Yorkshire-born Paul A Young first developed a passion for chocolate and patisserie while working for Marco Pierre White. Six years ago, he opened his first chocolaterie in north London, producing artisanal treats that quickly became known for their fine quality and unusual flavour combinations. He now has three London shops.
"I studied hotel catering and management in Durham and Leeds and worked for a number of restaurants in Yorkshire, before taking on the role of pastry chef at Marco Pierre White's Criterion Brasserie. I eventually became head patissier at Quo Vadis and went on to be a consultant, working with Rococo, Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer. Since the opening of that first shop in Islington with my business partner James Cronin, the company has gone from strength to strength."
"Chocolate satisfies almost all of the senses and making it requires the use of numerous skills in the kitchen. It's such a diverse food, allowing me to be very creative."
"Most days, I head to the flagship Soho shop at 8am. There, I catch up with my head chocolatier, Michael Lowe, and the rest of the production team to discuss the day's schedule. We always have a communal breakfast of baked porridge made by my apprentice chocolatier, Chip. Then I head to the shop floor to check the previous day's sales and brief my staff. Other days, I might have meetings with clients and suppliers. A couple of days a week I visit our other shops in Islington and the Royal Exchange."
"Eating out in London inspires me as there is always something new to try, especially different flavour combinations. I'm also passionate about seasonal food. All of our products use only natural ingredients and, where I can, I try to make the most of British seasonal produce. I also love to bounce ideas around with my creative team, who are very much in touch with the current food scene."
" I've always enjoyed working with unusual flavours. More often than not, this simply means using everyday ingredients, like Marmite or Stilton, and combining them in unexpected ways. It's often a challenge to make it work and we put a lot of effort into getting the balance right. The current collection includes a Sea Salt and Pepper marzipan, a Cigar Leaf caramel that creates a marvelous warmth at the back of the throat, and a Roquefort, honey & walnut chocolate."
"Every chocolate we make has a different recipe, method and distinct shape but there are fundamental skills involved in making each batch. We use a variety of chocolate from different producers as we want to find the type that perfectly matches our ingredients. Some recipes require a lot of experimentation."
"We do everything by hand at every stage, including tempering, with the result that every batch of chocolate takes two days to make before it arrives on the shelf."
"We use top-quality producers from Britain and around the world, including Valrhona chocolate from France and Duffy Sheardown, one of only two artisan producers in Britain. I spend time sourcing and finding new suppliers. One of my current favourites is Mast Brothers from Brooklyn, New York; we're the only British chocolatier creating products from its couverture."
"We've been fortunate to open three shops, including our Soho store, which houses my dream kitchen. We still produce at our Islington store too so our customers can really enjoy the experience. It also means the shop smells fabulous."
"We employ experienced and untrained staff. Commitment and passion are the qualities we look for most, so we're happy to train apprentices. There seems to be a lack of people who want to specialise in making artisan chocolates, perhaps because there's not much awareness of this industry as a career choice."
"I have two dreams the first is to make chocolate from the bean, which is something James and I have in our sights. The second is to open a shop in New York. For the time being though, our three London chocolateries keep me busy enough."
For more information on Paul A Young Fine Chocolates and details about upcoming chocolate-making classes and tasting sessions, visit paulayoung.co.uk or phone 020 7424 5750.