Chocolatier Willie Harcourt-Cooze’s Sweet Escape
Willie Harcourt-Cooze followed his craving for adventure to a cacao farm in Venezuela, where he fell in love with all things chocolate (Hello! Canada)
Life is meant to be an adventure. That’s what the guru of all things chocolate, Willie Harcourt-Cooze, 46, learned from his quirky childhood in southern Ireland. At the age of four, his schoolteacher father bought an island and moved the family into an old farmhouse on the mainland nearby. Every day, his parents and four sisters would travel 30 minutes by boat to the island, where they raised cattle, harvested their own oats and produced cheese. At the time, Willie’s “brown rice, brown bread” parents were considered an oddity. But their unconventional lifestyle taught Willie valuable skills that he later put to good use in the rainforests of South America.
Today, Willie is the father of three children, and the owner of a 1,000-acre cacao fruit farm in Venezuela and a chocolate factory in England. His dream is to create pure cacao bean chocolate, taking the decadent treat back to its nutritious origins. And Willie’s dream has led his family on their own eccentric journey, one that’s been documented by a British reality TV series, Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory.
In Willie’s Chocolate Factory Cookbook, he shares this story and offers a series of recipes that push the boundaries of chocolate’s use in cooking. “Cacao is the ultimate condiment,” he tells Hello! Canada. “I liken it to salt, chili or garlic. It enhances and enriches flavours. I like experimenting with it in food.”
Willie has been creative in the kitchen since he was a little boy. “When I was little, my parents gave me a winemaking book, and in a few days I was producing elderflower champagne for the dinner table,” recalls Willie.
And he’s always had a self-sufficient streak. Indeed, he learned how to reel in trout before learning how to ride a bike. When mackerel were plentiful, everyone would have a fish for dinner – even the family dogs. “They were very healthy dogs,” recalls Willie with a hearty laugh. The island life was a rich one, but it was also filled with much hardship. The winters were cold, and the work gruelling. In time, the family felt overextended and Willie’s father ultimately sold the island.
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