] a sacred space for chocophiles, where folks could come and be with their chocolate and with each other.”
When asked what makes French Broad Chocolate Lounge the iconic staple of the Asheville’s dessert scene, Jael is humble: “Iconic? Thanks!” she says with a grin. “I think what resonates with our community is that we really represent the values of Asheville,” she continues. “We source as much locally as we can, even going so far as to buy hundreds of pounds of, say, raspberries when they are in season, and freezing them, so we can use local raspberries all year round… If we can’t buy local, we buy direct from the farmer or producer, to ensure they’re being fairly compensated for their work.”
She’s right: those are sentiments all us Ashevillians definitely appreciate and seek out when it comes time to spend our pennies. But what really makes French Broad successful is, of course, their chocolate. Once you make it through the line, inside the bake shop, and across the antiquely tiled floors, your chocolate-lovin’ heart will beat faster at the sights—and smells—before you. Decadent truffles, richly layered cakes, fluffy mousses and gradients of curley-cued chocolates and shavings fill the display cases, which seem to glow with the angelic light of heaven itself.
For the Rattigans, it’s about so much more than chocolate. Community, for one; they’re currently working to certify FBC as a b-certified corporation. “We believe that if our company grows and profits, it gives us more opportunity to be generous with our employees, our farmers, and our communities, and that feels right!” says Jael. Most important of all? Family. Their sons, Sam and Max, have inherited their parents choco-genes. “Our kids love chocolates, and both love to bake!” Jael notes. We asked the dessert devotees to whip up one of their favorite recipes, just in time for the sweetest season of all, fall.