World Chefs: Chocolatier Harcourt-Cooze champions 'bean to bar'

Tue Mar 31, 2015 1:02am EDT
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By Matilda Egere-Cooper

LONDON (Reuters) - It’s been more than 10 years since British-born chocolatier Willie Harcourt-Cooze bought a cocoa farm in Venezuela with the hopes of making the world’s finest ‘bean-to bar’ chocolate.

He believes cacao beans - which once cleaned and roasted are known as cocoa beans - should be sourced directly from farmers and contain only natural ingredients; and it’s a philosophy which has seen his chocolates sell in more than 25 countries worldwide.

The 50-year-old spoke to Reuters about his recent collaboration with the high-end La Patisserie Des Reves and his desire to change the way people think about chocolate.

Q: You’ve contributed to a new range of white chocolate bars inspired by chocolatiers' childhoods. What was your childhood like?

A: When I grew up in southern Ireland, we were foragers. We foraged for mussels, we grew our own wheat and barley and oats. We made our own goat’s cheese and all those things that are very difficult to find. So the way I managed to do it with chocolate, I skipped all the middle men everywhere and I buy directly from the cacao farm, anywhere around the world and I source the ingredients. I wanted to make what I liked when I was a kid.

Q: What continues to be a misconception about chocolate?

A: There’s a lot of romance in chocolate – I think it’s not clear who’s really making it from the bean to the bar. That’s one thing. Most companies aren’t. There’s also the misconception that it’s bad for you. But chocolate saved me. Apart from all the healthy vitamins and things, it actually makes you feel good. I also think people just see chocolate as a sweet confectionery. I religiously have a hot chocolate in the morning made with water not milk. Milk neutralizes all of the anti-oxidants.

Q: How do chocolatiers get their ideas for creating unusual ingredient combinations?   Continued...