For Dan and Jael Rattigan, chocolate is more than an end-of-meal indulgence. About 10 years ago, the couple left grad-school to pursue greater happiness. They found chocolate in Costa Rica.
Today, their Asheville dessert restaurant, French Broad Chocolate Lounge, has become a must-visit. “By creating the space for people to have an experience, we hope to have an impact,” Jael says. Whether that experience is falling in love over hot chocolate, celebrating an anniversary with wine and truffles or indulging in some alone time, the Chocolate Lounge provides a venue.
The Rattigans have thought out each detail of their business; although the lounge is a place of whimsy and delight, it's also a place to consider the origins of food. “We seek a closer relationship to the source of our food, and we want to share the connection with you,” Jael explains. “That's what we're trying to do — make the food world a smaller place.”
The Rattigans' efforts begin with sourcing produce around Asheville, but for cacao, they must look farther. “We're trying to use the same model of building relationships with our local and global producers,” Jael says. “Cacao is grown in the tropical ring around the equator. Obviously, we can't buy it locally, but what we're striving to do is visit the source and make relationships.”
After importing cacao beans, the Rattigans create chocolate at their factory on Buxton Avenue, which offers daily tours. As much as Dan likes being compared to Willy Wonka, he's not nearly so secretive. “We're trying to offer education and an open book,” he says.