How chocolate master Jacques Torres nails it as a chef, father of young kids and retirement saver at 65


Sitting in the office of his Brooklyn chocolate factory, Jacques Torres is describing what is probably not a typical weekend for a fellow member of the cohort of baby boomers turning 65 this year.

No thoughts of retirement or golf. No studying how to apply for Medicare or contemplating when to take Social Security. Instead, Torres’s 4-year-old daughter painted his nails and did his makeup — which he hurried to take off before appearing on camera — and then his 7-year-old son approached him with a boxed cake mix. 

“You know, one of those cake mixes that come in a box,” Torres repeats incredulously in his French-accented English, gesturing as he spoke toward the master pastry chef certificates on the wall above his head. “And it’s a rainbow cake. So I was challenged to make a rainbow cake from a box, which I don’t know how to do. You have to mix like six different colors and then bake them. Oh my God, that was a project! But it makes my son happy, and there’s nothing better than that.”

Torres, whose birthday is in June, is part of the Peak 65 demographic, which for some people can mean it’s time to step away from work, while for others it means transitioning to part-time work or passion projects. And for some, like Torres, it means they are just hitting their stride professionally and in their personal lives, with no plans to slow down. 

Torres is known as Mr. Chocolate: He has a chocolate factory and chocolate shops, cookbooks and a Netflix show called “Nailed It.” He makes frequent appearances on TV talk shows and hosts his own social-media channels. He spoke with MarketWatch about how his views of work and retirement have changed over the years. 

Chocolatier Jacques Torres talks with MarketWatch’s Beth Pinsker about balancing life as a chef, family man, and owner of a chocolate empire.

MarketWatch: Where did you get your values regarding money?

Torres: My parents were very serious about money, and what I mean by that is there was no extra money at home. My dad was a carpenter, and my mom was raising three boys. When I was 13 or 14, I wanted what I think you call a speargun in English, to dive and fish with it. My dad says, look for a little job during the summer and then you can buy it yourself. So I worked in a little restaurant as a busboy. That taught me that if you work, you have money and you can buy yourself something. 

MarketWatch: When you were first working, what did you think retirement would look like? 

Torres: When you’re young, retirement is so far away that I was not even thinking about that. I started to think about retirement maybe less than 20 years ago — after age 40. Before that, you feel invincible, and it doesn’t exist. Now I put money away for my retirement, but before 40, I didn’t do it that way.

MarketWatch: What does retirement look like now? Is there a date that you think about, or will there merely be a shift in what you do? 

Torres: I talked to my financial adviser not that long ago, and he said, ‘OK, the good news is you are going to work until you drop.’ That’s pretty much what’s going to happen. Because I have two young children and they go to a private school, and we live in the city and have expenses. So I don’t know what my retirement is going to be. But his advice was not before 70, anyway.

MarketWatch: You seem active and fit, what with your TV appearances, social-media videos and riding around your factory on a street scooter. How do you feel about your energy level?

Torres: In life, you never know. Honestly, I never thought about myself at 64, riding a scooter around the factory. I have to tell you why I have a scooter first. This factory is big. It’s 40,000 square feet, and depending where they need me, it’s back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. About eight years ago, I had a knee replacement because I ran the New York marathon four times. I did judo, rugby, running and bicycling. So my knee was gone. The surgeon is a friend of mine, and he said, I’m going to give you a new knee, but you have to preserve it. So now I have a scooter, and I love it. It’s always in my car, and when I’m in New York City to see a customer, parking can cost, I don’t know, like $60 for an hour, so I usually park far away in a cheaper garage. Then I jump on my scooter to my meeting, and people laugh when they see me on that thing. But it’s just very practical. 

“I want to teach my kids the value of money, of course, but more so the value of work,” says Jacques Torres.


Getty Images for Netflix

MarketWatch: How do you feel about being a social-media star? 

Torres: When I grew up, there was only a landline, not to mention TikTok and Instagram and all those things. I was very shy when I was younger, so just the idea of being in front of a camera, oh my God! I would freak out. Not even 10 years ago did I think I’d fish for followers or give cooking advice online. I was on TV a long time ago, on PBS and the Food Network, but I stopped that when I opened my business. Then I went back on TV with “Nailed It.” 

MarketWatch: Are you surprised how much hustle it takes to sell chocolate?

Torres: It just gets harder and harder. When I opened my first store in Dumbo almost 24 years ago, there was a line out the door. I had a name for pastry, not for chocolates, but the store just took off. I would stand outside in the cold and hand out samples of hot chocolate. And the first 10 years of my business it was — I don’t want to say it was easy, but it was way easier than today, because you opened a store and business was there.

Then eventually I moved to this factory here in the Brooklyn Army Terminal. I opened five stores in pretty much the same year. So I think I cannibalized some of my business. Then COVID hit, and we almost lost everything. It was really scary. And then I got sick — I got COVID, and there was no vaccine at the time, and I was thinking, maybe this is the end of the road. I came out of it, but you never know what’s going to happen. Don’t expect anything, because it’s crazy.

MarketWatch: What legacy do you hope to leave behind to your family or to the cooking world at large? 

Torres: I want to teach my kids the value of money, of course, but more so the value of work, and that it’s important to do something that you love. This morning, my son was up before 7 a.m. because he has a new piano keyboard, and he wants to play. To me it’s a good sign, you know. I want my kids to remember me as a fun dad. I’m older, so I think I have a chip on my shoulder about that. I go to school, and I see the dads and they are half my age. So I want my kids to say, he plays soccer with us, and he’s fun, he lets us put makeup on him. 

I don’t think I will leave a cooking legacy. There is so much talent out there today, not only in the U.S., but in the world, and now we’re more exposed to it. So my goal is not that, but my goal is having a happy family.

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