Five Minutes with Chantal Coady

Words by
Rob McGibbon

21st July 2023

We take five minutes with Chantal Coady, the newly appointed Creative Director and Brand Ambassador for luxury chocolate brands Prestat and Rococo.

It is a joy to spend five minutes with Chantal Coady who is, probably, the world's undisputed doyenne of luxury chocolate. She launched Rococo Chocolates on the King’s Road in 1983 and it soon became a sensation that shook up the dusty world of violet creams and bitter dark bars.

Then only 23 and a graduate from art college, Coady devised delicious new flavours, such as sea salt milk chocolate, chilli pepper and lavender, then paired them with quirky designs and stunning packaging.

Her creations quickly caught the imagination of London’s glitterati and Hollywood A-listers. British royalty also became fans and young royals frequently bought Queen Elizabeth II Rococo for Christmas and Easter, which she would deftly stow away to enjoy alone later.

Coady went on to open shops in some of London’s smartest areas. Multiple industry awards followed and in 2014 she became the only person to be given an OBE for “Services to chocolate”.

Following a takeover of Rococo by an investor, Coady lost control of her beloved business four years ago. The company floundered, but was rescued last year by Polo del Gusto, the gourmet brands subsidiary of Italian coffee giants Gruppo Illy, which also owns Prestat, the 120-year-old chocolate maker of Piccadilly that has held a royal warrant since 1975.

Polo del Gusto has now appointed Coady as Creative Director and Brand Ambassador for both brands. With major investment at her disposal, Coady is creating exciting new recipes and will lead Rococo and Prestat on an ambitious expansion programme in Britain and internationally.

Rob McGibbon caught up with Coady over the chilled truffle counter at Prestat's store at Princes Arcade in Piccadilly…

Five Minutes with Chantal Coady
Chantal Coady, with her husband, mother, and mother-in-law after receiving her OBE for "Services to Chocolate" from Prince William at Buckingham Palace.

Five Minutes with Chantal Coady

My chocolate journey began with a Saturday job… in the chocolate hall at Harrods when I was 19. My first customer was the actor Michael Caine, but I didn’t know who he was until a colleague told me. He bought a huge box of Milk Tray for his mum’s birthday.

I decided to open my own shop whilst working at Harrods… I did a business course, prepared a business plan, and my mum mortgaged the family home so I could open Rococo. I got friends from art school to turn the shop into a fantasy land by painting Botticelli cherubs on the ceiling.

The most important thing I discovered in my early years was… tastingreal chocolate” compared to the industrial, sugar-loaded candy that the British have been weaned on. The difference is enormous. For me, the best is single estate chocolate” - when the beans come from one small farm.

In my new role as Creative Director at Prestat and Rococo… I am back in the kitchen creating new recipes with our team of chefs. It is all about using the best chocolate and blending different favours to create a unique taste. To do this, you have to open your mind and imagination, not just your mouth! We have some super new products that will be launched in the autumn and for Christmas. It is an exciting time for chocolate because people want new experiences.

Prestat is the grande dame of chocolate making… and was the inspiration behind Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Dahl used to buy truffles from the shop in Piccadilly. I think Prestat is a sleeping beauty of a brand. My aim is to wake her up gently and take her magic out into the wider world.

Rococo is a very different brand to Prestat.… If Prestat is a classic Daimler, then Rococo is a yellow Lamborghini! It is like a young punk with lots of energy and character. Our plan is to get Rococo doing what it does best, which means challenging new flavours with striking designs wrapped up in stunning packaging. Rococo is my baby, so it is wonderful to be back. We will celebrate our ruby anniversary this autumn.

Five Minutes with Chantal Coady
Rococo chocolate is being revamped by its original founder, Chantal Coady, who has returned to the business after four years as its creative director and brand ambassador.

Today Im passionate about the future of working directly with cocoa farmers… to create circular economies where they can add value and improve the sustainability for the future. Cocoa land needs great husbandry and biodiversity. Just imagine a world without chocolate…

I am often asked, What is my favourite chocolate? It varies from day to day depending on my mood. I love Grenada chocolate and I’m also very fond of origins from Madagascar and Ecuador. It is essential that the beans are well fermented, dried and carefully roasted.

The highlight of my career was… being nominated for an OBE by the Queen in 2014. Prince William presented me with the award. A wonderful moment. I took my husband James and our mums. What a day.

I have lived in Bonnington Square for over 40 years… It is a secret garden paradise, hidden away from the choking busyness of Vauxhall’s one way system. It has an amazing community.

The best gift I have ever received… is my family. They are always there for me, in fun times and in difficult moments.

When Im not working… you will find me in the garden or cooking, visiting an art exhibition, or maybe riding my bike.

My most treasured possession is... a small silver pepper mill from Asprey, gifted by a dear friend who knew I loved fresh pepper. Perfect for picnics.

Five Minutes with Chantal Coady
Chantal Coady has also taken over the creative director and brand ambassador role at Prestat, and aims to wake the "grande dame of chocolate making".

My favourite place in the world is… the beautiful island of Grenada for its brilliant, friendly people, its wonderful palm fringed beaches, its amazing volcanic topography, and, of course, for producing some of the finest cocoa in the world.

The best meal Ive ever eaten… There have been so many! Most recently it was freshly caught fish, grilled over coals in a fishing village by the river Douro near Porto in Portugal. I was there last October for the chocolate festival at the World of Wine.

To do my job, I cant do without… my daily routines of exercise and mindfulness - I meditate with my cat, Lella. I also need my fountain pen, my paper diary, and home-cooked food. 

The music I last downloaded… was the live version of Mediterranean Sundance by Al Di Meola, John McLoughlin and Paco De Lucia. Full of beauty and energy. Sublime.

My guiltiest pleasure is black truffle crisps with a cold glass of Chene Bleu rose, which is made by my friend Nicole Rolet in Provence. If I am good at cocoa, she is a genius with grapes.

The project closest to my heart is… helping build a new factory for the Grenada Chocolate Company.

The next question on my mind is What flavour will today bring?

Visit Prestat and Rococo