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Bean Counter – The chocolate detective

Bean Counter – The chocolate detective

Chantal Coady is a big name in chocolate. Absolutely meets her to discuss her newest venture

Words Pendle Harte

When Quentin Blake, a friend of a friend, heard the story of Coady’s split from Rococo, he was moved to create a drawing for her

The chocolate detective is dedicated to uncovering the world’s best chocolate and curating a collection

Chantal Coady is the only person ever to be awarded an OBE for services to chocolate making. Which arguably makes her London’s foremost chocolate expert, though she doesn’t seem like someone keen to big herself up that way. Coady is best known as the woman behind Rococo chocolates, which pretty much revolutionised London’s chocolate scene from its Kings Road boutique when it launched in 1983. Now she’s Originally Coady was a designer and illustrator – not a chocolatier – and her signature drawings and style became as much a part of Rococo as its chocolate. Rococo sold chocolate pebbles, chocolate olives and countless pretty shapes and glazes in beautiful boxes, and built up a mini empire with its own chocolate school and a thriving wholesale business as well as its own shops.

But Coady’s no longer involved in it. A new investor and a series of changes, some of them Brexit-related, led to the business falling into administration, and Coady finally losing her part in it in 2019. The business still exists, and it keeps her illustrations and designs, but entirely without her. It’s a sensitive subject and clearly one that has caused a lot of upset. She says: ‘Losing Rococo in the way I did after all those years was devastating. It was heartbreaking and deeply stressful. It took me to the brink, both emotionally and financially, and getting over it has been a long, painful process.’

But we’re not here to dwell on the past. I have come to Coady’s house in Vauxhall to talk about her new venture, which is another chocolate business, but not like Rococo. The new brand, The Chocolate Detective, is another visually strong idea, but this time it’s not led by her own drawings. When the eminent Quentin Blake, a friend of a friend, heard the story of Coady’s split from Rococo, he was moved to create a drawing for her as a gift, and his vision of a lady chocolate detective complete with magnifying glass and hair in a bun has become her logo, coupled with an old-school typewriter font, which she thought was quite detectivey, in a Philip Marlowe way. Coady knows a lot about chocolate, and while she did go back to making chocolate a bit in lockdown, that’s not her focus here. The chocolate detective is dedicated to uncovering the world’s best chocolate and curating a collection.