February 12, 2013
Rococo Chocolate’s Chantal Coady is a chocolate force for the good.
Chantal Coady developed her passion for chocolate young, and got started on improving the quality of chocolate sold in London before there was much competition on the scene. She is still going strong having scooped two silver awards in the finals of The International Chocolate Awards 2012 for two of Rococo’s couture ganaches.
Meeting her in the glorious surroundings of her Motcomb street store is a wonderful chance to reminisce about a chocolate shop that I hold in such affection. Having been to Chelsea Art School and grown up on London’s Kings Road I have seen and loved this Aladdin’s cave of chocolate promise since it broke the mould when I was still a kid. I feel that Rococo has been there, enchanting with it’s beauty and deliciousness all my life, so my only surprise when Chantal told me they would be celebrating their 30 year anniversary next year is how young she is. She does not seem old enough to have gone such a distance, and we are lucky that she had foresight and determination to found what is now one of the long-established highlights on an ever-increasing fine chocolate scene.
In fact her love of chocolate was fostered, and transformed into an ambition, when she had a Saturday job selling chocolate at Harrods while still a girl. As she puts it herself:
“I could see that there was no love going into it at all. Chocolate is such an emotional subject, and if you can’t bring that into the experience then you are just missing out about 90% of it.”
This gut feeling was converted into a desire to do it differently, although at the time she was out on a limb.
Her feelings about the current increased interest in fine chocolate, and growing number of talented chocolatiers, is telling of her enthusiasm and generosity:
“It has been wonderful to see what they are doing and have the awareness spread around, and each one is gently nudging the other ones along. You can’t afford to be complacent, you have to raise your own game.”
Chantal is now even more excited by the challenges and possibilities that chocolate presents. The last ten years Rococo has worked closely with Mott Green of The Grenada Chocolate Company, supporting and learning from his revolutionary model of cocoa farming and chocolate production. They have gone so far as to partner in the ownership of one small farm. The result of this is their stunning Gru Grococo bar.
“It is one of my proudest moments, a single estate, single origin bar from our own cocoa farm. It doesn’t have any vanilla in it, because we just wanted the cocoa to shine through. In face taking out the vanilla was a light bulb moment for all of us, now the Grenada Chocolate Co have removed it from their regular bars too.”
Rococo has gone the distance because it has not stood still. They now have four stores, since the opening of their Chester shop and cafe in the main frontage of the Chester Grosvenor Hotel. Their Principal Chocolatier Barry Johnson is bringing great new flavours to their range. When I tried the Autumn collection I was particularly taken with the Apricot and Lavender. It has a bright fruitiness well balanced with the chocolate, and just a hint lavender. A difficult ingredient to get right, this was spot on, enhancing but not intruding and making the whole more interesting than it would have been without it.
Both Mott Green and Barry Johnson deserve articles in their own right, and I will write those too, so watch this space.
As to Chantal, I didn’t want to leave. She is funny and irreverent and full of a serious passion for chocolate, without taking herself too seriously. She is working hard to make her own chocolates superb, and supporting others in the industry with equal commitment. Her writing on chocolate is truly informative. I wouldn’t be without her guide to chocolatiers, it has informed my own chocolate tourism on many occasions. Her new book Rococo, Mastering the Art of Chocolate, is a great addition to her work and so visually sumptuous it is impossible to resist.
The last word goes to the chocolate itself, which I tucked into once I got home and was able to give it due attention. Gru Grococo, 66%, 2012 vintage, which had travelled from Grenada by boat, and been nurtured into life thanks to the determination and hard work of Chantal and Mott Green, has repaid them in full. It is quite delicious. It has a sweet, honeyed, deeply chocolatey smell. Surprisingly fruity, with a lot of cherry notes at the beginning, it moves on to more plummy notes. Mostly it has a deep and satisfying true chocolate flavour with a finish of even deeper cocoa and dark honey.
For it’s story, for Chantal’s vision and pursuit of excellence, but mostly because it is yummy, I urge you to try some.