Michael Freeland, Cococo

From left: Ken Freeland, Derrick Pho, Brian Beck and Michael Freeland.

Michael and Ken Freeland and CEO Brian Beck head the group that brought Bernard Chocolaterie out of receivership last year. During the process came the notion to refresh the entire idea of what a chocolate shop could be.

The result is Cococo, bright and airy, with lots of chocolates and truffles for purchase, but also great coffee, pastry, dessert, and gelato to enjoy. A key ingredient to the mix was maître chocolatier Derrick Tu Tan Pho, an internationally lauded, award-winning chocolatier, and author of Chocolate at Leisure. Derrick, who had been the director of the Chocolate Academy of Barry Callebaut AG, the world’s largest chocolate manufacturer, inspires Cococo innovation while nurturing the traditional Bernard Callebaut line of chocolates.

The new Cococo, 10103 – 124 Street, joins Bernard Callebaut locations in Manulife Place, Pleasantview Shopping Centre, (near Southgate) stores in Calgary and Banff, and another 22 independent dealers across North America.


Oakville, Ontario

Years making chocolate

We’ve been in the chocolate business for almost 28 years. Derrick Pho, our maître chocolatier was 1994 apprentice of the year in Montreal, 18 years in chocolate.

Where would you like to live?

No question, in Alberta. Albertans have the most creative entrepreneurial spirit I’ve encountered.

Your favourite food and drink?

Spicy Thai food with a cold beer.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in choc business?

I’d be a starving musician.

What do you most appreciate in your friends?

I have a great bunch of friends, all ages and all types. I guess the common characteristic is they have fun with whatever they’re doing.

Your favourite qualities in a dish?

It’s got to be clear about what it is.

A chocolate?

Purity of flavour.

A wine?

Qualities I notice in a wine? Whatever qualities my girlfriend BJ tells me I should notice — she’s the wine expert.

Who would be at your dream dinner table (dead or alive)?

Mick Jagger, Steve Jobs, BJ, Socrates, Winston Churchill. They all could bring dates except BJ.

Who would cook?

Not me.

Current culinary obsession/exploration?

The last two years have been spent defining, then refining the direction of our company — both within Cococo and as part of the wider community we live in — from the design of the stores, the product offerings, everything. We have to be quality in everything we do, but we don’t build our biz on chocolate snobbism. A chocolate shop should be a fun place to be. You could say that is our philosophy.

Meaningful/crazy cooking experience?

I have a limited professional chocolate education as that’s not my role in the company, but I have taken courses at the Callebaut Academy in Chicago. My contribution was something of a gong show, I had chocolate on the ceiling, and I took a lot of ribbing there. The academy incidentally, was built by Derrick. He designed the labs, chose the equipment, and developed the courses.


My father Don Freeland, and Milton Hershey, the father of chocolate in North America is an inspiration to me, especially when it comes to social responsibility.

Favourite casual cheap and cheerful commercial chocolate bar.

An Eat More bar.


Good or bad, life is interesting

What’s next?

Who knows?