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Discover Chocolate - NU Chocolat brings a new world of chocolate to Burlington

12/12/2022 04:37PM ● By MERYL SIEGMAN

Step inside and sample a carefully crafted truffle at Nu Chocolat, a family owned and operated chocolate boutique and café located in Burlington’s Historic Waterfront District, and you’ll never think about chocolate the same way again. We recently caught up with one of its founders, Kevin Toohey, who explained where the name comes from by telling us, ‘The word ‘nu’ means ‘naked’ in French. That suggests that our chocolate is naked or unadorned, so you can experience its subtle flavors and textures.” He goes on to say, “We want to support the chocolate, not overwhelm it.”



 Kevin met his wife Laura in the 1980s at a midwestern university where they studied classical music together. After college, Laura found a job working at a small Swiss pastry shop in St. Louis. Kevin would visit her for lunch where he befriended the owner and was eventually invited to work as an apprentice. Kevin began a 3-year apprenticeship with Master Chef Rene Nussbaum while Laura stepped away to care for their growing family. Kevin acquired pastry and chocolate making skills in the classic Swiss tradition, and continued to add to his resume over the following years by working for various European chefs in St. Louis.



Fast forward to 2017, when Kevin, Laura and their 2 grown children, Rowan and Virginia, were sitting around the table at their home in Burlington deciding how to continue to pursue their passion for the Swiss culinary tradition. “We asked ourselves whether there were enough potential customers in Burlington who would truly love and appreciate really fine chocolate,” Kevin says. “We concluded the answer was ‘yes,’ so we got our financing together and drew up plans to open a chocolate shop and café.” Soon, NU Chocolat was born. 


The family found a magical store front on Lake Champlain with gorgeous views of the Adirondack Mountains beyond for their venture. “There was this myth about Vermont,” Kevin recalls, “that it’s where a family could go, buy a house, start a business together and live happily ever after.” In fact, the venture was a dream-come-true for the Toohey family. By then, Burlington had become a food-oriented tourism spot. Nu Chocolat had its official opening in time for Valentine’s Day, 2019.



Nu Chocolat’s first year was a success, but then, in 2020, COVID-19 hit. “We closed down the café and walk-in sales,” Kevin says, “But fortunately we had already set up a great website, and the whole team was experienced in packing and shipping. We were able to immediately shift focus to our online business. He goes on to say, “A dramatic shift took place here in the US—because people couldn’t visit their loved ones, they opted for sending gifts instead. When you send chocolate, you’re sending love.” Nu Chocolat now runs through a series of chocolate holidays, which is fondly referred to as ‘The Chocolate Gauntlet’, starting with Christmas, followed by Valentine’s Day, Easter and then Mother’s Day. 


Fortunately, tourists have returned to Vermont and today the shop is thriving. The café, which re-opened in November 2021, serves fabulous hot chocolate, espresso drinks, an amazing mocha latte, tea cakes, and cookies. 


Laura is co-owner, head chocolatier, the head of operations, while son Rowan manages packaging design and serves as financial and web manager. Daughter Virginia oversees the company’s wholesale and corporate accounts, which make up a substantial part of their business. Kevin, of course, is the chocolate expert behind the shop’s exquisite products, bringing with him the technical skills needed to run the equipment and manage the sourcing of the ingredients.



Chocolat purchases ethically and sustainably sourced chocolate from three suppliers: one in Colombia, the epicenter of fine cacao cultivation, and the others in France and Switzerland. Their source in Colombia works directly with the growers, in which there is a clear and transparent supply chain from the farms to the end user. In addition to providing a livelihood for local growers, the company has developed a system for growing cacao that is sustainable and healthy, which supports the local communities and actually invigorates, rather than depletes, the rainforest. Nu Chocolat also sets itself apart by knowing and understanding its clientele. As Kevin explains, “It’s a skill to know what customers want when they come in through the front door. We have our European training and our Swiss equipment, but we stay relevant by maintaining a smaller shop that stays in touch directly with customers and community. That’s what separates us from other chocolate manufacturers.” He goes on to say, “Beautifully designed and carefully wrapped delicious chocolate really touches the heart.”


“Swiss training focuses on beauty and goodness,” Kevin explains. “That’s what we base all of our decisions on, combining the best chocolate in the world, meticulous Swiss training, and advanced European technology.” 


Kevin speculates that, “most people have never tasted real chocolate, but rather what I call a sugar-based flavored confection. When customers come into our shop and sample ours, it’s a revelation.” He believes that they are tasting chocolate for the first time in their lives, concluding, “Chocolate is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, as well as a cardiovascular stimulant. When people eat our chocolate, it literally opens up their hearts.” If you’re not lucky enough to live in Burlington, you can order Nu Chocolat online at


 NU Chocolat 

180 Battery Street, Suite 110

 Burlington, VT 05401


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