A Chocolate Kitchen Mystery

On Wednesday, March 18, Royal Food Historian Marc Meltonville presented a fascinating lecture, The Rediscovery of a Royal Chocolate Kitchen, at the Hennage auditorium.

Royal Food Historian Marc Meltonville

Royal Food Historian Marc Meltonville

Marc said the occasionally during his 20-year stint as chief food historian for all of the Royal Palaces, employees would stop him and say: “You know there is a chocolate kitchen.” When he asked where it was, they would answer:  “Over there somewhere,” waving their hand toward a corner of the William and Mary addition to Hampton Court Palace.

An intern named Polly eventually solved the mystery by going through old records. She found a list of rooms around the courtyard, all numbered — and one of them was the chocolate kitchen.

Found at last, the room was being used as a closet for floral arrangements.

Once the room was cleared, it was found to be almost completely intact, with the original fireplace, drop-down table, grate and shelving in place. But after refurbishment, it seemed that using the original room for making chocolate might do more harm than good, so a second room was — directly next to the original kitchen — was furnished to mirror the original.

The plan: Use the new, reconstructed kitchen as a working environment for public  chocolate demonstrations. The original chocolate kitchen would become a presentation space.

Marc_Meltonville1Using fragments of pottery found during an excavation, as well as extent pots and glassware, Marc was able to outfit both rooms with period-correct chocolate cups, pots, utensils, bottles and sterling silver mancerias. A matate, for grinding and making the chocolate, was also located.

He did encounter one serious problem: The Royal Palaces would not allow a fire of any kind. So a reproduction stew stove was created where electric burners could be hidden, which would not cause any kind of fire hazard. The unit was even made on wheels so it could be transported to do off-site chocolate programs.

The original kitchen, though, seems too static. To solve this, they made a movie. Two of the foodways staff, dressed in period Georgian clothing, were filmed making chocolate and the video was projected into the room so visitors  could “see” the King’s chocolate being made.

The kitchen was built for George I and was also used by George II, but was out of fashion by George III.

Thomas Tozier was the man who provided George I with a steaming hot pot of hot chocolate for his breakfast each morning. For this devastatingly hard job, Tozier received a salary, clothing allowance and his own room at Hampton Court, behind the kitchen — not to mention direct access to the ear of the King. He and his wife also operated a very successful chocolate house in London, which they could advertise and promote using their illustrious link to the Royal Household.

Kimberly Costa, Historic Foodways Apprentice

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One Response to “A Chocolate Kitchen Mystery”

  1. June 30th, 2016

    Kristin Munson says:

    How does a chocolate making kitchen go out of fashion? What was George III thinking?

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