WithEaster on the horizon our thoughts turned to chocolate…lots of chocolate and so who better to be this week’s London than Paul A Young. Check out the sweet treat below…
Paul, tell us how long have you lived in London?
I’ve lived in London for 18 years even though my plan was to be here only for 3 or 4 years. Marco Pierre White offered me a job as pastry chef which eventually led me to gain positions as Head Pastry Chef, I worked for him for 6 years at The Criterion, Titanic and Quo Vadis. I fell in love with the city and stayed, it’s so vibrant and the food scene is so diverse.
Oh we’re totes in LOVE with London. What made you get into the chocolate industry?
I trained as a chef and after graduating, quickly worked through the ranks of a restaurant kitchen to the position of head pastry chef. Chocolate just seemed to capture my imagination, it’s such a versatile ingredient; it goes with so many other flavours, textures and it can be used in so many ways from moulding, blending and sculpting. After leaving the restaurant world I became a product developer and consultant – not just in chocolate but in Japanese food, Chinese and pizzas – and then Chantal Coady, founder of Rococo Chocolates, asked me to create a chocolate for her for the first Chocolate Week. The rest happened organically by developing chocolates for other chocolate companies and then starting paul.a.young fine chocolates in 2006.
I created my now World-award-winning Sea Salted Caramel in 2005 and was encouraged to enter it into the first Academy of Chocolate Awards. When it won Gold, it inspired me to start our chocolate business.
In 2006 my business partner James and I opened our first shop, on Islington’s historic Camden Passage.
Tell us more about your shops? What’s your best selling chocolate?
Each of my shops is slightly different because they are in different areas of London but they all have a similar feel and ethos of displaying our chocolates without being hidden behind glass – Camden Passage has a lovely local feel to it, while the Royal Exchange shop feels quite regal due to the historic and opulent setting. Our most recent shop, on Tottenham Court Road is the only one where you can sit down and enjoy a cup of steaming hot chocolate and a slice of cake in store. It has some great interior touches thanks to our partnership with Heal’s and Gross designs; an open kitchen allows customers to see us at work and get all the chocolatey smells while they shop. Our shop on Wardour Street in Soho is the flagship – it’s really striking when you walk in, we have a big round table with the chocolates displayed on glass stands made by LSA glass, an altar as our main counter and hand made cocoa pod wallpaper from Cole and Sons.
We change our chocolate collections regularly so the best sellers vary – I’m inspired by seasonal ingredients so I am always thinking of a new flavour combinations, textures, themes and shapes for the new chocolates. Our best-selling chocolate is the multi world award-winning Sea Salted Caramel, other top sellers are the Marmite truffle (which suggests there are more lovers than haters out there) and our Real Champagne Truffle, because it’s a classic and is nothing but chocolate and proper champagne. Our brownies have been named the best in London by Time Out so these fly out of the shops along with our authentic hot chocolate which is regularly included in round ups of the world’s best hot chocolates.
What’s your personal favourite flavour of chocolate?
I don’t have a favourite flavour of chocolate as each day I am attracted to different types of chocolate, different textures and my mood also affects my choice. I just like so many things.
I’m very nostalgic so I love tucking into a box of Quality Street when I visit my family in Durham at Christmas because it reminds me of childhood but I also enjoy a box of my fine chocolates with friends or a bar of own chocolate as my daily snack.
I enjoy discovering new bean to bar producers from around the world, some of which we sell in our shops. Mast Brothers from Brooklyn is a favourite, I also love Duffy Sheardown’s chocolate – he’s based in Lincolnshire and Menakao who are based in Madagascar.
You can’t beat a purple wrapper right? Finally what would your perfect day in London be?
I would start the day by taking my dog Billington for a long walk in Green Park or along Colombia Road, he’s a miniature dachshund and absolutely gorgeous so he gets a lot of attention when we’re walking back home through Soho. A roast dinner is one of my must have meals so Sunday lunch with friends is one of my favourite times of the week; sometimes we go out – The Ivy serves the best roast chicken in town, carved at the table with stunning potatoes, truffle stuffing and jus plus flambéed Baked Alaska with kirsch cherries if we can squeeze it in but often I’ll cook – I love to cook and treat everyone. Add a spot of shopping into the day and it would be perfect. I get inspired by design and fashion so even if I don’t buy anything I can get a lot out of wandering through the fashion boutiques of Floral Street or Bond Street…If they let me in with Billi.
Sounds like a pretty perfect day to us! Wanna try Paul’s tasty treats or learn a bit more about his creations? Hit up his website or pop in store.