The Birth Of Rococo: Chantal Coady talks chocolate, home style and recipes

Sea Salt, Basil, Persian Lime and Jersey New Potatoes with Mint may sound like they belong in a savory dish. But, if you’ve ever tasted Rococo's distinctive range of chocolates you’ll know that these delectable flavours are what makes the company stand apart from the average choc company. And oh what a delicious chocolate brand it is. ACHICA Living caught up with Chantal to find out a little more about this mouth-watering brand and its Chocolate School (definitely no sick notes and bunking off there)...

In 1983, Chantal Coady, founder of Rococo, dared to follow her dream, and her tastebuds, and share with others her love for chocolate in a way that hadn’t been done before. Her mission was to change the way chocolate, in particular fine chocolate, was perceived from heavily packaged ‘rose and violet creams’ at one end of the spectrum, to a quick to unwrap choc bar on the go at the other end.

The result was her shop Rococo – ‘once bitten, truly smitten’. Taking inspiration from art school, the place was kitted out in an ‘18th-century meets punk style to fit into the rebellious vibe of the Kings Road’ and illustrate a sense of fun and break away from stuffy department stores selling chocolate. Cherubs and clouds were painted on the ceiling after Boticelli’s The Birth Of Venus painting and the walls were stippled with a pink to match Chantal’s hair. The walls and ceilings were adorned with off-the-wall fittings – a sugar chandelier here, gilded mirrors and candelabras there. It was a success.

Since then the company has gone from strength to strength – last year Rococo was awarded Winner of Chocolatier of the Year 2011 at the Academy of Chocolate Awards, and it has even been said that Joanne Harris, an early customer of Rococo, took Chantal as an inspiration for her novel Chocolat!

You can now take classes on how to make chocolate at Rococo's very own Chocolate School, and in 2007, Rococo teamed up with the Grenada Chocolate Company and bought a small cocoa farm - a great opportunity to produce its own fairly traded, ethical chocolate.

[Above: Chantal Coady (founder), James Booth (MD and Chantal’s husband), and Mott Green (Founder of the Grenada Chocolate Company) working hard at a board meeting in Grenada]

Chantal, what inspired you to set up the Rococo?

The belief that it was possible to sell chocolate with love and inspiration – no one was doing that in 1983!

How do you go about putting a flavour together?

It’s often a combination of ideas from different sources, with input from our chefs as well as other members of the team. In the case of the sea salt milk chocolate bar (now our best-selling bar) it was licking my lips while eating a Cornish 99 at the seaside, and the salt mingling with the ice cream...

What's your personal favourite chocolate?

Probably the Basil and Persian Lime Dark Chocolate Bar – like a great wine, it’s multi-layered, starting with aniseed and pepper, then you get the sour earthiness of the dried lime. Maybe it has something to do with being born in Teheran...

How much chocolate do you eat a week and do you ever get sick of the sight of it?!

A couple of pieces a day (someone has to sample!) and no, i’m never sick of the sight. Having chocolate there is a like a safety blanket – if it’s not there something’s not quite right!

[Above: MaRococo secret garden, which is a tiled hidden garden, where plants used in the Rococo Artisan bars are grown – geranium, lavender, mint - behind the Motcomb St shop. The Artisan bar wrappers, below, are based on the tiles in this garden, and they match to the most appropriate flavour.]

How would you describe your home style?

Impromptu. Things often seem to work out best with a minimum of planning. See picture above. [Photo by Clive Nichols]

Describe your perfect weekend...

Grenada: early morning yoga and swims at the Petite Anse Hotel beach, a walk on the cocoa farm we co-own with the Mott Green of the Grenada Chocolate Company at Belmont Estate (Rococo ethically sources beans for its organic range here).

Lunch at the Estate restaurant, afternoons Hobie Cat sailing/catching yellow fin tuna in the surf off Petite Anse, then watching the sun set over the Grenadines with a Tuna sashimi meal, washed down with the best bottle of Sauvignon Blanc we can afford.

Can you share a chocolate recipes with us?

Chocolat a l’ancienne (old-fashioned hot chocolate)

I first tasted this hot chocolate, said to have been drunk by Mozart at Mannheim in 1778, at a performance of ‘Mozart au Chocolat’, at London’s ICA. It’s thick, silky and very adult; wonderful to drink by a hot fire on a winter’s night.

Serves 4
180g good dark chocolate
500ml milk
50ml water
1 tbsp caster sugar (optional)
2 tbsp dark rum
50ml espresso coffee
Pinch of salt
50ml crème fraîche (optional but good)

To make the grated chocolate decoration, put the chocolate in the freezer for 2 hours before grating off 20g with a sharp knife or potato peeler.

If you’re using the crème fraîche, beat it until fairly stiff and chill until you’re ready to serve.

Finely chop the rest of the chocolate and put in a pan with the salt and water. Melt it very gently over a low heat, stirring constantly and being careful not to burn the chocolate. When it’s smooth and shiny, stir in the milk and sugar, if using. Bring carefully to the boil (it will b ubble up and thicken rapidly) and simmer for 5 mins. Stir in the rum and coffee, then simmer for 2 more minutes. Beat the thickened chocolate with a whisk to lighten.

To serve, add a spoonful of crème fraîche and top with the grated chocolate.

The Rococo chocolates promotion at ACHICA is on until 7am Monday 23rd January 2012.

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Emily Peck, Editor

View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor