Jacques Torres Shares Some Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Chocolate - Exclusive

It's not easy to find someone who doesn't love chocolate. The sweet treat comes in many forms, and has been gracing our shelves since the 1900s, shared Jacques Torres, aka Mr. Chocolate. "Chocolate is really loved by pretty much everyone — every gender, every culture, every age," he declared. The world-renowned pastry chef and presiding judge on Netflix's Nailed It! told Mashed in an exclusive interview all the reasons he adores working with (and eating) chocolate. When asked what he thinks of the ingredient, Torres answered, "versatility and ... love is what comes to my mind." 

As the expert on literally all things cocoa, we had to ask Torres if there were any misconceptions about chocolate that he wanted people to know. His first response? "Chocolate can cure a common cold. Chocolate can cure any type of disease..." The pastry chef laughed, clarifying, "that's not true, but I hope." So do the rest of us, that's for sure. But while chocolate won't do the work of modern medicine, there are still plenty of interesting facts about chocolate that Torres shared.

Chocolate played an important role in ancient history

While not in the form that you'd recognize today, chocolate has been around longer than you might think. Jacques Torres informed Mashed that "we find traces of chocolates in pottery going back 5,000 years." More specifically, he says "people have been using the cacao pod and the cacao beans," for millennia. One notable example is the ancient Mayan civilization that sprawled across present day Guatemala and Central America (via History). The Mayans were one of the first people to use chocolate — and it was so revered by this ancient society that "the Mayans used to use the cacao beans as a currency," according to Torres. It had an important cultural significance as well. Torres says "they used to drink a hot chocolate mixture that had no sugar at the time, before they got married or before they went to war." This was also true of the Aztec civilization, confirms BBC, who called the drink xocolatl. 

Once Europe began to colonize the Americas, chocolate soon made its way across the Atlantic and all over the world, reports History. Torres explained that "at the time of Christopher Columbus, people brought [cacao] back to Spain," and other parts of Europe. There it was sweetened with sugar and other ingredients, eventually paving the way for the chocolate we know and love.

The chocolate we eat today is actually a pretty modern invention

As surprising as it may be to learn just how far back in history chocolate can be traced, it's perhaps even more shocking to learn that the sweet treat we crave today bears almost no resemblance to its ancient predecessors. "That's one of the parts of the history that people don't know," Jacques Torres told Mashed. "The chocolate that we know under each form today is ... a little bit over 100 years [old] ... so it's not that old if you think about it."

For most of history, chocolate was only enjoyed as a beverage (via History). As Torres explains it, "chocolate became 'chocolate' when machinery started to be used," making it possible to separate the fat from cacao beans. The first modern day chocolate bar was said to have been created in 1847, shares History, and a few years later the Cadbury company took off, followed by Nestlé. In the U.S., Milton Hershey is credited with launching the mass production of chocolate in the early 1900s, ushering in a new era of accessible candy cravings.

Speaking of candy cravings, you can get your chocolate fix and see more of Jacques Torres in the newest season of Nailed It!, now streaming on Netflix.