Pastry chef Jocelyn Gragg worked her way through culinary school and several fine dining kitchens before deciding it was time to focus her energies on fine chocolates. In 2015, Gragg left traditional restaurant kitchens and founded her own business, JARDÍ chocolates.
“Leaving the screaming chef culture behind was very important to me,” Gragg explains over email, though she admittedly misses the camaraderie that comes along with the long days and late-night hours of restaurant life.
Gragg is the only full-time team member at JARDÍ, which means she does most everything herself, including making chocolates by hand, sourcing ingredients, promoting the business, and perhaps the most rewarding: mentoring interns from culinary schools. “Teaching someone else to really value what they do, and then seeing how their skill set grows and develops every week is the best part.”
JARDÍ has developed a reputation for beautiful chocolates made from natural ingredients, with no preservatives, additives, or dyes.
“This was a decision I made early on. I wanted real ingredients to shine through. It wasn’t easy in the beginning, sourcing naturally derived, fat-soluble colors. While other chocolatiers have 17 shades of red to use straight from the bottle, we still have to mix every shade in house from the primary colors + white. In the last year, more people have started to demand natural colors, so the supply side has grown. Things like black only appeared in the last few months, which is really exciting.”
Despite feeling somewhat uncomfortable talking about herself, Gragg managed to score features on NPR, Beat Bobby Flay, Atlanta Magazine, and numerous online publications—all without the help of a PR agency.
“Promoting my business and (occasionally) standing up for it against people who don’t really understand what we do and why we do it was a huge hurdle I had to jump, and I’m still working on it every day.”
When the pandemic hit, JARDÍ’s wholesale business ended almost overnight. Gragg had to rely on retail sales, without the help of farmers’ markets and pop-ups.
“We had to become more creative with our marketing strategy,” Gragg explains, “while simultaneously realizing that people had less disposable income than before.”
Gragg is now focusing on expanding her customer base beyond the southeast, and shipping chocolates from Atlanta to all corners of the US.