Dr. Sue Williams has two passions: health and chocolate.
And now she has found a way to marry the two.
On Feb. 8, just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Dallas-based doctor and expert chocolatier officially opened her first store.
Dr. Sue’s Chocolate, at 520 S. Main St., features all-natural dark chocolate and other confections that she’s made for friends for years.
“We believe our all-natural chocolate offers a richly decadent yet more healthful and beneficial confection,” said Williams, 53.
However, she’s not advocating taking two chocolates and calling her in the morning.
“I’m not here to tell you chocolate is healthful, but read the label and make good choices,” Williams said.
A Texas native who grew up on a farm in the Abilene area, Williams learned to appreciate the culinary arts from her mother, Mary Ellen Johnson, “who was a wonderful cook.”
“I was everpresent and underfoot in the kitchen,” Williams said, adding that a fond memory was helping her mother make Christmas confections and deliver the sweet gifts to friends and neighbors.
But neither the culinary world nor medicine was her childhood dream.
An avid fan of 4-H, rodeos — she showed horses — and county fairs, the self-described “little cowgirl” grew up and graduated from Texas Tech University. She hoped to find a career as an agricultural agent, but said no doors would open in the male-dominated industry.
So an uncle suggested “I might make a good doctor,” Williams said.
She wound up graduating from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and now works at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.
Through the years, the physician continued spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Often, she would host dinner parties that featured chocolate confections.
One year, needing to find somewhere to vacation, Williams attended a chocolate academy in Chicago. She went in with no culinary training “and fell in love with dark chocolate.”
“As a practicing physician, I’m passionate about what my family and patients eat,” Williams said. “And because of this dedication to health, I became interested in growing research about the potential health benefits of dark chocolate. Moved by the idea that we can enjoy the exquisite flavor of chocolate in a healthful way, I began studying the art of science and chocolate.”
The chocolatier started experimenting in her home for friends. As demand increased, she rented space from a friend who was a caterer.
“It just kind of grew,” Williams said. “It turned into a real company.”
She created Dr. Sue’s Chocolate and went on to sell her line at small boutiques and farmers markets. Today, she can be found in Central Market, Eatzi’s and Whole Foods, among other places. She also has made a showing at the annual ChocolateFest in Grapevine.
“Our artisanal chocolate starts with dark, European-style chocolate,” said Williams, whose patients call her Dr. Sue. “Dark chocolate is rich in cacao flavanols, which recent studies suggest may improve wellness.”
Williams said she paired dark chocolates with “super-foods,” like blueberries and ginger, “to create delicious chocolates you can feel good about eating.”
“We patronize local farmers, particularly organic producers of figs, oranges, lemons, berries, herbs, eggs, butter, honey and pecans, to feature in our products,” the physician said. “To make the best chocolate, we start with the best ingredients. We use all-natural fruits and local honey to enrich our confections.”
When it came time to open a storefront, Williams said Grapevine was a clear choice.
“I like the area, probably because of my country background,” she said. “I love being down the street from a feedstore and a blacksmith. I feel very connected to this community. It feels like home.”
Her 1,200-square-foot store, which unofficially opened on Dec. 20, showcases chocolates of all shapes and sizes, including ones that look like grapes and cowboy hats and boots. Wines are also available.
“There’s a lot worse things than wine and chocolate,” Williams said.
The physician has no plans to hang up her stethoscope for her fledgling business.
“I like being a doctor,” she said. “But I also like my little hobby that grew.”