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Chantal’s Story

Rococo Chocolates was founded in 1983 by Chantal Coady OBE, who wanted to change the way fine chocolate was perceived. Following on from a Saturday job in Harrods selling confectionery, Chantal knew she wanted to create her own emporium of luxury chocolate, one that was an inspiring engagement of the senses that real chocolate deserves. So, armed with a little knowledge, a dangerous passion and the belief that there was room for a radically different approach to chocolate, Chantal opened the doors of the first Rococo Chocolates shop on the Kings Road in Chelsea.

Early Years

I was born in Tehran and had a globetrotting childhood before moving to London. I recall, at the age of four, standing at the edge of a lily pond just outside Addis Ababa with my family. I had an overwhelming urge to walk on the lily pads, though I was fully clothed. As my feet settled on a lily pad, it sank and I was in the water. Much drama ensued as I was pulled out, and it took me years to admit to my mother that it was no accident; I had quite deliberately stepped in. This event was just one of many that came to symbolise my sense of adventure and desire to break the rules just to see what happens.

When I was six, my father secured a post as Consultant at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases at St Pancras, London. We started the long journey to England on a merchant vessel called The Zemoon, by dint of my father being ship’s doctor. My birthday fell on Easter Sunday, and I recall a huge chocolate cake and thick creamy Greek yogurt; the first of many chocolate experiences that left an indelible impression on my mind.

London Life & Harrods

At sixteen I escaped the confines of the convent I had attended and moved to a London day school. But this liberation was tinged with huge sadness, for this was the year that my father died unexpectedly. He drowned while swimming alone in the rocky Atlantic waters in the Gambia, where he was working at the time. This was a shocking event for all the family, and brought us closer than ever. Overnight my mother had to become the main breadwinner. We all did what we could to help run the household and found many ways to celebrate life, most of them taking the form of cooking and eating delicious meals.

Given my family situation, I needed to earn money to exist as a student and eke out my meagre grant. I visited my old convent school friend Nicky Cousins, who was working in Harrods Chocolate Department while studying. As I waited for her to break for lunch I got lost in a reverie, breathing in the wonderful smells, looking at the displays and taking in the atmosphere. I was brought back to earth by the voice of the young and extremely handsome confectionery department buyer asking, ‘Would you like a job?’ A few weeks later I was in a white coat, working under the guiding hand of benign grandmother Edie.

My time at Harrods was enlightening and I had learnt a lot about selling chocolate, but knew there was room for a radically different retail approach: an indulgent, fantastical one, a chocolate paradise.

After graduating from art school, it was then that I had my light bulb moment. I wanted to start my own business and knew exactly what it would be: my dream chocolate shop.

Rococo Chocolates

The name Rococo was a wonderful accident. It just tripped off my tongue, and the dictionary definition sealed my fate:

“Derived from the French word rocaille, meaning ornamentation, shell and scroll work, asymmetric. 18th century design style. Florid to the point of bad taste.”

Armed with a little knowledge, and a dangerous passion for chocolate, I opened the first Rococo shop on the King’s Road in Chelsea at Easter in 1983, at the age of 23. This was the moment I had been waiting for all my life and I was excited and nervous in equal measure. The decor in the first shop was wild and extremely camp. Working with Frank Taylor and Kitty Arden (who now designs Prestat’s packaging), I created the theatrical backdrop for Rococo. We stippled the walls with scumble glaze and I commissioned a sugar chandelier. Frank painted a beautiful ornate ceiling, a homage to Boticelli’s Birth of Venus with cherubs and clouds.

At Easter there were queues out on to the street, and on our busiest days we would serve a thousand customers. At the end of those long days, we would crawl down to the basement and collapse in a heap, revive ourselves with a glass of Champagne, then set about filling the empty shelves for the next day. That was the time when Rococo had the monopoly on designer chocolates, in the 1980s and early 1990s there was no one making chocolate on a small scale in London. We were offering something unique – wit and beauty in chocolate – but it took ten years to break even.

Chantal Today

More than three decades, five shops and five books later (all about the joys of luxury chocolate of course) Chantal is still pioneering the movement for real chocolate, inspiring many through warm and inviting shops, delicately nuanced flavours and creative, beautiful packaging. In fact, the Academy of Chocolate made an award to Chantal and Rococo for ‘Changing the way People Think About Chocolate’ and the Wall Street Journal among others recognised her as the founder of the ‘New British School’ of chocolate.  In 2014 Chantal Coady was awarded an O.B.E. in the Queens Birthday Honours ‘For Services To Chocolate’ recognising her long and groundbreaking career.