We caught up with the renowned pastry chef on his go-to appliances, his favorite holiday memories and more.

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jaques torres

From working in Michelin-starred restaurants to his retail chocolate empire in New York City, pastry chef Jacques Torres (aka Mr. Chocolate) has been at the forefront of the sweet scene for decades. EatingWell caught up with him about his holiday traditions and the most hilarious moments as a judge on the Netflix baking show Nailed It!

What food says home to you?

"Almonds. I grew up in a little house in the South of France with a big almond tree behind it. In the fall, we would harvest the almonds and roast them on the stove for hours, and then after dinner, we'd crack them and eat them. The whole house smelled like almonds!"

Is there a kitchen tool you can't live without?

"The most precious tools I have as a pastry chef are my hands. But some items I always have in my kitchen are an infrared thermometer, immersion blender and a heat gun or hair dryer. I have been tempering chocolate with these three tools for decades—I even travel with them."

What food is always in your fridge?

"I own a chocolate company, so—I'm sorry, but I always have chocolate around! I have a 2-year-old daughter, Jacqueline, and a 5-year-old son, Pierre. The only way to get Pierre to drink milk is to mix in a little bit of dark chocolate—we call it chocolate juice!"

We love chocolate, too, which is why the health benefits of chocolate are especially good news.

What is your favorite childhood memory of the holidays?

"I come from a very humble family. Christmas was the only time my mom would buy those 2-foot-wide boxes of chocolate from the supermarket. I used to take the box under the table, unwrap the chocolates and bite into them. And when I found one made with a hazelnut or almond filling, it was like paradise! Even today, when I go to the supermarket and see those boxes, I still remember being a little boy, hiding behind the plastic tablecloth with those chocolates. It's a fun memory."

Nailed It! is so funny. Can you share any particularly memorable moments?

"I love working with host and comedian Nicole [Byer]. Once, a baker used salt instead of sugar. I'm always careful of what I eat, but Nicole had a big bite of it—I'll never forget the face she made! Another time, a baker used so much food coloring. I ate around it, but poor Nicole had a blue tongue the rest of the day while we were shooting."

At EatingWell, we aim to balance health and deliciousness in our food. How do you do that in your own life?

"When we had Pierre, I decided to get healthier; I lost about 60 pounds. Food, alcohol, chocolate, sugar—everything is about moderation. I am someone who can eat the whole Camembert, because I love cheese. But if I cut it into eight pieces, I will have one, and that's it. And the next day I will have another piece. It was so hard to lose the weight, but I did, so now I'm very careful about keeping it off."

This article first appeared in EatingWell Magazine, December 2021.