Inside Hotel Chocolat

Hotel Chocolat
Photo by Edward Hands.

You can argue that this behind-the-scenes documentary is just one big advert for Britain’s largest independent chocolate maker. If it is, this first of two episodes seems to work.

Most of the action follows Hotel Chocolat’s CEO and co-founder Angus Thirlwell, as he works in the company’s main factory in Huntingdon, makes personal inspections at various branches across the country, and visits the firm’s cocoa plantation on St. Lucia.

It is the latter of these that provided the most entertainment, because the programme reveals that Hotel Chocolat really does have its own hotel, where the restaurant dishes all include cocoa in some way. In the programme the main chef created four dishes for Thirlwell to sample, including chicken on a white chocolate mash. However, the most entertaining moments came when the chef was in a panic. As well as losing his mobile phone which meant he couldn’t take pictures of the meals for future reference, there is the obvious problem that arises when working with chocolate in a hot kitchen in a Caribbean island.

There is also plenty of dealings with the ordinary staff, with one of the main plots of the programme being the opening of Hotel Chocolat’s 101st branch, located in Sunderland. This means a big deal as Thirlwell comes from nearby Seaham and the other co-founder, Peter Harris, also comes from the area. It was nice to see the opening of the shop and doing so successfully, although there is part of me that is thinking: “If both founders are Mackems, how come they opened a branch in Newcastle before they opened one in Sunderland?”

Let’s be honest, there was no way this documentary was going to put the company in a bad light. It was always going to make Hotel Chocolat appealing and does so very well. For what it is, it was a fine programme, and the fact that Thornton’s happened to shut down their outlet in my hometown of Stockton last year has got nothing whatsoever to do with this positive review of a rival company (and if you believe that, you’ll believe anything).

Inside Hotel Chocolat is on Sundays at 20.00 on Channel 5.