Like many young children, after reading Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Chantal Coady dreamed of creating her own chocolate fantasy world.
Years later, while studying textiles at CamberwellCollege of Arts, she met a friend for lunch who was working in Harrods’ chocolate department. By chance, a buyer from the store was there too and Chantal was offered a Saturday job selling chocolate. The knowledge she gained in this role, together with her belief that there was room for a different approach to chocolate, led her to open her first shop, Rococo Chocolates, on London’s King’s Road in 1983. It was an opulent paradise with cherubs and clouds painted on the ceiling after Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, candyfloss pink stippled walls that matched Chantal’s hair, gilded mirrors, a chandelier made from sugar and candelabras mounted on the walls.
Chantal’s vision was clearly radically different from the approach of the more conservative, long-established chocolatiers who dominated the market at the time.
It resonated perfectly with the rebellious, creative vibe in the capital. ‘It was a time of punks, unemployment and revolution,’ recalls Chantal. ‘There was a need for a magical chocolate shop.’ Her imagination and sense of fun immediately attracted fans, some of whom travelled miles to visit the shop. One early follower was the author Joanne Harris, and there have been rumours suggesting that Chantal was an inspiration behind Harris’s book Chocolat.
As a brand, Rococo stands for ‘pleasure and provenance’, a winning ethos that combines crafted, delicately nuanced flavours using rare, organic cocoas with beautiful packaging
to create a visual feast for the eyes. On a mission to share chocolate with everyone, Chantal draws on the philosophy of wine tasting, so that each chocolate is presented at its best yet remains accessible to all palates and purses. Chantal is passionate about ensuring that quality remains at the heart of all of the brand’s products but is equally driven by ensuring cocoa’s sustainability, so she has long established direct relationships with growers and has also invested in organic cocoa farming on the Caribbean island of Grenada.
Over the years Rococo has progressed from curating chocolates from carefully chosen artisans to making its own ganaches and bars. Chantal’s groundbreaking contribution to the industry has been acknowledged with many awards and, three years ago, she received an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for Services to Chocolate Making.
She won an award for ‘changing the way people think about chocolate’ from the Academy of Chocolate and recently the Academy awarded her team, led by Karen Waller, the first ‘Chocolate Oscar’, the Golden Bonbon Trophy, for her Citrus Rooibos ganache, deemed the single best filled chocolate in the world. Five shops and five books on the joys of chocolate later, Rococo has been working with the Dahl family to create a range of chocolates inspired by the author’s titles including The BFG, Matilda and The Twits. It’s a partnership that epitomises Chantal’s innovative spirit as she continues to showcase excellence within the world of chocolate.
ROCOCO CHOCOLATES 321 KING’S ROAD, LONDON SW3 5EP +44 (0)20 7352 5857