Choccywoccydoodah’s London store is a huge, three story heaven for anyone with a sweet tooth. I’m here to meet the brains behind the unique chocolate and cake empire Christine Taylor and her right hand man Daveed. I find them at the top of two flights of stairs in a ‘secret garden’ complete with grass and a garden swing, as well as a banqueting table weighed down with treats.
Christine, the company’s co-founder and creative director, is as commanding and flamboyant as the room she’s sat in. I ask her to explain the magic that goes on in her three stores for Britain’s Choccy virgins. “Choccywoccydoodah is about people,” she says. “People within the company and the people we create for. Then obviously it’s about the cake and the chocolate, which is what we do: make delicious things to eat, beautifully.”
And there is pretty much nothing the Choccy team can’t turn their hands to – the shop showcases cakes piled so high it seems improbable that they are still standing and animals, people, even flowers so delicately crafted you can’t believe they are made out of chocolate. The brand’s unashamedly over-the-top style can be summed up in three words, says Christine: “decadent, irreverent and baroque.”
The shop itself, which is piled to the rafters with sweet treats, can be found just off Carnaby Street in the heart of Soho because, as Christine says: “Soho is still naughty so it’s precisely where we belong.”
Flitting between the flagship London store and Choccy’s original base in Brighton, the staff find themselves permanently surrounded by chocolate. So much so, you’d think they might fall out of love with the stuff, but apparently that’s not the case… “I think working with chocolate day-in day-out is almost too good to be true, even 18 years down the line,” says Christine. While Daveed proclaims, “I like chocolate, end of. Any shape, form, flavour. I’ve got a very sweet tooth and not a day goes by where I don’t eat chocolate.”
“We don’t binge on it!” he laughs. “Though there are days…”
Choccywoocydoodah’s fourth TV series, Choccywoccydoodah: Starstuck, starts this Sunday on Good Food and sees the team race to complete extravagant celebrity commissions from the likes of Whoopi Goldberg and Jackie Collins. Faced with iconic Hollywood stars, did they ever find themselves actually star struck?
“Meeting amazing people was not so much nerve racking as awe inspiring,” says Christine. “Plus everybody in the world loves chocolate and cake and that puts famous people exactly on the same level as us. They are like excited children in this environment, and that’s a joyful thing to be part of.”
Choccy may have created dream cakes for plenty of famous faces, but there are still celebrities on her wish list says Christine, namely Snoop Dogg, Vivian Westwood and Helena Bonham Carter.
But if they are interested, these stylish stars should take note that they may not get their own way… “We’re quite selfish in a way, because everything we do we primarily do for ourselves. If we’re not getting the joy from it, we don’t want to do it,” admits Christine. While Daveed reasons: “If it doesn’t flow in a beautiful kind of way we’ll try and sway the customer towards something better!”
In a series full of high stress ‘will they make it’ moments, Christine names the first episode as her most nerve-racking.
Episode one sees the team head off to New York to create an epic cake for Whoopi Goldberg. “We were working in kitchens in Spanish Harlem and – even though we were speaking the same language – nobody could understand what we said because of our funny accents!” says Christine. “We couldn’t find the ingredients we needed and we couldn’t get used to the ingredients we had. It was a surreal week…”
“We really didn’t think we’d pull it off and we had actually made an other plan, just in case,” she continues. “We were going to make a straightforward raspberry cake, dip Dave in chocolate and put a souvenir crown on his head and send the two!”
Those stressful situations can’t be helped by having a camera in your way, I say. “I don’t think the camera makes anything less or more likely,” says Christine. “We are a company of show offs – an emotional and vocal bunch of people – and the camera is just there to capture it.”
“When we were approached to do the first series it was with a certain amount of concern and trepidation that we would be portrayed in a way that we didn’t recognise,” continues Christine. “But actually the programme portrays us as we are. Partly because the crew got so immersed in the company that they became part of who we are.”
While fans of The Great British Bake Off will undoubtedly love the flamboyant and ambitious cake making on display, Choccy viewers should be under no illusion that they are expected to try this at home.
“Don’t be bloody baking for yourself, buy your cakes from me!” says Christine. “Just accept the show for what it is – the joy and beauty of what clever people can do. We are not preachy. It’s only cake and chocolate. But we are quite good at it!”
That said, Choccy does inspire people. “We’ve had a huge surge in people wanting to come and work for us,” says Daveed.
“Working at Choccy is a rollercoaster,” concludes Christine. “No one knows what our next move might be. The programme has just added to our list of adventures and series four is by far and away the most adventurous, the most taxing. It’s the biggest television that we could envisage making.”