Jacques Torres – known as Mr. Chocolate – is an expert when it comes to everything sweet. His chain of chocolate factories and retail boutiques are a favorite among New Yorkers. Dedicated to the highest quality natural ingredients Torres consistently makes the most irresistible and innovative chocolate treats. We couldn’t help but sit down with the king of cocoa himself for an interview and Shop The Aesthetic inspired by the vision of his brand.
What would be your ideal food day?
I’m French but I like an American breakfast. An old diner, but a good diner. Good potatoes – you know when they’re crispy but also melt – with eggs: A real American breakfast. In France, breakfast is smaller. Maybe you have a croissant and pain au chocolate. But to me, American breakfast is really good.
Then lunch would be in Ibiza on the water. There’s a restaurant on the beach; the owner is a fisherman. He fishes in the morning, then opens at lunch. He first serves a big tray of fish cooked in a broth with saffron and spices. When we’re done, we send it back to the kitchen where he takes the leftovers off the bone, puts them in a stock and cooks them with rice. You’re eating on this beautiful beach surrounded by the Mediterranean – it’s really amazing.
Dinner has to be from a good friend. When I go to Jacque Pepin’s house, it’s an experience. There’s wine; I spend time with him in the kitchen. When you go to his house he writes out the menu for the night, draws things and everyone cooks together. The kitchen is part of the living room and everyone sits there and it’s fun because he’s so creative – he’s unbelievable. The food has to be good, but also the company and the experience.
In France, we have aperitifs at six, drink Bastia on ice with a little water, have maybe olives and anchovies…it’s very traditional in France after work or on a weekend to have something nice between lunch and dinner. So that would be part of the day as well.
You started as a chef, and now you’re a brand. What was the ‘aha moment’ where you knew that was where you were headed?
I always loved working with chocolates. I waited for my time to start my own business. It was late; I was forty and decided to take the jump. I’m very happy with it.
How would you define the “Jacques Torres” lifestyle?
Simple. Real. Fun. In life, you do things you don’t want to do, and now I really try to cut that down [the things I don’t want to do]. I live in the most beautiful city in the world – the most interesting city. I live most of the time on my boat next to the statue of liberty and have a beautiful view of Manhattan. I rarely go in the subway or bus; I go on a motorcycle or bike.
Is there anyone in particular you felt you had to cook for?
The pope. He came after lunch and addressed the chefs and gave us the rosary. It’s an experience and it was amazing. But cooking for the pope and cooking for my mom and my parents – both are experiences. One experience is exceptional; one is more emotional. They’re very different.
You were previously the host of the Food Network show Chocolate with Jacques Torres. Do you want another television show?
I don’t know…maybe. The problem is that TV has become reality shows for chefs. I’m more about learning and craftsmanship. I’m a craftsman. Now on Food TV, you don’t see them creating and making, you see them fighting and yelling – it’s too much drama. I’m a teacher and craftsmen. I’m not about the drama.
You’ve appeared on Top Chef: Just Desserts and Chopped All Stars. What do you think of the competition element on those?
As a chef and as a brand I have to be on those shows. Would I host them? I don’t think so. I prefer to remove the drama of it. If I am on TV I want to be on more as a teacher and craftsmen.
What past television shows inspire you?
All of them. If you look at Jacques Pepin or Julia Child, they’re both teachers – and they started Chef TV. If not for them, there wouldn’t be chefs on TV today. I think we owe that to them; they are the icons on that.
What’s your advice to aspiring chefs?
Always stick to quality. Whatever you are and whatever your style, never settle for less than good quality. I think that’s why I am where I am today. I worked at quality places, used quality ingredients, and had a good education. It’s hard out there, but it can be very rewarding.
Define your aesthetic.
I have a style. My wife owns a chocolate line and her style is more feminine; mine is more masculine. The look is very important, but if it’s not good chocolate in the nice packaging, why are you making the nice packaging? The product is king.
What are your inspirations?
Travel especially. It’s extremely important for chefs to travel and network. Also seasonal -being aware of your surroundings. For instance, fall is here, the maple leaves are turning and you think “I need to do something with maple syrup.” Inspiration doesn’t come when you want it to. It comes at anytime and you have to be open to that.
Do you act as your brand’s creative director?
Today, yes. This morning I was manufacturing. But I’m not the one that makes it all the time. Now I oversee everything and am very involved with the process.
Do you like that evolution?
Yes I like what I do. In life, there are different steps and different pages. This is what I do today.
*To shop the Jacques Torres aesthetic, Click Here
*To view Jacques’ recipe for Chocolate Caramel Corn, Click Here
*Photo by Barry Johnson