Monday, 9 September 2013

Respected, revered and admired - Chantal Coady

Chocolate. It needs no introduction. No words can really do it justice. It is all things to all people, from restoring and comforting to exotic and tantalising. It is seriously seductive and at times, yes I will say it, downright sexual, and from the sticky saccharine chocolate bars, to complex and challenging artisan creations there seems to a chocolate for everyone and every occasion. As you can guess it is one of my very favourite ingredients and I am so thankful to be able to have access to such an incredible, yet relatively affordable product. There are some wonderful chocolate shops in the UK, with an astonishing selection of beautiful chocolate treats and one of the very best is Rococo Chocolates.

Rococo was founded in 1983 by Chantal Coady and has been creating and supplying some of the finest chocolate ever since. They are one of the world’s best chocolate shops and not only invested in the creation of amazing artisan products, but also committed to doing so ethically, responsibly and sustainably. I hold the company in very high regard and was recently lucky enough to ask Chantal a few quick questions. So if you are a fan of chocolate (and who isn’t?) read on...

Rococo celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. How has your business developed over that time?

The chocolate scene has totally transformed in the UK over that time, and I would like to think that Rococo has played a part in bringing this country out of the “dark ages”. The business itself has gone from just selling Chocolates to making our own limited edition ganaches and becoming part owners of a small cocoa farm and organic cooperative on the island of Grenada. While we are still a 100% family owned business we now have 4 shops and employ around 50 people.

Why chocolate?

I have always loved chocolate, ever since I was a small child. Being one of five children, there was never quite enough of it as far as I was concerned! When I was a student I worked at Harrods, which had such an amazing range of chocolate, although I had a sense that something was missing from the experience of buying it in store. It was a gut feeling, I was sure that other people also wanted to have an "emotional transaction" when buying such a special treat...

What inspires you?

Roald Dahl & Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a huge part of my early dream. I love a good story! More recently its been Mott Green and the team of farmers and chocolate makers in Grenada.

Also, travel, culture, art & design, particularly Morocco for all the Moorish designs

You have a very strong and distinctive visual style. How did it originate?

My background is in design. I studied textiles & printmaking at Camberwell School of Art before opening Rococo.

Which of your many achievements have your been most proud of?

That's a tough one! Probably my children and the Rococo Family!

How do you come up with different flavour combinations?

There is no particular formula. Sometimes it's when I am travelling, or taking a classic recipe and giving it a Chocolate make over. Often its just a “light bulb” moment.

Which combinations have you tried that really didn't work?

It is very personal what works and what doesn't. A veteran French colleague commented on one of recipes that he found it too acidic. I love things to have zest and intense flavours, sometimes that might be more acidity rather than sweetness. While I respect the French opinion, I tend to go more for those sorts of flavours. I don't much like strawberry or cherry in a ganache. It’s hard to make them "sing".

What is currently your favourite chocolate bar to eat?

While we still have some definitely the Grococo bar. For me this bar is a dream come true, our own very first single estate bar, made from our own cocoa beans by the late Mott Green. It has notes of honey, fig, tobacco, tropical fruit, plum, hazelnut, and roast coffee. We decided on 66% as this is a great balance for the Trinitario beans, and it was the year Mott was born (he was a Fire Horse in the Chinese calendar). It is a great example of why 70% is not always the best indicator of quality. Of course it will never be made again by Mott, but we hope that we will do something similar.

What one chocolate recipe should everyone learn to make?

A really good mousse...

What advice would you give about cooking with chocolate?

Use the best quality you can afford. Always melt slowly and be careful when using microwaves or ill-fitting Bain-Marie's.

Don't fall for buying high percentage cocoa just for the numbers, as it may not taste great. Better to go for something lower made with better beans.

What's next for you and the business?

We tend to do things quite slowly, it’s important to get details right. Having said that we seem to have been doing a shop fit each year for the last 3 years. Right now we have for the very first time appointed an "outsider" Richard Larkin as MD, and that means that (husband) James will step back and become Chairman. One of our first priorities is getting really good systems in place so we can look at growing in new territories. Without good information it’s hard to make informed decisions.

For more information about Rococo Chocolates, or to buy online please visit

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