For those who have not yet had the fortune to try Paul A. Young’s decadent chocolate masterpieces, I recommend that you visit one of his three London boutiques without further delay. You do not need to be a chocoholic to appreciate the small squares of delight on offer, you simply need to love food. For Paul A. Young is truly a creative genius. Using seasonal flavours such as ‘ginger & rhubarb’ in summer or ‘spiced pumpkin’ in winter, his ever changing flavours are surprising, inspired, often outright bizarre, but always perfectly balanced (and preposterously good!)
Bursting onto the international chocolate scene six years ago with all the energy of his wild and wonderful flavours, Paul wasted no time in securing himself a spot at the forefront of it. Trained by the best, (Paul started out as Marco Pierre White’s pastry chef) he and his business partner, James Cronin, went on to create a unique artisan chocolate workshop where each individual piece is made by hand. Winning several awards over the past four years for his experimental flavours, he also won Best Chocolate Book at the Gourmand Cookbook Awards in Paris for his first book ‘Adventures With Chocolate’.
It is safe to say that this man is a chocspert of the highest order…
Paul, what is your earliest chocolate memory?
I remember receiving giant jars of Roses every Christmas when I was little and I loved visiting Thornton’s as a treat when I was a child.
At what stage in your culinary career did you really fall in love with chocolate?
I’ve always loved chocolate and it was one of my favourite areas at catering college. It was while working as head pastry chef for Marco Pierre White that I realised it was the chocolate dishes I most enjoyed preparing. The love affair is continually evolving as chocolate is such a wonderful medium to work with and the flavour combinations are endless.
What is it that makes Paul A. Young unique?
Our chocolates are fresh – we don’t use any preservatives or additives – and very seasonal. I enjoy incorporating unusual flavours into chocolate and developing flavour combinations that are original and experimental, as well as working with classic flavours to give them a modern twist. Our chocolates are handmade, not just at some stages but throughout. We make in small batches, temper the chocolate on marble slabs and if we can’t do something by hand we won’t do it.
Which three flavours do you personally love best?
It changes all the time as we introduce new flavours. I have a sea salted caramel every single day, it’s our best selling chocolate and the sea salted caramel trend in this country has been incredible – it started out in the artisan chocolate shops and is now something you see in the supermarkets.
I’m also loving our sourdough bar, which I made through a collaboration with Fergus Jackson of Peckham’s the Brick House, it’s a blend of 64% Madagascan and 64% Dominican (128% tasty) chocolate, which is studded with crunchy toasted sourdough nuggets
The Banoffee Pie is also one of my current flavours. It recently won a silver at the International Chocolate Awards.
And the current three most unusual flavours?
We have a pea and mint which is one of the most unusual chocolates we’ve created – it works really well and is very popular. We also have a tomato, basil and olive oil in the summer collection which is one of my favourites. We’ve just introduced some Asian inspired flavours and the Miso & Seaweed with Sweet Plum and Sesame is going to be a big hit.
Are you a Londoner?
I feel like I am! I’ve lived here for 16 years and love the city, especially Soho. There’s so much going on and the food scene is ever changing. I currently live in Covent Garden, close to our flagship store in Soho. I was born and brought up in Yorkshire and am very proud of my northern roots. Unfortunately, I don’t go back there as often as I’d like due to being so busy with the three shops but it’s a beautiful part of the world.
How do you feel your chocolates represent London and Londoners?
Our regulars really like the fact that our range changes so frequently. One of the best parts of my job is creating new chocolates, thinking up new flavour combinations and experimenting with unusual ingredients until the balance is exactly right. I think this really appeals to Londoners, they love to see something new, they like to experiment. We also try to use London-based ingredients like the Brick House sour dough and Kernel Brewery Ale.
You have ONE day in London to yourself – how would you spend it?
I’d start off with a sleep in, then a session at the gym with my personal trainer Ollie. Then a day of creative and inspirational shopping with a couple of my best friends including a long lunch at Pitt Cue… In the evening cocktails, most often a sterling whisky sour and dinner at either Dabbous or Hawksmoor Covent Garden.
Lastly, any plans to expand to NYC in the future?
I try and visit New York once a year, to visit the chocolate show there and our friends at Mast Brothers in Brooklyn – we stock their bars in our London shops. I launched my book ‘Adventures with Chocolate’ in NY last year and I’d love to open a shop there in the future, I think Americans will be really receptive to our chocolates, the demonstrations I’ve had there have been really well received.
• Flagship store – 143 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 8WA. Open all week.
• 33 Camden Passage, Islington, London, N1 8EA. Open Tuesday – Sunday.
• 20 Royal Exchange, Threadneedle St, London, EC3V 3LP. Open Monday – Friday.
• Prices: 1 choc £2, 4 piece box £7.00, 9 piece £15.50, 15 piece £26.00, 25 piece £40.00 & 42 piece £65.00.