Willie the Chocolate King Comes Downunder

LifeStyle FOOD chats to TV star and chocolate producer Willie Harcourt-Cooze about his shows, cooking tips, inspiration and trip to Australia.

Chocoholic’s dreams are set to come true with international TV star and chocolate producer Willie Harcourt-Cooze visiting Australia this October!

London based Willie will join the team at Baroque Bistro and Patisserie for a series of once-in-a-lifetime chocolate experiences. Willie, dubbed an eccentric entrepreneur with a mission to educate the public in the delights of top quality chocolate, came to fame his documentary, ‘Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory’ as seen on LifeStyle FOOD.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Willie on the eve of his trip downunder.

1. We hear you're coming to visit us here in Australia. Welcome! Why are you coming out? Is it your first visit?

Thank you! I’m out here to attend the Crave Sydney International Food Festival and work with chefs Jean-Michel Raynaud and Peter Robertson from Baroque on creating some chocolate genius. This isn’t my first visit, when I was 18 I spent 6 months working on various sheep stations in Western Australia and loved it.

2. When and how did you first develop your passion for chocolate?

Whilst travelling in Venezuela in 1994 I fell in love with the farm, Hacienda El Tesoro, and it was there that I discovered cacao. After the farmer had shown me around the farm he made me hot chocolate in the small kitchen round the back of the hacienda. It tasted amazing. I realised that we had lost touch with the amazing flavours and properties of real chocolate. Not only is it a wonder drug, it’s a fantastic, versatile cooking ingredient, a powerful enricher of both sweet and savoury dishes and I had been missing out on it my whole life!

3. I understand you grew up on a small farm in Ireland – is this where you first became interested in cultivating your own produce?
Yes, we were relatively self sufficient, we grew wheat, we’d grind it in a mill driven by our tractor and then bake our own bread. We foraged for everything under the sun from mushrooms to mussels.

4. In the first series, your mission was to create chocolate from your cacao farm in Venezuela. Why Venezuela? How was the experience?
The first part of the question is answered above and the experience has been amazing. I got to fully explore the country, find all the different trades people that I needed and learn to do business in a foreign language. Luckily body language is international (!) and I’m an adventurer at heart and love exploring new places and meeting different people, it’s been a blast.

5. How has the chocolate been selling?

Really well. People have really taken to the idea of real chocolate. It’s been helpful being the UK’s only ‘bean to bar’ chocolate manufacturer as it sets us apart from the competition. Jean-Michel is creating a Willie macron using my chocolate which will be on sale at Baroque and La Renaissance both before and after the Crave Sydney International Food Festival.

6. And in this second series, you are trying to make the world’s finest and most pure chocolate. Why and how did you go about it?

Again, I wanted to spread the word of real chocolate – I figured the best way to do this is to produce it yourself! I researched the science behind making chocolate and sourced the appropriate small machines to produce it.

7. What is your favourite chocolate recipe?

Cloud Forest Cake – simple yet completely delicious - CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE!
(Thanks for providing the recipe for our LifeStyle FOOD fans Willie - yum!!)

8. Do you use chocolate in both sweet and savoury dishes?

Absolutely, it’s the ultimate flavour enhancer, imagine a world without salt! Australians can get a taste of my chocolate philosophy for themselves at the two ‘Golden Ticket’ dinners I am doing with Baroque Bistro in October. I am working with Jean-Michel and Peter to create a degustation showing the scope of my cacao in across dishes sweet to savoury!

9. What are your top tips for our viewers when it comes to cooking with chocolate?

If you want to melt chocolate never do so directly, always in a bain marie. And remember, the best ingredients with finest flavour equal success!

10. Describe your ultimate meal.

Freshly char-grilled squid with chilli and cacao on the beach!

11.What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Make sure you’ve got all your boxes ticked . So if you’re opening a restaurant, you know you can get it built, you know you have the chef but you have to remember that you’ll need to fill it every day – over 50% restaurants in the UK fold in the first year. It sounds obvious but it’s easy to miss something that could prove crucial later on.

12. Who or what inspries you?

I admire Willie Wonka for all his wild and wacky chocolates and his passion for all things chocolatey. Also my great friend Marco Pierre White!

13.What plans do you have next?

I’ve just developed the Fruitful Range: Cuban beans with honey flavour notes from Baroncoa combined with organic essence of Cuban orange....Peruvian beans from Chulucanas with hazelnuts and raisins; Sierra Leone beans with ginger and lime – I discovered these beautiful beans in Kailahun and together they deliver a delicious tangy flavour.

Want to see Willie in action? Exclusive events include:

• Willie’s Wonky ‘Golden Ticket’ Dinners

Hosted by Willie himself, these dinners present the ultimate chocolate experience - a degustation dinner to showcase a 5-course savoury to sweet menu. Each course on the menu uses Willie's signature cacao products and will dispel the myth that chocolate is purely a 'confectionery' product.

• Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Masterclass

Willie will talk and taste guests through a variety of recipes showing how chocolate can be used in dishes both savoury and sweet plus Baroque’s chefs will be in the kitchen whipping up samples of these dishes for lucky guests to enjoy. Guests of this afternoon will also be treated to an up close and personal time with the eccentric chocolatier himself.

• Book signing with Willie Harcourt Cooze

Straight after the chocolate masterclass at 3.00pm on Monday, October 3rd, Baroque Bistro will host a book signing hour with Willie. This presents attendees with an opportunity to purchase Willie’s books - Willie’s Chocolate Factory Cook Book and Willie’s Chocolate Bible – and to meet the man behind the chocolate on the flesh!

• Willie’s Wonky Chocolate macaron

Baroque’s award-winning pastry chef Jean-Michel Raynaud has created a bespoke chocolate macaron made using Willie’s premium quality chocolate product (see photo above!). Available at Baroque for the month of October for just $2.50/each, do not miss out on this opportunity to try this limited edition macaron.

For all bookings, please go to: www.baroquebistro.com.au/williescacao/

Willie will also be talking and demonstrating his chocolate dishes at the World Chef Showcase, part of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival, on October 1 and 2 at Hilton Sydney.
Go to www.cravesydney.com/worldchefshowcase for tickets and more details.

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