Shaper: Chantal Coady

Show aired on 14th November 2015

Transcript

Elliot Moss
The bouncy Soul Bossa Nova from Quincy Jones. Good morning, this is me, Elliot Moss on Jazz Shapers here on Jazz FM. Thank you so much for joining me. Jazz Shapers, the place where you can hear the very best of the people who are shaping the world of jazz, blues, and soul alongside their equivalents in the world of business, a Business Shaper. And have I got a cracker for you today, it is Chantal Coady. She is the founder and creative director of Rococo Chocolates. They are an ethical luxury business. They make amazing tasting chocolate and we are going to be talking lots to her, and I am going to be nibbling on it too and making you very envious. Lots coming up from Chantal very shortly. In addition to hearing from her, you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon De Reya some words of advice your business and on top of all of that of course, a tasty and sumptuous and delicious mix of music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul including trumpeter, Ibrahim Maalouf, young pianist, Joey Alexander and this from the one and only Ella Fitzgerald.

Ella Fitzgerald with It’s Only A Paper Moon. Chantal Coady is my Business Shaper today here on Jazz Shapers. She is the founder and creative director for Rococo Chocolates. As I said, they make amazing chocolates, but not only do they taste amazing, they are ethically sourced because she gets a lot of the cocoa from the Latin American part of the world. Thank you so much for joining me.

Chantal Coady
It’s a real pleasure, Elliot.

Elliott Moss
Now many, many years ago when you were younger, ‘cause you are still young and we are all young. This is the theme of today, that you need to be young in life and we will be young today. You set up a business called Rococo Chocolates. You had been serving apparently the story goes, you can tell me if it is true, serving lovely chocolates in Harrods, but you thought, you know what, there must be better ways. There must be better things that I can deliver to customers, to people that want wonderful chocolate. What made you think you could do it yourself all the way back then?

Chantal Coady
Well I think when you’re in your very early 20s, you are a student in art school, at that time there was a lot of punk stuff going on, which was, was quite a liberating way of thinking because people didn’t necessarily have to be good at something. They just think, ‘I can do it’. But the most important thing for me was there was absolutely zero emotional interaction with the customers in any of the stores that I had been into that served chocolate or anything else for that matter. And I just felt chocolate is this magical, wonderful thing. It is a kind of fantasy world – it was for me anyway and that’s what I wanted to share with my customers and I believed in this so fervently that I thought I am going to open a shop and the more people that said ‘you’re crazy, what do you think you’re doing?’ the more determined I was to do it.

Elliott Moss
Now first shop was in Chelsea, in which street was it?

Chantal Coady
On the Kings Road.

Elliott Moss
On the Kings Road itself. You have now got four shops. Is that right?

Chantal Coady
That’s right.

Elliot Moss
Okay.

Chantal Coady
But in fact we have just opened a little pop-up, so you could say four and a half or five.

Elliott Moss
Four and a half, or five now, and then it will go back down to four. And five books.

Chantal Coady
That’s right. Yes.

Elliott Moss
This is what the theme is, five today. That’s good. And the shops have come at a different pace. When did you open the very first shop? Back in 19…

Chantal Coady
The first shop was in ’83.

Elliott Moss
…’83 when you first started the business. That front facing thing that you talked about how have you managed to maintain that ethos of really giving your personality and the person who is delivering the chocolate itself to the human being on the other side of the counter? Because I can imagine when you get bigger and now you are a three million pound business, there is fifty people, you source chocolate, you make your own chocolate now. You can start to get into the manufacturing mindset. How have you kept that artisan and that sense of personal?

Chantal Coady
Well I guess it’s the bits of the business which I am really taking care of and for me, it is the creative side, it’s the actual interaction with the customer side, it’s the marketing and things like number crunching and all that stuff I have got a very good FD. I have got a great MD and I think if you’re going to grow a business successfully you need a very good team around you, and I am not scared to let them do what they need to do, so I can concentrate on the things which I really believe in and which really matter to me.

Elliott Moss
And you obviously have a good eye for design. You have a textile background. You have a good eye, I imagine, for texture as well. And if you ever… if you’re listening now and you want to go onto the website Rococo Chocolates, it will be easy enough to find… R-O-C-O…

Chantal Coady
C-O, yes.

Elliott Moss
Nice and easy there. But you will see there is an aesthetic and I am just looking at one of your gorgeous bags right now. This influence over the years has it changed or do you just sort of, in your head do you wake up and you go ‘I know what my business is. I know what my brand is’?

Chantal Coady
I think things are constantly moving and changing and I hope in a really positive way. And for example when I first opened, I had a mini monopoly for at least the first, you know, fifteen years, maybe twenty and and for the first ten years, it was really difficult because it was extremely hard to make any money from the business. But then we had this sweet space where there were no other competitors and now we have got so many fantastic talented chocolate makers, particularly in London but in the UK and I think it’s one of the most vibrant chocolate scenes in the world. And that is great because it means we all have to up our game, and I think whereas in somewhere like Paris where you’ve got a lot of old established brands and a few newcomers, but there isn’t quite the same tension as we have here in London.

Elliott Moss
Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper, Chantal Coady. Time for music, this is Ibrahim Maalouf with Essential.

The fantastic sound, I love this artist – Ibrahim Maalouf with Essential and just so you know next Tuesday, the 17 November, he is playing live as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival at the Barbican. Don’t miss it because during the day also on Jazz FM you will have a chance to listen to him in conversation. Chantal Coady is my Business Shaper today, and we have been talking about the beginnings of the chocolate revolution. We are going to call it a revolution now, we have just upped the ante a little bit. You began your business in 1983. Since then as you said that the competitions sort of ten, fifteen years later piled on. I am now staring at some incredible chocolates. I am just going to jump to the product for a moment. Just talk me through this little box of beauties that you’ve opened for me because I think it’s important if you haven’t come across this – this is not your standard chocolate that you buy in the newsagent – not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, I quickly hasten to add but just tell me a little bit about just one or two of these.

Chantal Coady
Okay well what we are looking at here is a box with twelve beautiful coco-pod shaped chocolates in it. They are really gleaming and beautiful. Some of them have got sparkly bits, they’ve all got different decorations.

Elliott Moss
What’s this one, t]his colour here?

Chantal Coady
I think that’s silver and green.

Elliott Moss
Can it pick it up?

Chantal Coady
No, this one is copper. Yes, so you’re picking up the one which has got…they’re all caramel-based. They’re all from our Rococo Couture Collection, so they’re made in tiny batches. This has got Mandarin and Tonka bean. And all of them have won medals; gold medals I believe, in various awards. So the other ones we’ve got: we’ve got Passion Fruit and Rosemary. We’ve got Calamanci Lime, and both of those have got a really zingy, citrusy note to them, which for me cuts through the sweetness of the caramel and then we’ve got a wonderful soft dark chocolate around them. And the final one is a Pear Williams. So you got the pear flavours with a little bit of alcohol and again the lovely caramel.

Elliott Moss
How long have you been making the chocolate yourself?

Chantal Coady
Well at least twenty five years. But at the beginning when I started the shop, no one made their own chocolate. There was this kind of idea that people had elves in the basement and they were making them, but mainly they were little factories outside London, delivering in.

Elliott Moss
And the cocoa then, talk to me a little bit about the Grenada Chocolate Company because you were a cocoa company or rather you have created this kind of connection, very strong connection with this particular company in another part of the world. Tell me how that came about and what that means for the business.

Chantal Coady
Well talking of revolutions in cocoa and chocolate, the Grenada Chocolate Company is absolutely at the spearhead of that and it was set up by three guys, two Americans and a Grenadian and one of the Americans, Mott Green, a very dear friend was in Grenada, chilling out, living in a bamboo hut that he had built and actually you will love this because he is a great jazz lover, he had a little solar panel in order to be able to listen to his jazz, his Ella Fitzgerald while he was in the bamboo hut and he had water coming down the mountain, you know, diverting through to make a solar shower and he was in a cocoa field, a little farm – actually it was pretty wild on a mountain side and through that he got the idea that instead of just shipping a commodity which is a sack of beans, he could bring a whole industry to the island which would be a social economy and they could add value to this amazing product and ship chocolate bars instead of shipping beans.

Elliot Moss
And that is what they have been doing ever since.

Chantal Coady
And that’s what they have been doing. Very sadly in 2013 he died in an accident when he was doing some electrical wiring and he has left a very big hole behind him but we are still, I mean we actually have a very small cocoa farm there now and all of the cocoa that we grow is donated to the chocolate factory, it’s all converted into chocolate there and then we buy back some of it in bulk form which we blend into our, you can see one of the sea salt bars there, so all of our organic artisan range contains some Grenada chocolate.

Elliot Moss
And that I guess you would call values in action. Lots more coming up from my Business Shaper today, Chantal Coady – she is the founder and creative director of Rococo Chocolates and I have had one already as you would have just heard and it was rather good. Latest travel in a couple of minutes but before that some words of wisdom from our programme partners at Mishcon De Reya for your business.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers every Saturday morning I am lucky enough to meet someone who is shaping the world of business. If you’ve missed any of the almost 200 programmes now, then just go into iTunes. That’s your destination because you’ll find lots there. And if you happen to be flying with British Airways or Iberia, then you will also be able to find a good few over there as well. Chantal Coady is my Business Shaper today, founder and creative director of Rococo Chocolates. They’ve got some lovely shops and she has written some wonderful books and most importantly the chocolate is phenomenal. Just on the shop front you mentioned the fifth and it’s a pop-up and it’s in London and it’s near Saint Paul’s. What it is like now in this environment where more and more retailers’ businesses are deciding to put something up for a moment and then come down again? Has it become easier? Have Local Authorities said, ‘You know what? From a planning point of view, we’ll make this a bit better,’ or is it a pain?

Chantal Coady
I think it can be a pain. It’s often to do with the landlord actually, who can really smooth the wheels of this process and I was offered one a couple of years ago and it was just a ridiculous proposition where they wanted the market rent for this place and you would have had to spend a lot of money setting it up and just to be there for a few months made no sense at all. But what we are doing right now at Saint Paul’s is we’ve created a little chocolate box and it really is like a box. On the roof you can see the lovely wrapper and it opens out and you can buy lovely coffee there, hot chocolate and a small selection of our chocolates and then after March that one should be actually moving into a proper bricks and mortar store, not very far away. So we will have built up our awareness of our brand, as you know, at the moment it’s just saying hello to people, but we are going to be permanently installed there.

Elliott Moss
I mean if I look now back, you have steadily grown, I mean you haven’t rushed into things and I imagine the chocolate making process isn’t a rush, you’ve got to do it properly and there’s various stages that you need to go through. You don’t strike me as one of these, you know, global ambition-type people but what drives you? Is it just the desire to share the best chocolate in the world with more people versus making a buck? Or has the money now… or are you kind of focused commercially as well?

Chantal Coady
I think for me it is much more about giving people a wonderful experience of tasting very, very good chocolate and understanding that actually when you eat one fantastic piece of chocolate, it’s so satisfying. You don’t need to just binge on the whole box and it is really healthy. Everyone should know that, that it comes from a fruit. It can be one of your five or seven a day and just a little bit of moderation is fantastic and on the money side that definitely is not of huge interest for me. It never really has been. What keeps me awake at night is you know, making enough money to be able to pay fifty employees and all the rent and everything else but I am definitely – that’s not my driver.

Elliott Moss
Stay with me for more and find out what Chantal’s drivers actually are beyond not being the money, which is a healthy thing to hear for once. Time for some music. This is Rebecca Ferguson and What Is This Thing Called Love.

The old time sound of Rebecca Ferguson with What Is This Thing Called Love. Chantal, we have been talking about the fact that the quality of the chocolate drives you. When you now eat the chocolate, because I imagine occasionally you will, you know, you are probably more… you are surrounded by it, I think I’ve watched you in interview say ‘well, look I don’t get the urge all the time because I can have it any time I like’. Do you still have that flutter and that buzz that the mere mortals like me and others do that aren’t in the business or is it hard not to take it for granted?

Chantal Coady
Sometimes I really do have to eat a lot of chocolate, for example, recently I was in Paris. I was a UK judge at the World Chocolate Masters and we had a really intense programme which involved tasting a lot of chocolate, and that really makes you very, very buzzy and it is absolutely essential that you taste everything and you mark it and you’re very conscious of what you’re eating. So that’s one way that I encounter chocolate. But sometimes I just, I just feel like a little piece of something and I often will have a small square of dark chocolate. Usually something very simple and very pure and from an origin which I know is going to deliver the most amazing cocoa beans and flavour.

Elliot Moss
What would you say to people who are listening thinking about their own ideas around making stuff, especially food? I mean, you are an artisan, you are, you know, you are creative director, but actually what you do is you make something and you make something that I happen to be able to eat. There are many other people now and I think we’ve moved into this, I’ve observed over the last few years in the UK, more and more people feeling good about starting their own business. In this particular space what would be the kind of two or three things that you wish you’d have known in 1983 that you now know?

Chantal Coady
I think people have changed the way they look at things and I think it is wonderful the environment which has been created by these small food markets, things like KERB, and it is brilliant that anyone can start up more or less in their own kitchen and be able to deliver to a very discerning audience, so if I could have done that when I started, that would have been a lovely way of testing my market. As it was, I had this huge commitment to a lease in the Kings Road which actually at that time I had to pay a lot of money to get the keys for. I think the way that people can raise funding for businesses has changed beyond all recognition and social media, all of those things, but they just didn’t exist. But I think the thing which probably I would say to anyone is to be very disciplined about keeping things as simple as possible.

Elliot Moss
There you go. Be simple. Don’t complicate things. I think that’s great advice. Final chat coming up with Chantal. Plus we will be playing a track from the young, amazing, superb Joey Alexander on piano. That’s after the latest traffic and travel.

The awe-inspiring Joey Alexander, aged about fourteen we reckon, with I Mean You. Chantal, this chocolate business you have now, it is obviously a passion. It’s not just a phase. After thirty years you would have got over it and you haven’t got over it, you still care about every last bit, it strikes me, whether it’s the red bow, whether it’s the… even the material you probably use on the bag over there. I imagine you have thought about that because it’s quite nice and thick and it feels luxury. Where does it go? You don’t strike me as someone who is going to want to sell this business, but I imagine you are going to have some people interested or if they haven’t already been interested.

Chantal Coady
We have had interest over the years from various people and I think I know that there is still a long way to go with this business, that we’ve just, you know, touched London really at the moment and we do have fans all around the world and I would love to have a shop in Paris, one in New York, maybe Italy, perhaps Japan. So I think we are considering investment at the moment. I mean, we have a very good relationship with the bank, so we can do it that way. But I think to push it a little bit faster now and then you know, we will see where that takes us, but I guess it might be nice at some point to be able to realise some of the value of that business, as I hope to live to at least a hundred – I am going to need some income for that.

Elliot Moss
And over these years, these many years now that you’ve been doing this, who have been the people that have really been the rocks for you? The people that you turn to when maybe the business has been a bit bumpy or you felt like you have had enough of making chocolate?

Chantal Coady
Well I have to say that it’s family and friends and when I talk about family, that also includes the Rococo Family because it really is part of our family, and they have been amazing. My mother actually mortgaged the family house for me and the bank would not have loaned me the money without that, and I still think ‘why on earth would she have done that? She must have been bonkers!’ But it was such a show of confidence in what I was doing and it was one of the best days of my life when I was able to hand her back the deeds of that house. But yes, my husband is amazing. He has been incredibly supportive. He came in to help run the business when we had two small children and I mean the kids now are getting grown up, they are sixteen and eighteen and they have been incredibly supportive and understanding in the fact that I’ve had to juggle my work life balance, and possibly work’s got a bit of a better deal than they have sometimes, but they’ve been totally cool about it.

Elliot Moss
I mean, they understand that, I mean a working mum. My mum is still a working mum but was a working mum when we were kids. I remember thinking, I didn’t think anything about it until probably I was older, but that’s a fantastic thing, isn’t it. I mean, as long as you’re not stressed yourself. I imagine you would encourage many women to go into business and do their own thing.

Chantal Coady
Yeah, I think it’s an amazing thing, and I think more and more women are setting up small businesses and it works very well if you can find that right balance, and I think now there are more challenges in the way of digital distractions, and it is a little bit a case of having to try and wear different hats and when you are with your kids to try not to be thinking about the business and to give them your 100% attention. Because if you can do that, even if it’s for a short period of time, they will feel that lovely glowing feeling which is what they need. They don’t want you to be in the room but somewhere else.

Elliot Moss
Wise words. I should listen to those as well. Everyone probably listening is going yes, I should be doing that also. Chantal, you have been fantastic, and the chocolate is amazing. You are not taking these other things, by the way, they’re staying here. We have all got our eyes on them. Just before I let you go and thank you so much for being with me, what is your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Chantal Coady
Ah, well my song choice is called Arràncame La Vida which is by Ton͂a La Negra. Now she, I believe, is one of those hidden jewels of the Latin scene that most people have never heard of. She died in 1982. She was introduced to me by a dear friend of mine from Venezuela called Annie Villanueva and I had the double album back in the day, but it is just beautiful. It’s kind of nostalgic and romantic, and there is this great chorus to it.

Elliot Moss
And here it is just for you. Thank you so much.

That was Ton͂a La Negra and Arràncame La Vida, the song choice of Chantal Coady, my Business Shaper today. She has had a focus on chocolate and being involved in it for the last thirty years and she is doing phenomenally well. She has a values based approach to the world of business. The connections with her Grenada Chocolate Company, just one example of that. And a designer through and through. The textile background coming right through from the bags to the boxes to the chocolates itself. Beautiful textures, amazing taste. Fantastic stuff. Join me again same time, same place. But coming up right now, excitingly and live here on Jazz FM, we are going over to Kings Place with Nigel Williams, where is going to be entertaining you with live music and guests from the EFG London Jazz Festival.

Chantal Coady is Founder & Creative Director of Rococo Chocolates. She began the Real Chocolate Revolution in the UK in 1983, in London’s King’s Road. Fresh from art school, Chantal knew that there was space for some love and creativity in the area of retailing chocolate. The shop was a culmination of unrequited childhood dreams of chocolate and the make believe world of being a shopkeeper. The name of the business was an inspired brainwave, sealed when the definition of Rococo was looked up in the dictionary: “Derived from the French word rocaille, meaning ornamentation, shell and scroll work, asymmetric. Florid to the point of bad taste.” Chantal ran with this idea, and Rococo Chocolates transformed the experience of buying and consuming chocolate into something between art and magic. The emotional interaction between chocolate and the British buyer was understood for the first time. In 2004, a second Rococo was launched in Marylebone High Street, a third in Belgravia in 2007 and in 2012 at the Chester Grosvenor, the first luxury chocolate shop in the North West of England. Chantal and Rococo are fully engaged in ethics and sustainability and have a joint venture with the Grenada Chocolate Company. Together they are working in an organic co-operative, and making sure that as much value can be added at the farmer end of the cocoa chain before the finished product is shipped across the ocean. Chantal is a Founder Member of the Academy of Chocolate. Chantal is married to acupuncturist James Booth, they have two children and two cats, and a colony of bees. They divide their time between London, Provence and the GROCOCO plantation in Grenada.

Chantal’s Awards include: Winner, Chocolate “Oscar” for Best Chocolate Book Eurochocolate Perugia 1996; Winner, “Best Chocolate Book” for Real Chocolate Gourmand Awards 2003; Nominated for Best Cookery Book Guild of Food Writers 2003; Winner, AoC Special Award 2008 “Changing the way people think about chocolate”; Winner, Walpole Brands of Tomorrow 2010; Winner, “Outstanding Service to the Chocolate Industry” FCIA 2011, Winner, Academy of Chocolate “Chocolatier of the Year” 2011, 2012

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“…at that time there was a lot of punk stuff going on, which was quite a liberating way of thinking because people didn’t necessarily have to be good at something.”

“I just felt chocolate is this magical, wonderful thing. It is a kind of fantasy world – it was for me anyway.”

“The more people that said: ‘you’re crazy, what do you think you’re doing?’ the more determined I was to do it.”

“For the first ten years, it was really difficult because it was extremely hard to make any money from the business.”

“When I started the shop, no one made their own chocolate. There was this kind of idea that people had elves in the basement and they were making them.”

“The thing I would probably say to anyone is to be very disciplined about keeping things as simple as possible.”

“Sometimes I really do have to eat a lot of chocolate.”

“As I hope to live to at least a hundred… I am going to need some income for that.”

“My mother actually remortgaged the family house for me, and I still think ‘why on earth would she have done that?’ She must have been bonkers!”