Inside Jacques Torres' new huge chocolate factory

You might think that Valentine's Day would be the No. 1 holiday for giving chocolate, but it's actually Christmas. In fact, Americans spent $409 million on Christmas chocolates in 2012.

Chocolatier Jacques Torres - or Mr. Chocolate - is one of Santa's sweetest helpers. He's in a new factory where cocoa meets ho-ho-ho, CBS News' Vinita Nair reports.

"It's a happy place," Torres said. "I love to see customers just smile. They just smile and look around and feel happy."

When Torres opened his first chocolate shop in New York, he knew exactly what he wanted - chocolate that makes you stop and stare with a taste that just makes you happy.

Fourteen years and eight shops later, this modern-day Willy Wonka has opened up a chocolate factory of his own.

On a tour of his new facility in Brooklyn, it's clear that chocolate still makes him giddy.

"It is a little bit like a dream, and I love it," Torres said. "When I come in the morning, I turn the light on, I mean oh my God. Looking at that place, it's cool."

Inside his "cool" 40,000 square-foot space, Torres and his team make almost everything they sell. His Santa Claus and snowman molds are only available during the holidays.

The molds are all hand-filled. Why not do it by machine? "That's who we are," Torres said. "We make our product by hand. It's a lot of craftsmanship into what we do."

jt-santas.jpg
Hand-crafted Santas at Torres' factory
CBS News

Torres said he learned the art of craftsmanship from his father, who was a carpenter. His attention to detail guided Torres as he mastered flavor combinations. By 1989, he had the coveted job of pastry chef in New York's famed Le Cirque restaurant.

But in 2000, he and business partner Ken Gotto decided to leave restaurants and focus exclusively on chocolate.

Torres said some of his creations are inspired by childhood experiences in the south of France. He comes up with most of the ideas, and Ken handles the technical side.

While boxed chocolates are the biggest selling item this time of year, he said the assembly line that he calls "I Love Lucy" is almost always running.

As soon as the chocolates finish drying, his staff checks them for quality. One stack didn't cut it; the chocolate didn't coat them perfectly.

jt-snowman.jpg
Chocolate snowmen being crafted at Torres' factory
CBS News

Asked whether he hears from customers about mistakes, Torres said, "It can happen, yes, it can happen, and usually I call, myself, the customer. I apologize. It's important. One unhappy customer can tell a lot of people."

While half of his factory is devoted to making the chocolate, the other is about getting it where it needs to be. Torres said the colors are inspired by the cacao pod, the plant that chocolate comes from.

Many of the boxes are corporate orders that will ship nationwide.

While Torres said he'd love to expand, he's already living out his dream. Next week will be one of the busiest, but it's just the start of the chocolate demand.

"We build up our inventory for Christmas," he said. "And then the next stage is Valentine's and then Easter, and then I'm going fishing and going vacation."