Former top cop becomes Portsmouth chocolate maker

Michael Collins at his new business The Chocolate Lounge. ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (141895-6269)
Michael Collins at his new business The Chocolate Lounge. ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (141895-6269)
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FROM the London beat to a shopping street in Copnor, a former New Scotland Yard detective now spends his working day making chocolates in his new cafe’s kitchen.

Michael Collins spent two years as a special investigator for the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.

He worked on high-profile cases including the disappearance of sailor Timmy MacColl in Dubai.

But 55-year-old Michael, who was also a sailor and a police detective, has left it behind for something completely different – his own hand-made chocolate business.

The Chocolate Lounge opened in Copnor Road last month.

‘At the end of my first year with the navy, they told us they were getting rid of everyone,’ explained Michael.

‘I thought I should try something else as I thought I was losing my job.

‘I tried out a one-day chocolate workshop in Winchester and decided that was what I wanted to do with myself. I thought it seemed really easy.

‘Then I tried it at home and wasted loads of chocolate – it kept going wrong.’

After three professional courses and lots of chocolate, Michael, who lives in Copnor, took the plunge.

Since then, he has perfected his chocolate tempering technique and spends every day making truffles, pralines and petit four with all sorts of flavour combinations.

‘When we started, my girlfriend was making all the cakes for the shop. She has another job and three children to look after,’ said Michael.

‘Before we opened she had never made a cake, so we have been learning things.

‘So far I have two pieces of equipment in the kitchen: a melting pot and a blender. I think my family thinks I am a bit nuts because I have tried a few different things out. Some have worked and some haven’t.’

Michael has already taken on some part-time workers and hopes to make one of his colleagues a manager ‘when we are more established’.

He also aims to take on an apprentice as the business grows.

Asked if the experience has put him off chocolate, he said: ‘I still eat it but not as much. I probably eat four or five of them a day. I always loved chocolate as a child. I loved strong, dark chocolate as a boy and I am finding here that children here love it, too.’