In just a few short months, Grace Stocker went from stay-at-home mom to international award-winning chocolatier.
Stocker, 45, burst onto the international chocolate scene this spring, winning six awards from the Academy of Chocolate in Britain. At an awards ceremony in July in London, she also received the International Rising Star Award.
Stocker, who lives in Cary with her husband and two children, didn’t initially set out to become a chocolate expert. She has a master’s degree in civil engineering and used to work for a transportation consulting firm in Raleigh. She became a stay-at-home mom when her son was born nine years ago.
Baking was always something Stocker enjoyed, and she would make pastries, artisan bread and cakes. Her father-in-law is from Switzerland, and she started visiting chocolate stores there during family trips.
Eventually, she decided to pursue her hobby more seriously. In 2016, Stocker trained in France at L’Ecole du Grand Chocolat of Valrhona and in Switzerland at the Condirama of Felchlin – each an intense, week-long program after three months of study at home.
Last fall, she started her own business, Chocolat Grace. She said the name has dual meaning, because she’s a chocolatier by the grace of God.
“My husband and family have been very gracious,” Stocker said.
She makes everything in her parents’ house, two doors away from her own home, using top-of-the-line Grand Cru chocolate from award-winning Swiss and French line chocolate makers. She also uses fresh ingredients from local farmers.
Stocker designs all the packaging, and she fills every order to be sold at local stores and online. Occasionally, she gets help from her children, 11-year-old Hannah and 9-year-old Daniel, who are more than happy to assist with “quality control.”
Locally, her products are available at three Raleigh locations: Tin Roof Teas in Cameron Village, NOFO @ the Pig in Five Points and Fallon’s Flowers on St. Mary’s Street near the Glenwood South neighborhood. They’re also sold at La Farm Bakery in Cary.
Tin Roof Teas provides the peppermint green tea for Stocker’s mint-flavored chocolate, and co-owner Ryan Hinson said there are plans to collaborate on other flavors.
Hinson said Chocolat Grace products sell “extremely well.”
“People know where to get it, and they love it,” he said.
Lindy Lenz, market manager for NOFO @ the Pig, called Stocker “a remarkable chocolate maker.”
“It has a crisp snap when you bite into that dark chocolate shell, and the fillings are bright and delicious,” Lenz said. “She’s a chocolate artist, she truly is.”
For the holidays, Stocker has crafted green Christmas trees in Maracaibo dark chocolate and also milk chocolate, along with hot chocolate ornaments. Break one in two and melt the chocolate with two cups of milk for a delightful hot chocolate complete with handmade dark chocolate marshmallows.
Other products include sea salt caramel bonbons, sampler packages of 27 Grand Cru chocolate squares and boxes of award-winning chocolates with flavors such as passion fruit and orange caramel. Holiday flavors include cranberry caramel and pumpkin pie caramel.
Prices range from $15 to $48. Stocker acknowledges that fine chocolate is a luxury item, and she wants every piece to be an experience.
“You want to savor it,” she said.
Stocker draws parallels between her careers.
“Chocolate is the most difficult ingredient a pastry chef works with,” she explains. “It’s very technical and detailed. It’s very challenging.”
But it’s a challenge she loves.
“It’s really fulfilling to do something with my hands,” she says. “It’s a small niche. I feel like I can master it.”
Susan Shinn Turner writes stories about western Wake County for The News & Observer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more
To learn more about Chocolat Grace and to order online, go to chocolatgrace.com.
From Nov. 29-Dec. 2, Grace Stocker will be at the Cary Academy Holiday Shoppe, the first place she sold her chocolates last year.