Meet the Maker: Masters of Chocolate

When Chococo launched its Winchester chocolate house, owners Claire and Andy
Burnet ran a customer competition to geti deas for a Hampshire-themed chocolate to celebrate the opening.

Meet the Maker: Masters of Chocolate

When Chococo launched its Winchester chocolate house, owners Claire and Andy Burnet ran a customer competition to get ideas for a Hampshire-themed chocolate to celebrate the opening. 'One idea was to incorporate Winchester's Twisted Nose Gin, which uses watercress as one of its botanicals,' says Claire. 'The result was our Totally Twisted Nose Gin chocolate which to date is one of our best-selling chocolates and also won a Gold Academy of Chocolate Award in 2015.'
Never afraid to experiment with unusual flavour pairings, Claire and Andy love to work with local suppliers to create unique
recipes for their three chocolate houses in Swanage, Winchester and Exeter. 'Our cream comes from Trevor Craig's family-run dairy farm near Weymouth, and it's wonderfully rich, thick and yellow. We also use local jams handmade by Rebecca's Kitchen, Dorset's Blue Vinny cheese and Black Cow Vodka, Devonshire Tea's Earl Grey, and most recently Salcombe Gin from Devon.'
When Claire and Andy gave up their jobs to set up Chococo in 2002, it was a bit of a gamble, as artisan chocolate-making hadn't become fashionable in the UK yet. 'It was initially the frustration at the lack of good quality fresh chocolates that led us to start the business,' says Claire. 'Given my experience of visiting French and Belgian chocolatiers making their chocolates fresh on their premises, I was amazed there was nothing like this in the UK. The philosophy when we started the business is the same as today – to make truly fresh chocolates using only the finest single origin chocolate, pure cocoa butter and fresh, local ingredients wherever possible, with no palm oil, additives or preservatives – and we were the first UK-based chocolatiers to do this. Working with local producers is in the DNA of our brand, its not something we've come to recently because it's now trendy.'
After starting in tiny premises in a back street of Swanage, where people could watch the couple make chocolates by hand, Chococo now employs 50 people and is about to launch a fourth chocolate house in Horsham, West Sussex. Claire says Easter has become an increasingly busy time of year for the business, and their beautiful, colourful eggs, many of which have quirky surprises such as unicorns and seahorses inside, are proving popular. 'We have fabulous new decorative finishes for our eggs this year, which are all made with natural dairy-free colours which means that for first time even our vegan eggs can have some colour!'
• Visit the Chococo chocolate houses or buy online at www.chococo.co.uk.

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