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For the Love of Chocolate

Bebbette Smith Brings Authentic Belgium Chocolate to Aiken

After years of bringing chocolates back to the States from Belgium, Bebette Smith, owner of La Bonbonniere, decided to learn how to make her own, and Aiken is glad she did! Smith was born and raised in Belgium. She met Larry, her husband and then army brat, at a local pool in her hometown, and by 1972 they were married. Smith followed her military husband to wherever he was stationed, Fort Gordon being one. Once it was time to settle, they found themselves back in the Augusta area. Smith was a 2nd grade teacher for almost 20 years in Augusta (to which she credits for really fine-tuning her English) and also enjoyed teaching fitness classes and directing activities at Savannah Lakes and at Cumberland Village here in Aiken. But Smith was ready for a career change. 

On her yearly visits back to Belgium, she would always buy local chocolates to bring back for friends. On one trip in particular, she visited a chocolatier, Alain Bressant, and his wife, Cathy, at their shop in Beaumont, Belgium near her hometown. Striking up a conversation, Smith learned all about the chocolate business and even got a tour of the shop, which got her wheels turning. As she sat on the plane flying back, all Smith could think about was learning how to make chocolate and how much sense it would make for her, a Belgian, to make authentic Belgian chocolates, or pralines as they say. Smith felt it was the perfect time in her life to make the move and start this small business venture. She got back in touch with the Bressants for some advice to get started. Instead of completing the normal, required 4 years of school that it takes in Belgium, Smith was able to attend a chocolate-making workshop, taught by renowned chocolatier Jean Pierre Wybauw, to learn the basics. And, of course, her newly found chocolatier friend was just a phone call away to help troubleshoot as needed. Smith opened her first little space of 600 square feet, bought a couple of appliances and worked tirelessly on the weekends to perfect her chocolates. 

The grand opening of La Bonbonniere in Augusta was held in June of 2005 and since then, Smith has continued to learn and perfect her craft. She has remained friends with the Bressants and is able to have them as a lifeline through the whole process. Smith has attended chocolate shows in Paris with chocolate makers from all over the world and has plans to visit Theobroma cacao tree farms in Ecuador in early 2024 to see the very beginnings of her product. 

La Bonbonniere of Aiken opened downtown on Chesterfield Street just this past spring in March of 2023 and has been steadily gaining a following! Smith offers white, milk and dark chocolates filled with a variety of flavors including lemon, Irish cream, peanut butter, rum raisin, caramel, amaretto almond and mint just to name a few. Her chocolate boxes are incredible and made in so many different shapes like horseshoes, stars, pillow tops, Tiffany boxes and sunflowers. These are filled with assorted chocolates–a sweet tooth’s dream! Her holiday chocolates are just as beautiful as they are delicious and make the perfect gift. 

Talking with Smith, it’s clear that she has an amazing work ethic and her customer service is top-notch. She cares about taking care of her employees and her customers along with making an authentic and delectable product. 

Visit La Bonbonniere at 227 Chesterfield St. South in downtown Aiken and hopefully meet Babette and get a chance to talk with her. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 am to 5 pm. The website is labonbonniereaugusta.com and has information on chocolates and pricing.

All Smith could think about was learning how to make chocolate and how much sense it would make for her, a Belgian, to make authentic Belgian chocolates.

Smith was able to attend a chocolate-making workshop, taught by renowned chocolatier Jean Pierre Wybauw, to learn the basics.

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