You might not normally associate the words "nursing home" with "world-class chocolate." But at Hvalsø Ældrecenter, a nursing home in Lejre, Denmark, that's precisely what the residents get to enjoy every day—all thanks to the chocolatier who has set up shop in their kitchen.
47-year-old Mikkel Friis-Holm is a bona fide star in the chocolate world. He caters to Michelin-starred chefs and fine restaurants all over the globe, and he won seven awards at last year's International Chocolate Awards (including one for the world's best organic dark chocolate). It's surprising, then, that his company's headquarters have been located in the back of a nursing home since 2014.
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Practically speaking, the humble location does make some sense. The kitchen is no longer being used by the nursing home, since catering for many different nursing homes in the area was recently centralized (the food now comes from Copenhagen).
An odd location, perhaps, but Friis-Holm chalks it up to being a businessman; he was offered a great deal from the town's housing board. As he told Vice, "It was affordable, and the premises were ready and covered with tiles. The nursing home's management is very modern. Ten years ago they might have said, 'Although the building is empty, you can't use it.' Instead, they thought, 'Here we have an opportunity to help a local guy start his business, so why not [let him] use the facility?'"
The nursing home, which receives rent from Friis-Holm, isn't the only entity benefiting from the unexpected arrangement. The entire town of Lejre gets to enjoy it, too. "Instead of [just closing it], now it's being used for something that's created jobs in the local area," Friis-Holm said.
And, of course, the home's residents get their share of benefits from the factory's location, too. "To me, it's like a barter system—sorry for bothering you again and again," Friis-Holm commented. "I'm often asked whether [the residents] get lots of chocolate, and I can answer in good conscience that yes, we do give them chocolate."
The kitchen-turned-chocolate-factory now has six employees and makes about 100,000 chocolate bars per year, though that number is expected to increase. Sadly, with that uptick in business, it'll probably have to leave the premises soon and find a new home. "We've become too big," explained Friis-Holm.
In the meantime, however, the residents are enjoying every bite of the chocolate Friis-Holm and his team share with them.
Well, not every bite. One resident, a 71-year-old retired naval architect named Thomas Michelsen, thought the chocolate in a brownie was "a little much, but good." And as Ella Hansen, an 89-year-old resident, put it, "When it has so much flavour, it feels more intense, and then you don't eat very much."
But overall, she's pleased with the situation. "We're doing very well here."