It's been another sweet year for Monsieur Chocolate. When last we checked in with Jacques Torres ("Like Money for Chocolate," February 2003), the Le Cirque pastry chef turned Willie Wonka was making and testing martini-flavored truffles in his Brooklyn factory. This past November, he opened a second location, in lower Manhattan. Jacques Torres Chocolate Heaven, at Hudson and King Streets, is aptly named. In the center is an inviting wood-and-marble chocolate bar shaped like a cacao pod. As in Brooklyn, the manufacturing functions as eye candy. The retail area is encircled by 11-foot windows facing the factory, where you can usually find Torres at work.
Expansion has changed how Torres does business. He proudly built his Brooklyn factory with friends, but the Manhattan project was too much. He still oversaw construction as meticulously as if he were making bonbons, bringing it in on budget at about $1.5 million (half as much as one of the estimates). But with two locations, Torres has nearly twice as many employees, 40, and twice the output. How does he ensure the same quality truffles and marzipans? By working alongside staffers — teaching, tasting, and experimenting (that explains the new chocolate fortune cookies) — he turns them into chocolatiers in the Jacques Torres mold. "I compare us to a microbrewery," he says. "We're a micro-chocolate factory."
One of his latest creations is for Origins, the beauty and skin-care company. It asked him to contribute to a new cocoa therapy line, and he produced a chocolate bar with mandarin, thyme, and ginger oils. It's delicious and soothing, he says. But don't just take his word for it. Greek scientists reported last year that dark chocolate helps prevent hardening of the arteries. "Did you hear about it?" Torres asks, more excited than usual. It confirmed what Mr. Chocolate has been saying all along: This stuff's good for you.