With the many chocolatiers that are known throughout the world, it makes sense that there have been many paths to greatness. However, few chocolate makers have careers in the field that span decades. In fact, many of the current stars are actually quite young and have travelled a fairly linear path to fame. However, one chocolatier, Jacques Torres, has certainly had a long and interesting life path that led to his current venture in independent chocolate making.
Jacques is a native of France, having spent most of his childhood in Bandol, located in the southern Provence region. When the boy was just 15, he made the decision to make baking his life’s work. He returned to his hometown and apprenticed at the pastry shop La Frangipane. In two years, he had gained acclaim and graduated from the apprentice program with honours. He got his first official position immediately after graduation from his apprenticeship at La Cadiere d’Azur. The boy was around 17 years of age.
In 1980, well before many of Jacques’ modern competitors were even choosing their life’s path, Jacques was challenged by his girlfriend to do something bigger. This bet prompted Jacques Torres to sneak into the Hotel Negresco and ask renowned French chef Jacques Maximin for a job. Maximin rewarded the spunk of the young baker by telling him to show back up in an hour and he would be put to work. Torres spent the next eight years under the tutelage of Jacques Maximin. For the first three years of this time, Jacques Torres was also steadily working towards a degree as a Master Pastry Chef. He completed his classes mostly on his off days. Once he completed his degree, Jacquess also taught at a Cannes culinary school while working at the Hotel Negresco.
It didn’t take long for Jacques to receive serious renown and recognition for his abilities as a pastry chef. In fact, while still on the staff at the Hotel Negresco, Torres participated in the Meilleur Ouvrier de France culinary competition, winning the M.O.F. medal in 1986. There had never been a chef win that prize at a younger age than Jacques.
The 80s were a whirlwind of success for Jacques. He participated in several public events, including the rededication of the Statue of Liberty where he had the chance to shine for American president Ronald Reagan. He also won several other awards, including the Japanese Pastry Chef Association’s gold medal and the French Championship of Desserts. By the end of the decade, in 1989, Jacques had been invited to star at the most famous restaurant in New York, Le Cirque. Jacques Torres worked as a pastry chef in that establishment for the next twelve years, teaching many up-and-coming stars in the field.
Besides his success at Le Cirque, Torres became quite a public face in pastry, chocolate and desserts. Jacques appeared on numerous shows on the Television Food Network, including several series focusing on both chocolate and pastry. Jacques Torres made frequent television appearances on the Today Show.
By the time the new millennium dawned, Jacques had been working with chocolate and pastry in a professional setting for over twenty years. In 2000, Torres decided to focus all his efforts on his own independent venture with chocolate at its heart- Jacques Torres Chocolate and MrChocolate.com.
Jacques Torres sells to both the wholesale and retail markets. The chocolates offered by the company are all-natural and have no preservatives or artificial flavours. Unlike many competitors, Jacques has decades of experience and his custom factory floor has top-of-the-line and innovative features. Jacques first factory is located in Brooklyn. A second location was unveiled in 2004; the Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven can be found in Manhattan. At this location, the public can view the entire chocolate-making process from start to finish- from bean to bar.
Jacques maintains a fairly small operation, employing about fifty people. In 2008, Jacques Torres Chocolate reported $10 million in revenue, proving that experience truly matters in high-end chocolate. Some of that success is likely linked to the fact that Torres loves the public eye and uses his fame to spur exposure and awareness for his brand.
Chef Jacques Torres’s Holiday Treats
Gateau Chocolate Fondant from Chef Jacques Torres
Origins of Chocolate with Jacques Torres
Jacques Torres – Making Chocolate Lollipops
Jacques Torres Chocolate NYC
How to Conduct a Chocolate Tasting at Home, featuring Jacques Torres
Chocolate at Jacques Torres
Fun Food with Monica DiNatale – Jacques Torres Interview at The New York Chocolate Show