For Willie Harcourt-Cooze, chocolate is a lifetime passion. Having spent 11 years growing cacao on his Venezuelan plantation he’s back in Britain and he’s determined to get us cooking with chocolate

Willie Harcourt-Cooze is on a mission to be the first chocolate producer to grow and make 100 per cent cacao from bean to bar. From his work on the Venezuelan plantation to his humble Devonshire factory Willie is determined to elevate chocolate from delicious dessert to an essential cooking ingredient. Hannah Williams caught up with the chocolate crusader to find out just what’s fuelling this cacao passion

So you’ve finished filming your tv series. How has it all gone?

We launched at Selfridges last week and I think we sold something like £700 worth of our products. I made three different types of truffles and people were walking out with all three. They all totally got the concept.

You’re obviously a very accomplished cook. Where does that come from? Is it something you learnt from your family?

My sister is also a really good cook. I guess we both got it from Southern Ireland where we grew up when we were young. We went to live in Ireland when I was two and lived on a small farm.

We were the original brown bread nutters in the 60s. My earliest memory is being in Streatham in a health food shop above a railway line. I remember it because I must have been scared when the trains rattled by underneath.

In Ireland we grew everything; wheat, grain. I remember catching amazing fish and milling grain on the back of the tractor. We had bees for honey. It taught me the value of everything.

Then I travelled around a lot in my early twenties, in South America and later in Asia and I always found myself in the kitchen, if I’d been out catching fish or something. You end up picking up little titbits; how to make curry paste in Thailand, or how to cook guinea pigs in Peru. It’s always been something I’ve just picked up.

Restaurant food was not as great 20 years ago as it is now so I didn’t eat out much. And when I was a student, not having much money, and cooking for friends, someone had to do the cooking and it always happened to be me.

Sadly the farm in Ireland was sold and I guess I’ve always been looking for a new Ireland with the same abundance that there was then. I suppose I’ve been trying to follow in my father’s footsteps.

So where does the chocolate come in? Do you remember where the obsession was first sparked?

Cacao is great because you can use it so many different dishes. I started experimenting and it just mushroomed. Cooking with chocolate is not necessarily new, they use it in Mexico and the Aztec countries but it’s not a very common cookery ingredient in this country.

If you’re interested in cooking using chocolate is very exciting. It’s like someone coming out and saying ‘this is salt’ for the first time. I would liken it to that.

How does your chocolate differ to what we’re used to with standard chocolate?

It’s a lot more full bodied than normal chocolate. It has a real lingering flavour.

Chocolate is often placed in the ‘naughty but nice’ box. Is eating it with such frequency good for you?

Chocolate should be in the ‘nice’ box. The misconception about chocolate being bad for you is because of the sugar. Some chocolate spreads are 40 per cent sugar. The great thing about what I’m doing is, with my chocolate, you won’t have that high sugar content. Chocolate can be good for you.

I’m not a doctor but I’ve read a lot about chocolate. They say chocolate that hasn’t been processed is full of anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals. If that’s true, my chocolate has got to be the healthiest chocolate in the world.

The program mentions that you’ve had some orders from top chefs, can we hear anymore about that?

Well I’ve been selling it to Marco (Pierre-White) for months. I know Neil, the head chef at the Yew Tree (Marco Pierre-White’s restaurant) has been using it. I think they’ve been making a chocolate jus.

And the reaction from people at the launch who previously knew nothing about it was brilliant.

In the future I might make money from it. If I commercialise it. But I’m not doing this to become a millionaire. It’s a passion.