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MEET THE MASTER CHOCOLATIERS

With The Chocolate Festival returning to Islington we speak to four master chocolatiers from some of the biggest and best chocolate brands, and find out what’s hot right now

Barry Johnson, Principal Chocolatier, Rococo rococochocolates.com

How has the chocolate industry changed since you first started out?

I have noticed that customer knowledge and passion for chocolate is definitely increasing. There is a lot more emphasis on the origin of chocolate, bean to bar production and incorporating unusual ingredients.

What do you aim to offer to stay ahead of the pack?

At Rococo we always aim to offer our customers something new and exciting whilst keeping to our style and quality. We have also entered lots of our chocolates into competitions and been victorious with many gold medals at national and international level.

What would you say is the most ambitious thing you have done/created?

Captaining the UK pastry team to win the European Pastry Cup 2014.

Meet the master chocolatiers

Rococo’s Christmas baubles

Will you be creating anything special for Christmas?

This year we’ve put together two new Couture selections: our Award Winners and our Caramels. We’re launching a new range of hand-painted Christmas figurines, some chocolate baubles, and our Christmas Artisan Bars have a brand new look, as well as the new Rococo Chocolatier Hamper, the ultimate Christmas gift for any budding chocolatier.

Finally, what does appearing at The Chocolate Festival offer you?

Rococo has been appearing at The Chocolate Festival for many years and it’s exciting to see it moving to an indoor venue for the second time. As one of the few chocolate-only events we attend, it’s a brilliant opportunity to catch up with some of our core fans. Our chocolatiers are always on hand to have a chat and love answering everyone’s questions.

Damian Allsop of Damian Allsop Chocolates damianallsop.com

How has the chocolate industry changed since you first started out? 

I had been in contact with chocolate, as a pastry chef, for years before founding Damian Allsop Chocolates, and the biggest change is the amount of information available now. People are a lot more aware of small artisan people producing chocolate; this means the public is ready to spend a bit more for a particular chocolate, because they understand the cost of producing it. That is why it is so important to support initiatives like Direct Cacao, where the country of origin gets the right price for their product.

What do you aim to offer to stay ahead of the pack?

For us flavour is the most important thing, to be true to the work of the people that have produced the chocolate and manipulate it in a way that allows that chocolate to speak without changing its character.

What would you say is the most ambitious thing you have created/done? 

It has to be the water ganache, it was a revelation to understand that the lactic covers the profile of the chocolate and to work to change the recipes.

Meet the master chocolatiers

Damian Allsop’s Classic Collection

Will you be creating anything special for Christmas? 

We have created the Sea Water Ganache, this is a special chocolate that unites the health benefits of sea water with Pacari Raw, gold medal winning chocolate that keeps a high level of antioxidants due to the low roasting temps.

Finally, what does appearing at The Chocolate Festival offer you? 

The opportunity to keep in contact with our followers in the UK. Now that we have moved to Spain is always great to come back to London for such a special festival.

Marc Demarquette of Demarquette Fine Chocolates demarquette.co.uk

How has the chocolate industry changed since you first started out?

Greatly with more adventurous and pioneering work, making the UK indisputably a world leader.

What do you aim to offer to stay ahead of the pack?

Simply put: quality, quality, quality

What would you say is the most ambitious thing you have created/done?

Starting the business! But in chocolate I’d say replicating the art of perfumery and applying the methods to floral extraction to chocolate. This entailed plucking 75,000 jasmine buds by hand to extract their extraordinary scent/flavour naturally to make two dozen chocolates – hard work, but out of this world!

Meet the master chocolatiers

Demarquette’s Tea & Coffee Collection

Will you be creating anything special for Christmas?

Every year we draw inspiration from the past to create new chocolate magic. This year we will have our festive ganache made with traditional 18 month mincemeat, and of course our brand new Festive Tea and Coffee Caramel.

Finally, what does appearing at The Chocolate Festival offer you?

A great opportunity to meet our customers and being part of their Christmas in our chocolate way.

Brian Watt from Sir Hans Sloane (sirhanssloane.com)

How has the chocolate industry changed since you first started out?

In the last ten years there has been an explosion in small companies coming onto the market in a variety of ways, from the high end chocolatiers to people launching into small sectors like jelly beans. This brings new ideas and keeps chocolate interesting for consumers. In Hans Sloane we saw an opportunity as the big companies were decreasing the amount of chocolate in drinking chocolate so our mission is ‘to put the taste of chocolate back into drinking chocolate’.

What do you aim to offer to stay ahead of the pack?

Hans Sloane was a chocolate pioneer when he introduced Milk Drinking Chocolate to London back in 1687. So in our own small way we try to be chocolate pioneers. Rather than a powder we offer chocolate lovers pure chocolate beads for their drinking chocolate which melts with hot water or hot milk. Also rather than just launch a cinnamon or gingerbread we looked around for a unique flavour and introduced a natural honey. Deb our chocolatier is a bee keeper and she keeps us updated on how the bees are behaving.

What would you say is the most ambitious thing you have created/done?

Last year we looked at our business and decided we had too wide a range of products and it was not clear what we were best at. So we tested all our products against competitors and decided that our drinking chocolate beads were unique and tasted much better than any other product on the market. So we invested in developing a range of products and buying in the chocolate and the packaging to make this happen. This costs a lot of money so we were betting the company on this being successful. Fortunately it has paid off and at The Chocolate Festival last year in the cold of Southbank we sampled and sold a lot of products, and then at Easter Chocolate Festival in Islington at the Business Design Centre we had a queue waiting to try our new rage.

Meet the master chocolatiers

Sir Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate

Will you be creating anything special for Christmas?

We are launching a range of single serve drinking chocolates, which are not a chocolate block with a spoon stuck in it. We have a taken our chocolate beads and handmade a chocolate Christmas Bauble and put the beads inside. So you can shake it and hear the beads then put it in your cup pour in hot water or milk watch it melt and enjoy. So far we have sold over 3,000 of these.

Finally, what does appearing at The Chocolate Festival offer you?

The chance to talk to consumers and let them try our products and give us feedback. Also for small chocolate companies it is a great chance to sell the range 12 days before Christmas directly to consumers with some special offers.

THE CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL RETURNS TO ISLINGTON

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