It’s the day before Christmas and our four shops are busy looking after last-minute shoppers with beautiful gifts. But what’s it like to work in the world of chocolate at this time of year? We caught up with Rococo Chocolate’s founder Chantal Coady OBE, to find out…
What is the week before Christmas like for you?
We are incredibly busy in December, so I try to make myself really useful in the shops. I’m not so great on the till or with prices but I know that I can do something to make the teams feel real loved and appreciated, so my focus is on making sure our staff are looked-after and happy.
How do you do that?
By cooking and caring for them in the last few days when they’re busiest. It starts with the Directors’ Lunch for 30 at the chocolate factory. Directors does not refer to who is invited, but to who is cooking! I cook assisted by James, with guest appearances from Richard (MD), Gerry (FD) and Fergus and Millie, the Rococo next generation.
I put in a order to the butcher for large free-range joints of pork with crackling and we have a feast. This year we started with bubbly and nibbles, then ate the pork with roast potatoes, James’s famous red cabbage with apple, petit pois and carrots, bread sauce, fresh cranberry sauce and a stuffing made with lemon, pine nuts and pancetta. After all of that we could just about squeeze in a mince pie with brandy cream along with our port and brandy.
Our guests were the teams who work behind the scenes: chocolatier Barry Johnson and his team who have worked away making the Rococo Couture ganaches, Anita and her ace packing team, Aude and her e-commerce team, Mario and the warehouse team, plus Darrell, Gosia, Beata, Aneesa and Sylvia, who make sure our wholesale, technical and finance all runs smoothly.
These are the people who customers don’t see, and it’s important to us that we know how much we value their hard work, so James gives out silly prizes after dinner. This year we also played the White Elephant game with little gifts.
That sounds like quite a dinner!
Yes, we were there until 10pm cleaning up afterwards, but that’s just the start of it. We can’t have a big meal for the shop staff when they’re so busy, so I spend the next three days cooking Meals on Wheels and delivering in our little Piaggio Ape van to Chelsea, Belgravia and Marylebone’s new store in Moxon St.
Planning, shopping and finding enough receptacles is quite a juggling game!
Every shop has at least one wheat free, vegan or no-cheese person, and I just have to get that spreadsheet organised and know who is on each shift. I try to make food that is portable but that feels like a treat; for example, a couple of days ago the shops received a delivery of cassoulet made with gammon and wild boar sausages with a mushroom, sun dried tomato and butternut squash option for the vegans.
And of course today when the shops close around 4 or 5, I’ll be waiting for the staff with chilled champagne and mini Rococo minced pies to celebrate with them.
After all that do you still cook a big traditional Christmas dinner?
No, I’m afraid not. We all spend the whole of December making sure things are running smoothly at Rococo, and by the big day I need a break! We go to my husband James’s family in Ealing for Christmas day itself and collapse in a heap, drinking champagne while the turkey cooks. We do help with the washing up afterwards though, and of course we bring chocolate!
Happy Christmas from all of us at Rococo Chocolates!