Returning to the UK, and after nine years in London and the Home Counties, they decided in 1997 to move to Devon. Establishing a Home-Stay, guests were so enthusiastic about dinners that the next step was almost inevitable, considering Tony’s background.
In 2001 they bought a rundown eatery which, renamed and reworked, became one of Torbay’s premier Restaurants, The Orange Tree. As Head Chef and co-owner, Tony led the ‘Torbay’ food revival being rewarded with various awards including Les Routiers’ “Best Restaurant in the UK”. During this time, Tony mentored and judged ‘Young Chef of the Year’ South West.
They sold their highly-acclaimed restaurant late 2007, taking over the 150 seat Cockington Court Tea Rooms in early 2008. Whilst this kept them fully occupied, ironically it was the temporary enforced closure for the Sea Change Renovation project that enabled them to take a longer than normal holiday. During this 2010 holiday in the South of France, they toured several hand-made chocolate operations, sparking an idea to expand their business based at Cockington and create a new business venture.
On their return from France, Tony went on an intensive specialist course with top chocolate house Slattery's in Manchester to hone his skills and fulfil an ambition to become a chocolatier. Successfully vetted they received they keys to their new Studios in July 2011 – Cockington Chocolate Company was born!
Tony, making chocolate lollies, bars, and moulded shapes including ‘bean to bar’ and green chocolate enthralled visitors. Tony introduced a Chocolate Academy teaching students how to make Chocolate and in 2015 introduced a World Library of Chocolate. In 2014 he was invited by the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust to create a Chocolate Gorilla and in 2016 a Chocolate Rhino– both World firsts, both supporting Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, raising thousands of pounds for endangered species. Tony said “the thought of losing such extraordinary beasts inspired me to re-create these magnificent animals in Chocolate.
In 2015, they moved into their current Studio continuing their investment in business on the Cockington Court site, and early in 2016 they sold Cockington Court Tea Rooms in 2016 to focus on their acclaimed Chocolate business.