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Award-winning Motcomb Street chocolatier Rococo Chocolates are famous for making some of the finest chocolates in the world. Their workshops and masterclasses aim to teach the key principles of working with this temperamental ingredient, covering everything from tempering and decorating to making the perfect truffle. But can they really demystify this dark art? Seth Rowden visits London’s most exclusive chocolatier to find out
Before Chantel Coady founded Rococo Chocolates in 1983, the world of chocolate was a very different place. The story goes that, during her time selling chocolates in a luxury department store’s chocolate section, Chantel became so disillusioned with the selection on offer (mostly rose and violet creams) that she decided to change everything. Thirty years on, she has won numerous awards, including winning a special prize for ‘changing the way people think about chocolate’ at the Academy of Chocolate Awards in 2008.
Rococo Chocolates can proudly lay claim to being the first chocolatier to make such daring combinations as sea salt, chilli, rosemary and black pepper chocolates. “The sea salt milk chocolate, imitated by chocolate makers worldwide, is a flavour combination that came to me when crystals of sea salt settled on my lips as I was walking along the beach in Cornwall, licking a clotted cream ice cream,” Chantel explains. “I have always had the gift of being able to visualize a huge spectrum of smells and flavours in my mind, like a palette of colours, and know how they will taste when they are combined.”
This flair for design is liberally applied to the interiors of her small chain of chocolate shops. These are located in Chester, Marylebone High Street, Kings Road and Motcomb Street (which is home to their flagship store, with its own café and workshop). The Motcomb Street shop is a cross between a chic boutique and Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
The large, curved glass counter in the middle of the shop displays the finest combinations of hand-decorated chocolates for Rococo’s bespoke selections.Within a few square feet you can find Grenada dark ganache (2011 Academy of Chocolate Gold Medal winner), fig and blackcurrant, lemon and violet, orange mango and passionfruit, along with other — even more exotic — combinations.
These flavours, plucked from scraps of her everyday living and experience, are sculpted and displayed in the most elegant boxes on the surrounding shelves. Here you can find almost anything; painted chocolate love hearts with miniature ganache chocolates inside, painted cats, dark chocolate crocodiles, praline quail eggs, marshmallow game cubes and Cuban cigars made from crunchy hazelnut praline.
The area at the back of the long, narrow room hides a small coffee shop backing out onto the MaRococo secret garden — an area of calm where you can enjoy the finest coffee, served with a Rococo Truffle, hand made pastry or a slice of cake. In the centre of the wooden floor in the coffee shop is a glass window looking down into the chocolate kitchen. This is a place where, if you are lucky enough, you can spy on some chocolate making in action.
Rococo Chocolates run a range of workshops to suit all levels, as well as educational classes for children. Children’s classes are designed to be a fun exploration into the world of chocolate making and, as well as building kitchen confidence, they are taught to make chocolate brownies, cupcakes and other delicious treats. Some of these classes include the opportunity to make their own flavoured chocolate bar, as well as designing and making a colourful foil wrapper to take it home in. Children can make all the mess they want . . . and there is no cleaning up afterwards.
For adults who are curious about exploring the limits of chocolate, regular tasting classes might be the perfect introduction. If you have ever wondered how to pair chocolate with the perfect cheese, coffee, single malt or fine wine, then these classes are definitely for you. Rococo’s chocolate experts will teach you tasting techniques, how to enhance your senses and how to pair your favourite chocolate with the most unlikely of companions.
For those who want to get hands-on experience of working with chocolate in a fun and relaxed class environment, small workshops cover the basics of chocolate canapé making. If you prefer to focus on the full three-course meal rather than just the dessert, then chocolate cooking classes are also available which involve the group combining chocolate with savoury dishes to create the perfect three-course meal.
Rococo also offer in-depth masterclasses, taught by the ‘Prof du Choc’ (head chocolatier) Barry Johnson. This covers the fundamentals of chocolate tempering, making solid figurines and decorating chocolates. Barry also runs classes in truffle making and one-on-one advanced courses for serious chocolatiers. Here you can learn to create a variety of flavours, from sea salt ganache to the more exotic rose and cocoa nib ganache.
Rococo Chocolates enjoy a close relationship with the Grenada Chocolate Company, who give them the best ingredients in the world the work with. The Grenada Chocolate Company produces high quality chocolate in Grenada and has won awards for their full-flavoured dark chocolate. In line with Rococo’s philosophy, they only make small batches and are one of the only companies in the world that make fine chocolate where the cocoa actually grows.
If you are taken by the idea of chocolate making and cannot wait for the next workshop, Chantel has recently published a book. Rococo — Mastering The Art Of Chocolate, has been described as “a stunning masterclass in chocolate from London’s most exclusive chocolatier.” With over 80 recipes from the Rococo vaults, this is a chocolate bible showing how far chocolate making has come from those rose and violet creams of 1983.
Visit www.rococochocolates.com for more information.