...OBE author and business woman, who founded Rococo Chocolates in 1983 and has just launched her new independent venture, ‘Chocolate Detective’.
I’ve known Chantal for many years now, as a client previously and now as a friend. I describe her as the cocoa dust deity (who is rumoured to have inspired the book and film Chocolat) as well as a chocolate activist, committed to ensuring ethics are upheld within a global commodity worth £103bn pa. I would also compare Chantal to the likes of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood; a real Londoner with super work ethic, amazing creativity, superb individuality and a gift for curating, creating and connecting.
The Grenada Chocolate Company was founded in 2000 by Mott Green, Doug Browne and Edmond Brown. Chantal has been supporting the company since 2002, investing in a small organic cocoa farm in 2007. Following the two hurricanes Ivan and Emily, and the untimely deaths of both Mott & Doug, she continues to support the farmers and workers of Grenada Chocolate Co with training, setting up community shops and creating co-operative chocolate products. Chantal sits on the Board and is now a shareholder of the company.
With global cocoa production estimated to hit a record high this year at 4.85 million metric tons, I sat down with Chantal to discuss her current thoughts, dreams and plans regarding her present positioning in the chocolate industry, new brand range as well as her thoughts around provenance, procurement and the future of our favourite product.
Chantal, please tell me about your unprecedented last year and your new brand, The Chocolate Detective.
“Well, I want to let everyone know that I no longer work for, or own, Rococo Chocolates and we’re currently in a long negative legal situation. It’s probably best for me to leave that shocking statement there. So, I’ve been busy trying to think about what I should do with my life experience and decided to launch a new couture chocolate brand, as my life’s mission is still in creating, producing and selling the world’s best chocolate.
I’ve named it ‘Chocolate Detective’ as an alter ego, looking at shining a light and examining what’s going on in the world of chocolate with a necessary magnifying glass. Doing what we can to bring attention to good, ethical business models, recognising the importance of knowing where your cocoa actually comes from and hoping people are beginning to understand relationship with producers, roots and adding value to local economies. Grenada has had an extraordinarily difficult year with the pandemic but thankfully I’m still able to meet with the teams virtually and create products for sale in the UK.
There’s thirty-three new products available, specifically curated for their taste, flavour, texture and difference, confidentially created to stand out in a very crowded marketplace. I was feeling rather nervous about starting up again, but then I received a wonderful gift, out of the blue, from the illustrator Sir Quentin Blake, who has designed me a new, beautiful, illustrative logo. I think his drawing truly is the work of a genius, the woman looks like she just stepped away from the Jurassic cliffs in the 19th Century, it's perfect....of course I’m working on the corsets!
I’ve also put the same amount of pleasure and detail into the packaging so that when you gift someone some Chocolate Detective, or indeed buy yourself a treat, you can enjoy the chocolate as a wrapped work of art, with the anticipation of opening and keeping the product fresh through exquisite layers which protect and display.
Connected means working with cocoa farmers in Grenada and highlighting sustainable chocolate made at grass roots level “Tree to Bar”, keeping value in local economies. Whilst Chantal’s recipes like the Golden Sea Salt invented while running after her toddler on the Constantine Beach can be discovered in Created. Curated includes collaborations with other artists and producers of distinction, classics meant for sharing.
New flavours have been dreamt up which mean something to me personally and historically, remembering salty ice cream kisses on Cornish beaches, the kick of 70% cocoa derived from pods which have enjoyed Grenadian sunshine and imbibing the love and care of the cooperative farm workers."
Chantal’s been busy experimenting, drawing, tempering, experimenting and hand-painting as well as collaborating with Madeline Floyd the illustrator, who has done 2 books for the National Trust on a bird egg collection with a rainbow nightingale chocolate egg. Terrifically messy and exquisitely unique, real couture chocolate.
"My biggest seller to date is probably the Black Bird Eggs and the divine Sea Salt Thins. I’ve also been consulting with Fortnum & Mason, working with the Academy of Chocolate, as co-chair) looking after my local community gardens and bees, designing for the ethical diamond company and liaising with Tom Dixon the legendary interior designer. My next few months will be spent ensuring the future of the Grenada Chocolate company workers, experimenting with Vegan and plant based tastes, thinking about who grew the beans, the soil used, the pod, the terrain and the earth and always the ethics.
I’m going to be starting the business earnestly over the next year, looking at funding, planning, ensuring commercial growth and reconnecting with all my favourite resellers including Liberty, the major luxury retailers as well as the hundreds of boutiques worldwide whom I’ve grown up with for over 30 years. It's an exciting time and I’m very much looking forward to the new."
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