Connor Friesen of Co&Co Chocolates talks about the art of making chocolate, the differences between alchemy and storytelling, and his current inspiration - the Hindenberg.
As one of the city's new generation of food entrepreneurs, Connor Friesen is enthusiastic about London – its passion for food, the diversity of its producers, and its thriving market culture.
A self-taught chocolatier with a stall at Maltby Market, his passion for chocolate started three years ago prompted by the need to create an inspirational yet personalised thank you gift. A box of marc du champagne truffles, a residency at food incubator Kitchenette, and a desire to learn the secrets of chocolate, have resulted in a journey as much a kin to storytelling as a gastronomic one.
Describing the food philosophy behind Co&Co, he explains, “I am creating chocolates about stories rather than my wizardry or alchemy. I’m more of a storyteller – taste is so associative whether that be the power of a place or a memory. ” So, whether it be a truffle inspired by a childhood cake or a bespoke gift box containing leather textured chocolate shards - the initial taste, the smell, the lingering flavour, the memories evoked, are as unique as the person eating it.
With a range including the most simplest but luxurious of dark chocolate ganaches through to botanical flavours such as bergamot it is easy to understand such storytelling. Perhaps this ability of chocolate to conjure the imagination comes from his own enthusiasm for this experimental medium. As Connor says, “You have the soft flexibility of the ganache, the structure of the tempered chocolate, of angles, edges and breaks and crystallisation. There’s so much happening chemically that is so interesting to grasp and to play with in an artistic way.”
From the Co&Co range, popular flavours include oak-smoked sea salt caramel, cinnamon toast crunch (truffle underneath a chocolate lace with muscovado sugar and cinnamon), as a well as a chocolate truffle based on Wacky Wacky cake from Connor’s childhood.
Most recent additions include all things fire and smoke, including a white chocolate ganache based on Lapsang Souchong. Next up will be chocolates inspired by disasters like the Hindenberg.
I’M CURRENTLY READING
I’m currently reading Ideas in Food by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot. When you become acquainted with food at that level (proteins and molecular structures), it becomes easier to improvise. I’m an avid reader.
UK FOOD HEROS
I really do admire Paul A Young as he is so singularly dedicated to taking people on a flavour journey. I am also really inspired by the other entrepreneurs l met at Kitchenette, whom are tireless and dedicated to the food that they are making and the businesses they are building.
MY LONDON LARDER
I’ve just discovered a paste made from rare Mexican chillies – it's a little bit sweet, smoky and the heat comes late. It comes from Luchitos at Maltby Street @luchito_mexico. Next week I’m going to make a new line of chocolate based on disasters. I’m going to use the paste in this fiery meringue number called the Hindenberg.
MY FAVOURITE CHOCOLATE
I am really pleased with my whisky and honey chocolate as it tastes like a hot tottie without the lemon. I didn’t realise that I would be so comforted by it. I normally like my alcoholic chocolates to be quite loud and shocking.
BEST FOOD MARKET IN LONDON
Maltby Street but also Billingsgate Market with everyone yelling, “mind your legs, mind your legs”. It’s so lively. As a foreigner I’ve found going to places like Smithfields and Billingsgate have really helped me understand London. England is a nation of shopkeepers and there’s a real market mentality, especially in terms of how the streets are laid out in London, and how people are drawn to the High Street.
LONDON FOOD SECRET
Go to the Hangover Club (@TheHangoverClub ) around the corner from Maltby Street for the bacon and egg cocktail.
LONDON AS A FOOD CITY
From street level there are few barriers to entry for food entrepreneurs, so you really can just start-up and go into a market. You can be very experimental at a very small scale. That makes for a very lively street food scene. There are people with real lived experience and a real passion for the food that they are making.
You can find Co&Co at its regular spot in Lassco at Maltby Street market. You can also read more about its bespoke chocolate service at http://www.coandcochocolates.bigcartel.com/ and follow him on @coandcoLdn.
For information about Kitchenette, go to http://www.wearekitchenette.com