Barnsley master chocolatier Paul A Young has enlisted some of his famous friends to help him write a cookery book. Catherine Scott meets him.
Paul A Young’s latest recipe book combines his two great passions – chocolate and the life-saving Children’s Air Ambulance of which his is an ambassador.
Sensational Chocolate includes recipes from chocolate lovers including Nigella Lawson, Chris Tarrant, Emma Thompson, Marcus Wareing, and Brian Blessed.
“I thought why not ask lots of lovely celebrity supporters well-known chefs and friends to donate their favourite chocolate recipes and put them into a book that would continue to help raise funds for a second helicopter,” says the 43-year-old Yorkshireman.
“Then I thought, I’ll develop some brand new recipes of my own and put them in too. Not only is chocolate one of the very few foods that is universally adored, children absolutely love it and most of these recipes are ones they can try themselves – or help lick the spoon.
“All the profits from the book are going back into the charity and it greatly warms my heart that funds from the sale of my book will keep a trickle or tidal wave of money to help.’’
Paul is one of the world’s top chocolatiers with three shops in London, at Soho, Bank and Islington (with more in the pipeline) and they were recently named among the top ten chocolate shops in the world by National Geographic.
But the distinctive-looking chef didn’t set out to make his career in chocolate, although he always knew he’d end up in food..
Born in Barnsley, Paul grew up in the North-East.
“Growing up I was always baking with my mum and grandma and I think it was inevitable that I would end up working with food.”
After studying hotel catering and management at New College, Durham and Leeds Metropolitan University, Paul quickly worked through the ranks of a restaurant kitchen to the position of head pastry chef for Marco Pierre White at Quo Vadis and Criterion.
He says he ended up working with chocolate almost by accident.
“My pastry career sort of morphed into a career with chocolate,” says Paul.
“It was the late 1980s and most of the chocolates available were very sweet and sickly and most of them were full or preservatives. I started making my own chocolates for my desserts and then people kept asking for them. So I decided to create some chocolates that were only made from natural, fresh ingredients.”
He entered them into the first Academy of Chocolate Awards 13 years ago and did rather well.
“It made me think that may be I should specialise in chocolate and start a business.”
Paul opened his first shop on Camden Passage in Islington in 2006 with his business partner James Cronin.
Since then Paul has been creating products that have won numerous industry awards, wowed customers, and earned him the reputation he has today.
“It was really about shaking up the industry a bit at the start,” he admits.
“I was using chocolate from all around the world and I wanted to strip everything right back.”
He has a reputation as an incredibly creative flavour alchemist who often develops flavour combinations that are original, experimental, sometimes daring, yet always perfectly balanced.
He and his team make all their creations completely by hand in the kitchens at each shop, in small batches and at every stage using fresh ingredients. Paul splits his time between his three shops.
Compounds, concentrates, essences, preservatives and additives are not used.
“Our chocolates have a pretty short shelf life as a result but if you are making a fresh cream truffle then you use fresh cream and that doesn’t last long.”
His first book Adventures with Chocolate won the World’s Best Chocolate Book at the Gourmand Cookbook Awards in Paris, was shortlisted for the Andre Simon Award and included in the Independent’s Top 50 cookbooks.
He is also a regular on our television screens, with appearances including This Morning and Sunday Brunch, The Apprentice, Junior Masterchef and Paul Hollywood’s Pies and Puds and in the US on The Nate Berkus Show and The Today Show.
In 2014 Paul was named Outstanding British Chocolatier by the International Chocolate Awards.
Despite hard economic times making people careful with money and the price of chocolate increasing, people are still buying good chocolate.
“It is an affordable luxury,” explains Paul whose chocolates range from £2 to £200.
“It is reassuringly expensive yet there is something that is within most people’s reach.”
Although he still has family in the North Paul says he doesn’t get home as often as he’d like.
Paul is very keen to give something back and that is why he gets involved in charities such as the Sick Children’s Trust and the Children’s Air Ambualnce.
A spokesman for the Children’s Air Ambulance said: ‘’We’re very grateful to Paul for all the hard work he has put in to creating this magnificent recipe book and for his support as an ambassador for our charity.
“We receive no government funding and rely entirely on fund-raising and donations to keep our vital service flying.
“We’re sure Paul’s book will make a great Christmas present for anyone who loves chocolate. ‘’