A mouthwatering new show lifts the lid on posh confectioner Hotel Chocolat
Brits eat more chocolate than the rest of Europe – and that level is probably about to skyrocket. Inside Hotel Chocolat, a new twopart Channel 5 documentary, is confectionery heaven – and it will threaten the most carefully controlled post-festive diet.
The series goes behind the scenes to reveal the secrets of Hotel Chocolat, which makes 5 million chocolates every week at its factory in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, with annual sales of over £100 million. In the fly-on-the-wall show, Hotel Chocolat’s charismatic co-founder and CEO Angus Thirlwell tours the country, visiting some of his 103 shops and cafes. ‘I always look out for crimes against good retailing,’ grins Angus, who’s slim for someone who appears to spend a lot of time taste-testing chocolate.
In the UK, we see him in the Development Kitchen, trying out new recipes. Will chocolatier Kiri’s Lady Marmalade, a confection containing lemon-flavoured gin and Cointreau, be one of their ten new products launched every month? When Kiri presents Lady Marmalade to her bosses, they each have a red and green card – she needs a unanimous sea of green cards to pass.
On the Caribbean island of St Lucia, Angus is on the taste trail sampling new dishes for The Boucan Hotel, the company’s boutique hideaway which forms part of the 140-acre Rabot Estate, Hotel Chocolat’s cocoa bean plantation. Rooms at this adults-only hotel can be yours for a mere £400-plus a night.
The pressure is on for executive chef David Demaison. He needs the thumbs-up from Angus and the managers before his new dishes are put on the menu.
Sadly, David mislays his phone as he’s about to take pictures of the dishes so the hotel staff will know how to present them once David is in the UK. Some of his dishes, including chicken served on a white chocolate mash and marinated in local rum, go down a storm. But a lamb dish with a cocoa-infused sauce doesn’t find favour with Angus – he found it too rich to leave room for dessert!
Inside Hotel Chocolat is an unashamed celebration of a British success story. Starting out with a loan of £10,000 in 1993, which was used to sell chocolates online, Angus and co-founder Peter Harris opened their first store in Watford in 2004. This week’s opening episode sees the launch of the 101st store, in Sunderland, an event of great personal significance for the company’s founders as they both have family connections to the area.
‘I’m proud to have a store here,’ says Angus, who attends the opening. ‘And success is about engaging with the public. People looking closely at the products are engaged customers.’
Now make a beeline for that stash of Christmas chocolate you’ve got hidden away! Chocolate Dreams: Inside Hotel Chocolat, tomorrow, 8pm, Ch 5.
The Boucan Hotel in St Lucia and (below) Angus Thirlwell