What or Who is The Chocolate Detective?
My name is Chantal Coady, and I have been making and selling chocolate since the age of 23. One of my earliest memories is when we were on a Greek island in the 1960s. It was my 5th birthday, and I assumed my parents would have forgotten about my birthday, we were nowhere near a kitchen – and staying in basic accommodation on the island. I was so surprised when a freshly baked chocolate cake was produced out of nowhere (a local baker had taken pity on me and made it specially). Never had anything tasted so delicious and it made me think chocolate was a magical thing.
Growing up as one of five children who were mainly dyslexic, we were constantly experimenting with food, clothes, art, and music. It was inevitable that I went to art School in London, and my sister went there too.
Later, I went to work at Harrods food hall, as a part time job to help me fund my way through my degree course. When I was working in the Chocolate department there I learnt so much about chocolate in its various forms. My first customer was Michael Caine – he was elegant in a camel cashmere coat and asked for “the biggest box of Milk Tray you’ve got” I didn’t recognise him and discovered afterwards that they were his mum’s favourites.
I loved the way the luxury chocolate tasted, and was always wrapped up carefully, but as an art student studying design, I felt the packaging was often so dull, and it felt it was time for a disrupter in the chocolate market.
As soon as I left art school, I did a start-up business course and my recently widowed mum mortgaged her house to support the bank loan. Our dad died in 1975.
I opened my shop Rococo chocolates in London’s Kings Rd three weeks before Easter! Friends and family all came to the rescue, a marble floor was laid, we painted the shop pink to match my hair, Venus de Milo and her cherubs were painted on the ceiling and the chandelier was good enough to eat (literally – it was made of sugar). Vivienne Westwood’s shop was a close neighbour, and we were visited by everyone from local punks, to old school Chelsea artists as well as visitors and tourists in the Kings Rd.
I hand wrote all the labels myself using a dip pen, and they were such a hit that they became a part of my brand alongside the iconic blue and white print of ancient French chocolate moulds, which I had found and bought from an antiquarian book seller friend.
I’m proud to be part of a British tradition of creativity, we developed many different chocolate flavours and packages, as well as supporting artists where we could.
Summer was often a quiet time for chocolate in Chelsea, so we transformed the shop into a tearoom. Customers would sit on Tom Dixon’s furniture, and we would serve them freshly baked scones, jam, and clotted cream. We had outfits created by Georgina Godley, people loved the afternoon tea and the art in the shop.
Rococo Chocolates was my lifetimes work and business for 36 years before there was a parting of the ways in 2019.
Since 2019, the business called ‘Rococo Chocolates London Ltd’ is nothing to do with me and is owned by Rupert Oliver Henry Morley – to find out why – look in the next section.
The end of Rococo Chocolates – A sad story with a hopeful ending
In September 2017, I took on a business partner for Rococo Chocolates in order to grow the business, and to sell to new markets abroad. It quickly became clear that we didn’t share the same values or vision for Rococo. To cut a long story short, Rococo chocolates went into administration in 2019, and was bought by my “investor” Rupert Oliver Henry Morley.
Unfortunately, one of the things he bought was all my design work as part the intellectual property. I gain no benefit from this, and it has been especially problematic for me as many of my loyal customers are not aware of the full story and think Rococo Chocolates London Ltd is still my business.
During the worldwide pandemic, I came to accept that I no longer owned the business which I had spent my life building, I had no income, and we were in lockdown. I cannot overstate how my husband James, my children Millie and Fergus and my family and friends got me through this difficult time. Those who were close to me knew that the only way out of this mess for me was to get in touch with my creative side, and they encouraged me to start experimenting again with chocolate. That is how I found myself in the empty kitchen of a silent central London private members club with time and space to create small batches of chocolate.
I was one of those people who found solace during the pandemic as I was able to do what I loved to do, and comfort friends by posting small batches of chocolate that I had created during lockdown.
The response to my new start in chocolate has been amazing – Quentin Blake heard that I was starting again, and he gave me a drawing ‘The Chocolate detective’ which has become my brand identity and represents my approach – courageous and fearless and seeking out the best chocolate without harming others.
Oh, and did I mention that I got an OBE for Services to Chocolate in 1999? It was a proud moment for me, and my mum of course!
Why the fund raiser?
Since my first batches of chocolate over the pandemic, The Chocolate Detective has gradually been formed as a business, and the demand for my chocolate is growing daily.
In 2020, and during the national lockdown, I created my first ‘bean to bar’ project since Rococo with a shipment of 99% emission free chocolate to the UK shores, and then on to @Fortnums in Piccadilly. Logistically challenging, and a year in the making, this zero carbon chocolate project involved a collaboration between Grenada Chocolate who grew the beans and made 25kg blocks of chocolate, the sailors who tackled the Atlantic (sheltering en route from storm Francis) and delivered the blocks of couverture safely to Northern Ireland.
They passed the baton to @nearynogschocolate who transported the chocolate by pony and trap to the mountains of Mourne, where the chocolate chards were created and packaged. Finally, the Sailboat chocolate was sailed back to English shores where it was transported by electric vehicles to London to @Fortnums in time for Christmas.
I am asking people to invest in my Ethical Chocolate Kitchen, to create an inspiring place for me to make chocolate, and also to run workshops and training opportunities, so I can share my love of chocolate with all of you!
I also want to make the most radical bars of chocolate and to continue to support the chocolate farmers in Grenada, and to promote and champion their chocolate in the UK.