Dan & Jael fall in love (first with each other, then chocolate…)
Our story has shaped our values and ambitions, and we’re adamant about fostering positivity in our business, our community and our industry, all in the name of love & chocolate!
It started with the same old story: Girl flirts with boy. Boy asks girl out. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl leave graduate school and buy an abandoned cacao farm (learn more here) in Costa Rica. Well, I guess that last part is a little different…
But that’s exactly what happened.
When Dan and Jael Rattigan met at a wedding in 2003, nothing expected was to occur again. After a trip together to Costa Rica, the pair knew life in the Midwest just wouldn’t do. So they dropped out of graduate school, packed their lives into a 40-foot vegetable oil-powered school bus (converted by Dan), and drove south to Costa Rica (having just learned Jael was pregnant).
Destination: Puerto Viejo de Limon, a small Caribbean village filled with fisherman, surfers, and expatriates from around the world.
Once parked in Puerto Viejo de Limon, Dan and Jael opened a café and dessert shop, Bread & Chocolate. It was here, in the apartment above their shop, that their first son, Sam, was born. It was also here that their interest in cacao became a lifestyle.
After a year of studying and playing with chocolate recipes, serving the good people of Costa Rica, and getting hitched, Dan and Jael came to a realization: They are not beach people. But Bread & Chocolate was an overwhelming success, and continues to this day…
So Bread and Chocolate was sold to Tom Franklin, one of their cooks, originally from Baltimore. Dan and Jael hopped back in their bus to continue their journey as self-ordained chocolate missionaries.
Somewhere along the way, Asheville, NC, became their destination and French Broad Chocolates was soon birthed (as was their second son, Max). The business began out of their home kitchen, selling their chocolates online and at local farmers markets. The demand quickly outgrew the space, and in 2008 French Broad Chocolate Lounge was opened, giving the people of Asheville a haven for indulgence.
In 2009, after repeated scolding from the Fire Marshal for exceeding occupancy limits, Chocolate Lounge was expanded to the second and third floors of its home on 10 S. Lexington Ave.
But the tiny chocolate empire continued to expand!
In 2012, Dan and Jael’s dream of becoming a bean-to-bar chocolate maker was realized, when they opened French Broad Chocolate Factory & Tasting Room. Intent on nurturing connections to the source of their food, French Broad Chocolates imports cacao from our trusted farmers, and transforms it into fine chocolate. The flavors of cacao, paired with ingredients thoughtfully selected for their integrity, provide inspiration for a compendium of confections and desserts, which are humbly served to our patrons in Asheville and beyond.
And the bean-to-bar mission doesn’t stop there. Remember that abandoned cacao farm in Costa Rica? Well, Dan and Jael still own it, and in a painstakingly slow way that only a cacao farmer would understand, the farm inches closer to productivity. They have stayed actively involved, traveling annually to get their hands dirty and working diligently to rehabilitate it back into productivity.