Nicole Coady provides your chocolate fix
COHASSET — Nicole Coady is the chocolatier of her new enterprise, Fixx Chocolates, which she launched in March. She's also the dishwasher, packager, accountant, marketer, sales rep, and delivery person. And when she's not running the numbers or doing the grunt work for the operation, she's turning out 1,000 chocolate bars a week.
Coady is used to a hectic schedule. For 14 years, she was the executive pastry chef for the dessert restaurants Finale, which included four locations and a wholesale business. She wore other hats there too, including food and beverage manager. "I'm still working long hours," she says, "but now it's for myself." She is seeing her hard work pay off. Her artisanal confections are now sold at two dozen local shops and several around the country. She's even had an inquiry about shipping her six-bar line to Singapore. At the moment, Coady makes 2-inch chocolate bars layered with nuts, nougat, caramel, and praline crisp (two in a slim box cost $8.50).
In the kitchen of the Wicked Good Cupcakes here, where she produces her bars, she was working one afternoon recently, vigorously stirring a bowl of her own chocolate blend. She mixes dark and bittersweet Valrhona and Guittard until they're smooth and glossy, and the rich chocolate permeates the air. "I haven't found the perfect chocolate that achieves what I want, so I created it," she says. On a rack nearby are dozens of bars. Coady carefully spoons a coating of chocolate over each.
The chocolatier began creating pastries two decades ago after training at Johnson & Wales in Charleston, S.C. She worked in restaurants and hotels in Kentucky, Alabama, and Georgia before moving to Boston. As a pastry chef, she used 50,000 pounds of Valrhona chocolate a year and to show its appreciation in 2011, the company invited her to join a trip it was sponsoring to cacao plantations in Madagascar, off the southeastern coast of Africa. Leading artisanal chocolatiers were in the group, including Fran Bigelow of Fran's Chocolates in Seattle, John Doyle of John & Kira's chocolates in Philadelphia, and Christopher Elbow of Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolate in Kansas City, Mo. The experience was life changing, she says.
Later at home, during a phone conversation with Elbow, they were discussing their favorite chocolate bars. Both agreed that the classic Clark Bar, milk chocolate with peanut butter crunch, is the best. "When I hung up the phone, I said to myself, I can make that. I can do even a better candy bar with high-quality ingredients," says Coady. "I got goose bumps and my heart started to race. It was the moment I knew I was going to be a chocolatier."
To start the business, Coady sought advice from her companions on the Madagascar trip and visited some of their operations. She developed recipes at home and her friend Tracey Noonan, who runs Wicked Good Cupcakes, offered space in her shop kitchen.
She still needed a name. Coady wanted her brand to conjure the "image of Audrey Hepburn on a Vespa with a bouquet of daisies: approachable and fun but elegant and not too homey," she says. Coady even asked strangers for ideas. She showed a server at a Belgium beer restaurant in New York a photo of Elbow's artisan chocolate and the young woman remarked, "That's a fetish." Coady began with part of the French expression idee fixe (obsession) and swapped the "e" in fixe for another "x."
The entrepreneur tested her creations on family members and named a bar after each one. Bud's is in honor of her grandfather. In it, dark chocolate encases thick layers of peanut butter nougat with roasted peanuts, finished with sea salt. Nikki's, after Coady's nickname, is peanut nougat, maple caramel, and apple-smoked bacon in dark chocolate; this is her rendition of a Clark Bar. The bars are rich and layered; flavors build and descend slowly in your mouth with each bite.
As Coady continues to stir the melted chocolate before it cools, she notices a visitor's eyes widen as she bites into a Lulu's. This is a reaction Coady often sees. The bar is named after her mother and it's deep, dark chocolate filled with caramel, coconut, and pretzels, the outside studded with pieces of pretzel.
Coady says she dreams about chocolate bars at night. And when she wakes up, she's full of ideas.
Fixx chocolate bars available at Savenor's Market, 160 Charles St., Boston, 617-723-6328 and 92 Kirkland St., Cambridge, 617-576-6328; Social Wines, 52 W. Broadway, South Boston, 617-268-2974; Boutique Fabulous, 1309 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-864-0656; Volante Farms, 292 Forest St., Needham, 781-444-2351; Shubie's, 16 Atlantic Ave., Marblehead, 781-631-0149; or go to www.fixxchocolates.com.