WRITER | CANDIE CONAT
PHOTOS | PATRICIA’S CHOCOLATE
Nearing retirement, Patty Christopher had been thinking about what she would like to do after a career as a psychologist; what would be her second act? She certainly didn’t want to sit around and do nothing, and she had long wanted to learn the art of a pastry chef. She learned that the French Pastry School in Chicago offers continuing education classes – the perfect solution since she was still working full-time. Over the course of two years, Christopher honed her art and focused on chocolate – high-quality chocolate. As she continued to study, she began buying supplies, equipment, and ingredients, creating her own special melt-in-your-mouth treats and sharing with family and friends for taste-testing.
That first humble chocolate class was in 2002, and by 2004 she had her own chocolate business. After much work to get approvals from the Planning Commission, Board of Appeals, and the Department of Agriculture, she now had a commercial kitchen in the lower level of her home. After 11 years of steady growth, Christopher and her husband Paul decided it was time to open their own French-inspired chocolate shop in downtown Grand Haven, Patricia’s Chocolate.
Christopher creates artisan chocolates using couverture chocolate, meaning it has extra cocoa butter and no hydrogenated oils or added fats. Filled with decadent ganache and caramel fillings, her creations are enhanced with infusions of coffee, spices, fruit, and tea to create extra special indulgences.
Possibly the most coveted items are Christopher’s Fortunato No. 4 chocolates. Fortunato No. 4 is Peruvian cacao that is the rarest chocolate in the world. Only 23 trees exist and are located on one plot of land in Peru at the headwaters of the Amazon. This cacao was thought to be extinct in 1916, only to be rediscovered growing in Peru in 2007. Fortunato No. 4 is literally the mother of all the cacaos. It has a special and unique flavor that comes from the soil and region in which it grows. Fortunato is 68% cacao and naturally void of any of the bitterness you find in some darker cacaos. Patricia’s Chocolate is one of only a few artisan chocolatiers entrusted to bring this purest of all cacaos to the world. What an honor!
“It’s like art that melts in your mouth.” Christopher has heard this comment many times over the years. Her amazing creations are hard to describe in writing. Many are hand-piped with intricate decoration; many more are decorated using a sort of “tattoo” method that consists of colored cocoa butter silk-screened onto acetate sheets and cut into small squares which are then expertly laid on top of the chocolate and left to set up. Once removed, the beautiful, colorful patterns remain to create intricate decorations. When the chocolates are placed into boxes, they form their own elegant piece of art. Almost too pretty to touch or eat.
The list of special items at Patricia’s Chocolate includes the Michigan Bar, mitten-shaped with a red heart piped in place for various Michigan locales; Citronettes, which are candied orange and lemon peels double-dipped in chocolate; and decadent Macarons, a French almond cookie that will melt your heart.
Christopher loves that Grand Haven is a diverse community with visitors from all over the world who have a deep appreciation for quality chocolate.
126 Washington Avenue
Grand Haven, MI 49417