We first met Richard when he came to make a video in our chocolate kitchen, and some months later he became our Managing Director. From film to MD of a chocolate company?
‘Yes, he has an eccentric career background that’s actually ideal for us’, says Chantal Coady, Rococo’s founder. ‘It means he’s got a huge range of experience. He’s an interesting person, very practical and a safe pair of hands for the company.’
Our MD before Richard arrived was James, who is still involved with the company as Chairman but is slowly winding down his day-to day duties and plans to continue with the acupuncture clinic that has taken a back seat for many years. James has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the company so Richard has some fairly sizeable chocolate boots to fill, but he’s proving himself up to the challenge.
Richard is due to become a father very soon, so I decide to catch up with him for a chat before life becomes even busier.
Did you know about Rococo before you came to visit?
‘Yes, I discovered Rococo in the early 1990s, and I started buying them as stocking fillers, Valentine’s gifts, birthday presents, everything. People were completely won over by them; they look so impressive and the chocolates are amazing. It’s great to be able to go somewhere for a present and know it’ll be brilliant and the person will love it, so Rococo became my go-to gift shop.’
Why did you decide to work here?
‘I love the ethos and the company culture. It’s a lovely company with great potential, and the fact that I have a background in food and business is really helpful.’
Did the lure of fresh salted caramel ganaches have anything to do with it?
‘Well, maybe. Just a little…’
What are your plans for Rococo?
‘At the moment we’re focusing on consolidating and making sure we’re doing everything as well as we possibly can so that we’re in a good position to grow smoothly.’
We hear you’ve had quite a varied career background.
‘You could say that. I’ve been, among other things, a restauranteur in Bulgaria, a business development manager in the Balkans, Equerry to the Prince of Wales and of course a filmmaker.’
So you’re all-round international man of mystery?
‘I think you’ll find that’s steely-eyed international man of mystery.’
Well, of course. Which languages do you speak?
‘Bulgarian, French and Czech.’
You’ve been to visit our farm in Grenada, how was that?
‘Absolutely fascinating. I’d never been on a cocoa farm before or had the chance to see the whole process, and because the Grenada Chocolate Company (they make the chocolate from our beans, and as well as our single-plantation bar we use some of their chocolate in our house blend) actually make the chocolate right there I got to see the whole process from how the trees are grown all the way through to the finished bar. And it’s a beautiful place.’
You’ve obviously settled in London for a while, and I understand you’re one of the team who cycles to work?
Yes, it’s a really easy commute. My brother’s into cycling and he gave me a Brompton. Really small wheels; I look quite silly on it. It’s a fantastic bike though, very well-made.
Yes, I can see that might look odd, you’re quite tall. How tall are you?
‘6ft 4, but at least 6ft 5 with the hair.’
And do you have a nickname?
‘No, not really. No, wait, I used to be known as Pop Larkin a long time ago.’
I’m not quite sure what to say to that. Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t know.
Richard looks blank at this point, and Chantal chimes in. ‘He can’t resist a pun. He makes puns all the time, especially army-based ones.’
And do your talents extend to cooking?
‘Yes, I’m pretty decent in the kitchen, actually.’
What’s your signature dish?
‘Roast lamb. And I make an almond chocolate cake from one of Chantal’s books that’s never failed to impress.’
Do you have a favourite pub?
‘There’s a few, I like traditional boozers. One that’s really underrated and people might not know about is The Bear in Camberwell. Great pub. You should go.’
And where do you like to shop?
‘I really don’t have time to shop properly so I get most of what I need from our local mini Waitrose, and of course everyone gets chocolate as gifts now. I suspect that the John Lewis kids’ department will feature heavily in my future though.’
On that note we’ll leave you to go and try to get in as much sleep as possible before the baby arrives. Good luck!