Chocolate Royalty: Fran Bigelow's Seattle

The founder of Fran's Chocolates shares her favorite spots around town

More than 30 years ago, Fran Bigelow’s passion for chocolate turned into what is now the famous Fran’s Chocolates. There are four boutiques in the area, including the new Georgetown headquarters, where visitors can watch confections being handmade as well as buy some treats. Fran spoke with Where about her favorite restaurants, what every visitor must do and where she wants to travel next. 

How did Fran’s Chocolates start?

My first trip to Paris in 1969 opened up my senses to the discovery of the pure flavors of chocolate. I was inspired to re-create my experience and opened my first shop, Fran’s Patisserie and Chocolate Specialties in 1982.

Did you ever think you’d get to do this for 33 years?

I knew that I was so passionate about chocolate that I would stay excited and interested for many years into the future. After 33 years I feel really fortunate that it has turned out this way.  

Where do you get inspiration for new products?

My son Dylan, my daughter Andrina, and I collaborate with other talented people at Fran’s to constantly experiment with new ingredient combinations including those from other countries and cuisines.

 Fran's Chocolates

Do you have a favorite chocolate?

That is a tough question for me to answer—I really do love everything we make.

What is your favorite way to enjoy Fran’s Chocolates?

I most enjoy our chocolates when I share them with friends and family. 

Everything is handmade at Fran’s—why still do it that way?

The thing that distinguishes Fran’s is our flavor profile and our absolute commitment to incomparable quality. This calls for using the best ingredients, taking extreme care in each step of the preparation, and refining our techniques over many years.  

Rumor has it the Obamas have Fran’s at the White House—true? How did it feel to find out you’re a favorite of the president?

One of the most fun things that has happened for the team at Fran’s was to discover that President Obama and The First Lady were both fans of our Salted Caramels and they were gifting Fran’s Chocolates to visitors of The Oval Office.  

What is your favorite Seattle restaurant?

I enjoy so many wonderful Seattle restaurants.  I have gone to Nell’s for years for special celebrations and I love Joule for weekend diners with my husband Peter. 

Favorite museum?

SAM

Washington Park Arboretum

Favorite park?

The Arboretum

What is a must-see or must-do for visitors to the city?

It is really hard to beat an early-morning walk through the Olympic Sculpture Park

What is your fondest Seattle memory?

Sunset dinner with Julia Child at Ray’s Boathouse in Shilshole. 

Any favorite stores in the city?

Since the beginning I have gone to Sur La Table for my cookware and kitchen supplies.

What is your favorite Seattle landmark?

Hat and Boots in Georgetown.

What makes Seattle special to you?

The people, the lively local food scene and the interesting neighborhoods. 

Do you have a favorite vacation spot?

A little beach cabin we have in Coupeville on Whidbey Island.

What is your No. 1 destination on your travel wish list?

Japan.

What is your favorite way to explore a new destination?

I love to explore the food and markets of the countries I visit. 

Any must-pack items when you travel?

Salted Caramels, I always love to have small gifts for the people we visit. 

Window or aisle seat?

Aisle

Pike Place Market

Fran’s Faves

Fran Bigelow offers her favorite things to do and see in Seattle.

Washington Park Arboretum

A great place for an early-morning walk, these 230 acres have more than 20,000 living plants. 

Pike Place Market

Explore the many twists and turns at Pike Place Market, and stop to eat lunch at one of the many restaurants or take-away spots. 

ACT—A Contemporary Theatre

Watch a play at this downtown theater, dedicated to producing contemporary work with local performing artists. Check the website for the current calendar. 

Joule

Savor a delicious dinner at this Korean-French-American local favorite in Fremont. The menu includes steak, seafood, rice and noodle dishes and more.

Stacy Booth
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