Would you enjoy getting up every morning if one of your main work duties was chocolate tasting? A British chocolatier Paul A. Young shares the sweet secret of his success, takes us to the food places he likes the most and gives advice on picking that perfect chocolate bar.
Every day, Paul works on new delicious recipes to tempt his customers with fresh chocolate combos. His shops in Islington, City and Soho are famous for mouthwatering, award-winning creations and attract many of those with the sweet tooth. Even so, if he ever had to invite just three people to share chocolate with, it wouldn’t be difficult for him to choose.
“It would have to be Sia – the uber creative singer-songwriter, Emma Thompson because she is simply and utterly divine and Kenny Everett – funny, witty and entertaining,” he points out.
The first – and the changeless for 12 years – recipe that he has ever developed was his sea-salted caramel, which got him a bunch of awards in international contests so far. But his first culinary experiences are rooted in his childhood. He used to accompany his grandmother and mum, helping out with preparing cakes on the weekends.
“I grew up baking with my grandma and mum every Sunday and learned so much from them. When I visit my family in Durham at Christmas I also love tucking into a box of Quality Street because it reminds me of my childhood – I’m very nostalgic,” he says.
He would not reject mixing chocolate with anything, pointing the wide choices as a key to some places where inspiration hides.
“I will try everything I possibly can. It’s how I get inspired,” he says.
Even if you could expect some massive fails with this approach, Paul leaves a safe margin for himself. That saved his dishes from big disasters.
“I generally know which flavours work and which don’t,” he admits. “Some combinations take longer than others so I’ll keep experimenting until I get it right.”
The length of this process varies from one recipe to another, though – it can take an hour, but it may also need several months to rise to perfection.
“It’s not an exact science and depends on the ingredients and product,” he expounds. “Only when I start developing does the time span become apparent.”
And what are his favourite taste combinations without chocolate? “I like sweet and savoury together – pork and apple, cranberry and goose,” the chocolatier adds.
However, Paul claims that he doesn’t look for inspiration in specific cuisines or ingredients, as the true source of inspiration for a chef can lie anywhere. “My customers and fans inspire me as they keep me motivated and driven to make creative inspirational products,” he explains. There were several people who became his role models in particular. Firstly, he refers to his mum.
“She is a fighter, a fantastic baker and incredibly creative and artistic,” he describes. “Also Marco Pierre White and Roger Pizey, his Executive Pastry Chef, taught me how to cook to a whole new level,” he confesses.
His formulas for chocolate treats are a sweet secret, but what about a recipe for success? According to him, there are three qualities that are necessary for a promising, young chef: hard work, commitment and a willingness to learn.
“Life as a chef is tough, it’s competitive and there’s no way to avoid the long hours,” he warns the aspiring cooks, but he balances it out with another statement.“The result, when you read good reviews and see people enjoying something you made, is worth it.”
Besides busily developing new recipes, he finds some time to visit other food places and enjoy himself. As he lives and works in Central London, he can always find some newly opened restaurants to try out. Yet, there are some bistros that he recommends.
“I LOVE The Ivy for their roast chicken,” he emphasises. “Dabbous – Ollie works with ingredients in the same way I do, Pitt Cue Co for deep south American-meets-London, Bistro 21 – Terry Laybourne’s restaurant in Durham and Flat Iron in Soho for amazing steak,” he says, sharing the names. Even if he can’t really celebrate his breakfasts, as his schedule varies, there is a place where he likes to grab something for the most important meal of the day. “I love to visit Maison Bertaux, London’s oldest patisserie, whenever I can for the best almond croissant in Soho,” the chocolatier completes his top list.
And how can an ordinary chocolate muncher avoid disappointment and become a connoisseur, recognising some fantastic sweet treats to indulge on? The formula that works, surprisingly, is based on few key elements that make a chocolate bar truly terrific.
“Look for something with minimal ingredients,” Paul advises. “A really good unflavoured chocolate bar should only contain cocoa, sugar and maybe soy lecithin or vanilla.”
Those who valued chocolate by the number and believed that the percentage is the only thing that is a reliable guide in picking a perfect bar might need to revise their approach, too. “Don’t worry too much about the percentage,” Paul points out. “Choosing chocolate by percentage is like choosing a wine based on the alcohol content,” he explains.
If you’re on a diet and obsessively kept on thinking about getting your hands on a bar of a bittersweet or milk chocolate that would melt in your mouth piece by piece, don’t worry. The chocolatier believes that there is nothing to avoid!
“I’m a strong advocate of enjoying life’s treats and not denying yourself,” he states. “It’s all about moderation.”