'Willy Wonka' resigns after his meltdown at the chocolate counter

In the competitive world of high-end chocolate products, few men enjoyed the stellar reputation of Barry Colenso, Thorntons' master chocolatier.

A former chief patissier at the Savoy Hotel, Mr Colenso had designed cakes for the Queen and Prince Charles. He took his position at Thorntons 20 years ago, and this year became the man behind the world's first chocolate billboard when it was unveiled in Covent Garden last Easter. It was a publicity coup that further cemented his reputation as the "Willy Wonka" of the British chocolate industry.

So when staff from a rival company witnessed Mr Colenso performing a wanton act of sabotage on a collection of their best truffles, they could scarcely believe what they saw. The master chocolatier was caught on CCTV ruining chocolates worth £63.50 at the Hotel Chocolat store in Nottingham. Staff said he was observed "handling truffles in a suspicious manner".

A quick check after he had left revealed a trail of destruction across the glass unit of the display counter as truffle after truffle had been mercilessly squashed under thumb. "This was an extraordinary act of truffle-squishing. We can only guess at what provoked it," said a Hotel Chocolat spokesman: "The staff observed Mr Colenso handling a number of truffles in a way that made them suspicious. When we checked the truffles, they had been squashed and damaged."

Mr Colenso has now been forced to resign in disgrace. A Thorntons spokesman confirmed: "Mr Barry Colenso has resigned. We will not be commenting any further on this matter."

In what must have been a humiliating exchange, Thorntons were forced to admit to their arch rival's that Mr Colenso had indeed "handled the truffles".

Thorntons, launched in 1911 by Joseph Thornton in Sheffield, has remained almost unchallenged as specialist high street chocolatiers with more than 500 stores across the UK.

But Hotel Chocolat is seen by many as a possible pretender to Thorntons' crown as the ubiquitous chocolate shop. The firm launched 14 years ago as a catalogue service and opened its first store in 2004. It now has 23 stores, and is growing apace with four more set to open in the coming months. Peter Thornton, former chairman of Thorntons and grandson of the founder, said: "Obviously this man must have been under a tremendous amount of pressure to do something like this, quite extraordinary behaviour.

"I believe Hotel Chocolat does represent the first real challenge to the company. Thorntons have allowed them to come into a position in the market where they should have been: the aspirational, lifestyle area. Thorntons has become more of a chocolate shop over a chocolate specialist these days. It's disappointing."

Mr Colenso's chocolate billboard attracted national headlines as children across the capital helped devour the 390kg (860lb) of chocolate bunnies and eggs in less than five hours with the proud creator giving interviews to the assembled press.

Mr Colenso, a father of three, who lives in a luxury home in Belper, Derbyshire, said recently: "My job is to turn the dreams of myself and my colleagues into a chocolate."

Mark Demarquette, chocolatier and owner of the Demarquette chocolate shop in Chelsea, west London, said top chocolatiers were under the same types of pressure as Michelin-starred chefs. "Mr Colenso's behaviour is very surprising, something you'd really expect from the continent. Thorntons went through a trough recently and Hotel Chocolat stepped in. But things are looking better for Thorntons again.

"But no one likes competition when you've got a monopoly. It means you've suddenly got to pick up your game. The pressure is constantly on you to deliver as a chocolatier and when you are making massive batches like Thorntons, you can end up having to throw away tonnes of chocolate if you get it wrong.

"I imagine Mr Colenso was getting it from all sides, including the board of directors," he added. "I'm sorry to report that the life of a chocolatier is not a bit like Willy Wonka's. Sometimes I wish it was. It would great fun."

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on