This holiday, if you’re looking for a delightfully distinctive gift, consider craft chocolate from Ducrey Chocolate Maker in Missoula. Owners, Francesco and Claudia Ducrey, have churned their childhood chocolate memories into a superior product using the original chocolate-making process known as Bean to Bar.
Both Claudia and Francesco grew up alongside their own rich chocolate traditions. He was born in Turin, Italy's chocolate capital, and Claudia’s palette matured with the high-quality ingredients from Venezuela and the taste of her first chocolate bar in Patagonia. The Ducreys honor their heritage by sourcing organic cacao beans from Central and South America.
“As of today, the highest quality cacao is still coming from those areas," said Claudia. However, it’s more than high-quality ingredients that sets their chocolate apart. Claudia is the official “chocolate taster” and appropriately calls their facility The Lab. “It’s more of a Research and Development kitchen,” she said. “Each batch is different and uses single-origin beans.” Developing micro-batches ensures they have ultimate control over the quality of their product, without fusing in chemicals and additives commonly found in mass-produced chocolate.
Francesco’s role as chocolate maker allows him to govern the entire process, from the cacao beans he receives in jute bags to the deluxe bars tucked within ornate wrapping. The in-house production includes every step: sorting, roasting, cracking, winnowing, refining, conching, and tempering, which signals that vision we all share of a warm vat filled with a satin swirl of deliciousness. Known as Bean to Bar, this production trend started in the U.S. in the 1990’s. Francesco teases out the best qualities of the beans and other ingredients to make a distinctive chocolate, as opposed to chocolatiers who use ready-made chocolate to make specialty products, like pralines and other confections.
After vacationing in Missoula for many years, Claudia and Francesco moved here in 2018. Two years later, they opened a cafe on East Front Street for the public to experience a variety of flavors that complement their custom chocolates. “We wanted to offer Missoula a taste of Europe by mixing in some typical dishes," said Claudia. Their menu includes an Italian waffle with Parma, arugula, and a drizzle of olive oil, an avocado tartine with bacon, and the JB (aka "Jambon-Beurre"), the go-to sandwich in France. "We wanted to put together some tasty European classics and bring them here to our new home,” said Claudia.
Missoula is fortunate to have craft chocolate makers who take the extra time, love, and effort to translate their childhood confection memories into chocolate bars to share with others (or keep for ourselves!). This holiday, their shop will feature gift packages called Legacy Boxes. “We like to reuse things, so those tin boxes are meant to be kept after having eaten all the contents, to be filled with jewelry, fishing flies, cards, love notes, glasses, or whatever your imagination might think of,” said Claudia.
Ducrey Chocolate Maker
311 East Front Street
products can be found at local stores, their cafe, and by shopping online at www.ducreychocolatemaker.com.