'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."

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Sport
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
i100
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
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

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam