Pretty chocolates, an inch or so in diameter, seem like a simple thing. A chocolate shell, some filling, maybe a little decoration. Done.
But, spend time with pastry chef Jocelyn Gragg of Jardi Chocolates, and you’ll discover there’s nothing simple about making world-class chocolate bonbons, filled bars and chocolate-covered nuts.
Most Monday mornings find Gragg tempering more than 20 pounds of chocolate. “Tempering” is process that ensures chocolate will be smooth and glossy, and have a bit of “snap” when you bite into it. It takes 24 hours for the chocolate to go from solid chunk to perfect “temper.” Gragg uses Valhrona chocolate, Republica del Cacao from Ecuador and Peruvian chocolate made for her by Atlanta-based Xocolatl.
While the chocolate is tempering, she’s busy cleaning the dozens of molds she will use for the week. Domes and circles, half-moons and pyramids, a different shape for each flavor of bonbon. The molds are washed in hot, soapy water; wiped dry with 91 percent isopropyl alcohol-soaked cotton balls; buffed with dry cotton balls; then painted with the design that will be on the outside of the bonbons. It can be finger painting, sponge painting, or painting with a brush or an airbrush, using colored white chocolate as paint.
The painted chocolate shells are then filled — maybe with caramel, or blood orange curd, or a ganache flavored with praline or herbs de Provence. Gragg makes all her fillings by hand in her workshop in a small industrial building in Chamblee.
Finally, the filled bonbons are covered with warm chocolate to form what will become the bottom, and the chocolates cool, so they are ready to be tucked into boxes and delivered to Gragg’s custom and subscription customers, or purchased off the shelf in her Chamblee workshop.
She works with nuts, too. Jardi just won a prestigious Good Food Foundation award for its raspberry macadamia nuts — whole roasted and candied macadamias covered with white chocolate and raspberry.
“When people understand what it takes to make our chocolate, they are willing to take a chance on something that has a price point that’s a little higher than what they’re used to,” Gragg said. “There was a learning curve for me to … make these chocolates, and there’s a learning curve for the public. It’s not just me melting chocolate chips and mixing them with cream. That’s one reason I love giving chocolate-making classes. People understand it’s a three-day process, and that I love what I do.”
Gragg is a classically trained pastry chef who decided to devote her life to chocolate. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and working almost five years in fine dining, she marked January, 2015, by quitting her job at Restaurant Eugene, getting married to Jacob Gragg, buying a house, acquiring a puppy (Margaux) and opening Jardi Chocolates.
Driving through Lyon on her engagement trip to France exposed her to super specialized shops that dot the landscape. “It was the first time we thought about maybe striking out on our own,” she said. “Then, during our honeymoon in Spain, we fell in love with the shops where the guy only makes one thing, and it’s the best that thing can be. Where families have been making their products forever, not trying to be innovative, but just trying to be really, really good. We decided to start our business and named it ‘Jardi’ for the Catalan word for garden.”
Gragg is quick to mention the folks who helped her start her business in Atlanta. “I love working with our local dinner delivery service, Garnish & Gather,” she said. “It’s hard to find people who will give you an honest opinion, and they are some of the first people outside my family to try my new products. And, Matt and Elaine of Xocolatl are the nicest people on the planet, and very interested in elevating the industry as a whole. And, executive chef Chris Grossman and pastry chef Christian Castillo at Atlas are wonderful to work with. We supply the chocolates for the mignardises program.” (Mignardises are the confections a restaurant sends out to diners at the end of their meal.)
Gragg also is grateful to those willing to buy her chocolates, even if just one time. “I’m constantly amazed when someone who has never really heard of me is willing to give us a try. And, giving our chocolates as a gift is the ultimate compliment. It means they liked our stuff so much they had to share it.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.