family résumé | manifesto | our name
We are proud to introduce our handmade, artisanal chocolates. Established in Asheville, NC in 2007, French Broad Chocolates is borne of an endless love of chocolate and a perpetual lust for culinary creativity. We make our chocolates in small batches with ingredients thoughtfully selected for their integrity. The following outlines our food philosophy with a set of criteria that inform our ingredient choices and business practices.
We’re a mom & pop business, which adheres to small batch, artisanal methods, in order to serve you a small luxury, made with love and good stuff. We believe measured indulgence is an important part of nourishing one’s soul.
Speaking of small, it bears mentioning that we advocate reasonable but sufficient portion size. You will not find anything gargantuan at French Broad Chocolate Lounge, perhaps other than our selection. You will leave satisfied, not stuffed. We believe decadent desserts can be part of a healthy diet. Small luxuries are part of having a positive relationship with food, and one’s body.
localOne of our primary company directives is to be a part of the local business community. We are fortunate and proud to be part of a vibrant culture of small food producers here in western North Carolina. Fertile soil and evolved consciousness make this area ripe for the local food movement. Farmers, artisan bakers, cheese makers, chefs, tailgate markets, and nonprofit organizations all work side-by-side to support one another.
For our chocolate kitchen and bakery, we buy fruits and berries and free-range eggs from WNC farms, and pick herbs out of our back yard. We pick up our wildflower honey from an honor-system shack on the other side of town, and our milk is processed less than 5 miles from our chocolate kitchen. At French Broad Chocolate Lounge, we sell locally churned ice cream, locally brewed beers, and regionally roasted coffee. The point is: We always have our eyes and ears open to find ingredients from within our regional foodshed. We believe we vote with our dollars, and try to live within our local economy as much possible.
But, um, isn’t chocolate grown in the tropics? Indeed. Cacao, an awfully finicky tree, only thrives within a short range from the equator. But even the most die-hard locavores agree that some foods are worth making an exception. Anyone want to live without coffee? Black pepper? Vanilla? Chocolate?! For globally-sourced ingredients, we seek to connect with small producers in a way that values their efforts, as if they were our neighbors. Applying local mentality in a global sphere. Everybody now: It’s a small world after all!
fairHistorically, commodities trading (whether it’s milk or cocoa beans) has involved power struggles, in which the wealthier buyers typically have the upper hand over the small farmers and producers. We are part of a massive movement to change that, bringing equity to the trade relationship. No single method of trade can achieve this for all players, but with diverse strategies, we can level the field.
Across the planet, the lion’s share of cacao is grown on farms smaller than 5 acres. It is inherently the business of small farmers. Furthermore, the nature of the plant makes the mechanization of harvest impossible; every pod must be carefully removed by hand. To ensure that this hard work is valued fairly, we can rely on direct contact, conscientious middlemen, association with like-minded chocolatiers, and fair trade certification.
The best way to get farmers the compensation they deserve is by establishing a direct relationship with them. This way, we can encourage farming methods that will improve the value of their products, increasing their profitability while procuring a better ingredient for our operation. Among the ingredients we source directly from the farmer: hazelnuts, pistachios, butter & cream, maple syrup, lavender, fruits and berries. Cacao, the heart and soul of our business, is next. We’re heading to Peru this month on a sourcing expedition. In Costa Rica, we are restoring an abandoned cacao farm, and helping a Costa Rican friend build a fermentary. In establishing these ties, we’ll craft chocolate from direct-sourced beans, and use that housemade chocolate to create our truffles, confections and pastries. We’ll be one of a handful of chocolatiers in the world to be bean-to-bar-to-truffle.
organicThe organic movement embodies principles of responsible food production and earth stewardship. Since the USDA developed their National Organic Program, the word is laden with controversy and many small farmers and producers feel that the spirit of the movement has been legislated away.
We were certified organic under the USDA NOP for the first year of our operation, but our honey had to come from Brazil, because that was the only certified organic honey we could buy. Now, we can procure honey from local beekeepers, and save about 4,000 miles of carbon-intensive travel. By creating local relationships with our food producers, the specter of “food security” loses its ominous underpinnings. We value the third-party organic certification for keeping a watchful eye on producers that we can know nothing about, but all the better if we can visit Alex up at Full Sun Farm and ask if he sprays his berries. His farm may not be “certified organic,” though he does in fact use organic methods.
We believe that using organic methods of production is the right thing to do, and we buy organically produced foods most of the time. We take earth stewardship seriously, as evidenced by the growing pile of eggshells and coffee grounds behind our house that will be the soil in next year’s herb garden, or by the compostability of most of our takeout packaging.
All of the above factors are considered in selecting our chocolate and other ingredients. There is often a compromise; and when there is, we err on the side of excellent taste. Take milk chocolate. We have in the past used a very good organic milk chocolate made by Dagoba. Then we met Kokoleka, a divine 38 percent single origin, single estate American-grown chocolate from Hawaii made by Guittard, a San Francisco chocolatier. While not organic, it blows our minds.
We cannot help but take our food choices personally; our products are a reflection of who we are.