Like many that found themselves stuck inside during quarantine, Michelin-starred pastry chef Jared Bacheller used his homebound free time to nurture a new hobby. But forget about half-baked knitting projects and sourdough starters: Bacheller— who previously worked as head pastry chef at Acadia, Sixteen and Entente—bought a grinder and a roaster and started making his own chocolate bars.
“I've always done confections in the fine dining world—bon bons, decor, show pieces—but was never making the product itself,” he explains. “I thought, well, I know how to do pastries, so I could probably figure this out. ”
For Bacheller, figuring it out entailed taking a few online classes before jumping into the trial-and-error process of making bars, sharing his creations with friends while still working in the takeout-only kitchen at Entente. The process got more serious when Entente closed in late 2020, and soon after Bacheller officially launched Bad Bach, which now offers small-batch chocolate bars, bonbons, truffles and other gleaming confections inside of Time Out Market Chicago.
At Bad Bach—a playful moniker that alludes to Bacheller's surname and “being bad in order to break the mold”—Bacheller employs his skills as a pastry chef to craft everything from candy cap mushroom truffles (yes, made with real mushrooms) to ganache-infused, toasted vanilla bean bonbons, plus a selection of dark chocolate bars.
Bad Bach’s chocolate is made from single-origin and ethically-sourced beans, which Bacheller knew would be imperative to his small-batch production after researching and watching documentaries about grueling labor practices in the chocolate industry. He orders his beans from Uncommon Cacao, a sourcing company that shows how much farmers are compensated for their products in a process called transparent trade (not to be confused with fair trade, which critics say can be a windfall for larger corporations at the expense of small farmers). That means customers can also see exactly where Bad Bach’s chocolate came from, down to the specific farm or region of each country where it was sourced.
“You can see how much the farmer was paid directly, how much the middle person was paid, and then how much I paid for the beans,” Bacheller says. “I feel like that's the only true way to know the farmers are being compensated correctly.”
The better the farmers are paid, the better the quality of the beans, Bacheller adds. He compares the production process to coffee roasting, full of nuance dependent on where the beans were grown. Unlike the general “chocolate” taste people associated with mass-produced bars, flavor profiles from small-batch production can vary from fruit-forward to nutty or spicy. Bad Bach’s chocolate bars, which are made with 70 percent dark chocolate, feature tasting notes to help guide folks through the experience of tasting the terroir of each bar's beans: A bar from Maya Mountain in Belize, for instance, features notes of pineapple, honey and raisin. Bacheller says the simple production process is meant to showcase the farmers’ work.
“They grew [the chocolate], harvested it, dried it, fermented it,” he says. “They curated these beans so that they're perfect. I'm just sort of like the last step of putting it over the edge, essentially.”
You can try Bad Bach’s small-batch chocolate daily at Time Out Market Chicago.