Jacqueline Jacek spent weeks priming, painting and polishing the space for her third location of JACEK Chocolate Couture in Canmore.
The Canmore store is up and running, the Sherwood Park production facility is in overdrive, and the downtown Edmonton store on 104 Street is hopping. It is a stressful time, Jacek says, yet despite being pulled in four different directions, Jacek looks like she’s fresh from a New York fashion launch.
Jacek first began making fancy chocolate truffles out of a test kitchen in the basement of her house, and in 2009, this self-titled “cocoanista” produced 3,000 pieces while still holding down a corporate job as a marketing and sales consultant.
This year, Jacek will produce up to 200,000 exquisitely crafted edible gems, each truffle collection released every four months like a designer’s fashion line.
The Throwback Collection (Fall/Winter 2016) with shades of teal, orange and avocado green pay homage to the days of mid-century modern design. In spring, the Galaxy Collection will be revealed, which feature out-of-this-world truffles glazed like the Milky Way and shaped like mini, marvellous moonscapes.
Jacek says her connection to the fashion world is deliberate. Seasonal collections force Jacek and her team to marry design and confection, resulting in dainty delicacies that shatter the molds of chocolate making.
“Using a fashion business model gives us the chance to keep reinventing ourselves,” says Jacek. “We have learned to push ourselves. It’s very exciting.”
Fashion may be the muse, but joy is the driving force at Jacek Couture Chocolates.
“I knew I wanted to do something that brought people joy,” she says. “In fact, it has become my northern star and philosophy for everything I do.”
Chef Curtis Jones came to the team with chocolate making experience, and now shares in the chocolatier-ing process of making the actual bonbons. The rest of the team was selected not because of skill or trade experience, but because of their “joy quotient.”
“We can teach them how to make chocolate, but we can’t teach them how to be joyful,” Jacek adds.
The fashion muse strikes again in the icon inspired bars: the pistachio and cherry ‘Audrey’ named after Audrey Hepburn, known for always adding a twist to a classic fashion ensemble; and the best seller, ‘Jackie’, inspired by Jackie Onassis’ elegant style.
Joy meets fashion in the recently revealed “bean-to-bar” Fabric Collection. The bars are made from beans sourced from Venezuela, Peru, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, and are then sorted, roasted, winnowed (husks removed) and refined at the production facility in Sherwood Park.
Making chocolate from raw cocoa beans puts Jacek in limited company; there are less than a dozen bean-to-bar chocolatiers in the country. A touch of fashion whimsy appears on the side of the Fabric Collection package in the image of a tape measure.
Ethical sourcing is paramount to Jacek’s philosophy of “joyful sourcing,” with a goal is to establish long-term relationships with cacao farmers. Jacek is a planner, contemplative and thoughtful of her role in the universe — in spring 2016, Jacek traveled to Costa Rica, and is planning for Colombia and Dominican Republic in 2017.
Accolades, awards, recognitions and write-ups in national and international publications did not take long in coming. In 2011, Dessert Professional Magazine named Jacek as one of the Top 10 Chocolatiers in North America. Recently she was recognized by Avenue (Edmonton) Magazine as one of the city’s Top 40 Under 40 recipients not only for her business acumen, but also for her charitable work with an orphanage in Bulembu, Swaziland.
Everybody needs a little joy in their life — all the better if it’s covered in chocolate!