The chocolate most Americans enjoy eating is not actual chocolate, but candy, according to Naperville's chocolate expert, Cathy Bouchard.
The former Mrs. Illinois is the owner and proprietor of Le Chocolat du Bouchard, the downtown Naperville confectionary and bakery that recently added a 1,600-square-foot former portrait studio onto its 2,000-square-foot shop at 129 S. Washington St.
"We needed more space," said Bouchard. "Also, since our original shop is a Mayan and Aztec motif, we want people to walk into the other room and have the Parisian and European experience, with all the colors, the chandeliers and the elegance."
The new space contains glass cases full of delicate chocolates from around the world, exotic truffles, gourmet cupcakes, fruit tarts, pastries and cakes.
Over the recent grand opening weekend, about 1,500 people passed through the shop, Bouchard said, an indication that word is spreading about the value of eating chocolate and the healing powers of cacao.
"The Mayans and the Aztecs always used cacao for its medicinal properties and the king of France used it in the 1600s, but somehow the knowledge of its benefits got lost between then and up until recently," Bouchard said.
She discovered the benefits after suffering for a long time from fibromyalgia.
"For nine years of my life, it was only getting worse and I started praying to God to end it all because of the pain," said Bouchard. "I couldn't even get out of bed."
But gradually, after eating dark chocolate made from cocoa beans, Bouchard recovered. And she began touting chocolate, first out of a Naperville gift shop that had a gourmet room with specialty chocolates, then at her downtown location from where she shipped chocolate across the country.
Bouchard also lectures about the health benefits of chocolate and conducts free seminars and chocolate tastings.
True chocolate, she said, uses real cocoa beans and no milk, which negates potential cardiovascular benefits and anti-oxidants.