Late last summer, I noticed an unusual amount of to-ing and fro-ing with cool media types at the Motcomb Street branch. Chantal was incredibly secretive about what was going on, and it turns out that before even starting work on the Very Important Project she’d signed a confidentiality agreement so strict that she couldn’t mention it to Big Cheese (the MD).
Was she about to come over all James Bond on us and start abseiling into the kitchen through the window in the shopfloor? What could possibly require that level of secrecy?
Two words: The Apprentice.
It’s incredible the amount of work that went on behind the scenes of Sunday’s final. Chantal worked with the production team right from the start as an unpaid consultant. When the team arrived at Motcomb, they thought it would be an easy task to set up and do, and that they could use the basement kitchen. Unfortunately we’re really too small for that amount of people and with a large glass wall all along one side, there wasn’t much we’d be able to do to keep the teams properly separated.
We spoke to them about other chocolatiers though, and they took one team to Paul A Young and the other to see Gerard Coleman at L’Artisan du Chocolat, both fantastic chocolatiers. Chantal continued to beaver away with the team, introducing them to to the chocolate-making process and helping with the market research needed to formulate the task, practical advice and lists of chocolate-type people. Naturally I was very useful at this point, erm, keeping a lookout for spies.
On the first day of the task, Yasmina’s Cocoa Electric team came to Motcomb Street for more information and a focus group. It might seem like a cliche to assume that women eat ALL THE CHOCOLATE and we don’t aim our chocolate at women particularly, but we do find it rarer for men to have quite the passion for chocolate that many women do.
(Dusted scorched almonds, of course, are another matter entirely, and we wouldn’t be surprised if they have been responsible for marital disputes.)
It was great to see both the contestants and Siralan using Rococo as a benchmark product, Siralan saying, ‘Those chocolates that you referred to at £16… have earned their position. They have earned their position because of the reputation of those chocolates’ (this was about the selection box that Waitrose sells).
Chantal and Big Cheese were invited to the premiere to see the presentations and taste the final product. ‘Very, very glitzy’, she said when she came back. I had to watch it on Sunday like most mere mortals, and thought that you have to sort of love anything that involves crazy dancing and that song. ‘Danger! Danger! High Voltage!’ has been going round my head ever since and I’ve started doing death-defying leaps between the chocolate and cafe counters in Motcomb.
Yasmina’s winning team in particular approached the task from a purely commercial persepective rather than with the dedication to real chocolate which drives all of the industry’s top chocolatiers, which we found sad because all of the things we love most (and like to buy ourselves) come from a real passion for chocolate and giving people a fabulous all-round experience, not just from getting the marketing right. You could see from the reactions on the show what a big difference choosing good-quality ingredients makes, and even the best chocolatier can’t make a luxury product if they are spending only pennies on each one.
They achieved an incredible amount in such a small space of time though, and we are excited to see what both contestents get up to next – might we suggest a couple of days off with wine and chocolate first?