At a time when champagne and sushi are out, and even coffee is limited, chocolate remains one of the precious little luxuries still safe through pregnancy (thank goodness!) Paul A Young is a Master Chocolatier revolutionising London’s chocolate scene with his stunning range of fresh artisanal chocolates. We caught up with him for a chat about all things chocolate…
1) We can’t get enough of your chocolates! What’s your secret?
There’s no secret! We pride ourselves on using the finest quality ingredients at every stage of making the chocolates. We’re also one of the only chocolateries in the UK who make everything by hand. This attention to detail ensures our chocolates reach the highest standards. We also use fresh ingredients, which means our chocolates do have a short shelf life but they contain no artificial flavourings. I like to think our chocolates are a blend of science and art.
We’re also not afraid to be a little bit different. I like to experiment, taking what inspires me and coming up with something that surprises and delights.
2) Master chocolatier has got to be pretty high up there on our list of dream job titles. Tell us how you got into chocolate.
Throughout my childhood, I always had a natural interest in food. I loved baking and cooking with my mum and grandma, so it was no surprise when I began studying at a catering college.
During my time as a pastry chef, I worked my way up through the ranks with Marco Pierre White and his team until I became Head Pastry Chef at Quo Vadis in Soho. It was a great learning environment for me and I gained so much experience from my time there. I also fell in love with chocolate.
I was introduced to Chantal Coady, founder of Rococo Chocolates after using her chocolate in my chef demonstrations at food shows. She asked me to design two fresh handmade chocolates for the first Chocolate Week and that helped seal my career plan for the coming years… I then decided to specialise and teach myself everything I could and create a style of fresh chocolates that wasn’t available in London 10 years ago.
3) Indulging in chocolate through pregnancy is scientifically proven to be beneficial for both mum and baby! With this in mind, which of your chocolates would you recommend for a mum-to-be?
There is a huge misconception about chocolate being unhealthy. In fact, high quality chocolate, whether milk or dark, can be very beneficial as well as satisfying (especially if you have a craving for it whilst pregnant). In terms of my recommendations, I would suggest my 72% Venezuelan Dark Chocolate Bar which is robust but it’s full of flavour with a light acidity and being dark chocolate, a square or two will be nutritious as well as satisfying any sweet tooth. We also use a 72% Venezuelan chocolate in my classic water ganache truffle, which has just a touch of unrefined golden caster sugar. It’s a really popular chocolate as it has such purity in taste as well as ingredients.
4) Pregnancy is well known for inducing odd cravings, and you are known for your flair for interesting flavours – what are some of your weirdest combos to date?
Chocolate is such a versatile ingredient and I never tire of finding new ways to reinvent what people expect from a truffle or a ganache. Exploring new chocolate pairings is one of the most exciting parts of my job; I can spend hours in my kitchen developing new recipes. In the past, I’ve explored flavours such as black pudding, Stilton, Absinthe and a citrus fruit called Kalamansi but perhaps it is my Marmite Truffle that is most famous. The journalist Lydia Slater dared me to create it and she swore it would be impossible. After much trial and error, I was able to create a delicious dark chocolate filling laced with Marmite. It remains one of our bestsellers to this day.
Some combinations can take more time than others, but I persevere until I get it right. For the most part, it’s about not limiting yourself and not thinking that you can’t do it.
5) So where can we buy your wonderful creations?
I opened up my first shop in Camden Passage in 2006; I’ve now expanded to my flagship shop on Wardour Street in Soho and opened another at the Royal Exchange in Bank. They each have their own personalities – our Royal Exchange store used to be an old apothecary!
6) Quick fire chocolate round
Childhood favourite: Cadbury’s Swirl
Guilty pleasure: Kit Kat
Cheap & Cheerful: Mini Eggs at Easter
Ultimate indulgence: My sea-salted caramel – I have at least one a day. I have to! Just to make sure they are up to my exacting standards, of course…
Learn to Make Paul’s Real Hot Chocolate…
7) What’s next for you? Any exciting plans you can share?
My latest book, published in October, has 60 chocolate recipes from celebrity friends and myself. All the profits will go to The Children’s Air Ambulance – I’m one of their Ambassadors.
It’s also the 10 year anniversary of my first shop opening this year so we’ll definitely be celebrating! I’m also launching my own Youtube channel so I’ll finally be able to share all my tips, tricks and recipes all in one place.
To find out more, visit Paul’s website: www.paulayoung.co.uk
First Picture of Paul: Maxine Kirsty Sapsford
Second Picture of Paul: Tom Moggach
Billionaire’s Shortbread: Olympia