'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
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
News
Rainbow List
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVMost of the performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker