Everyone knows that York is the historic home of chocolate having been the famous home of Terrys.
Now Yorkshireman Andrew Thwaite is planning on re-establishing that tradition by creating a centre of chocolate excellence in the North.
Fifty-year-old Andrew has just taken over the York Cookery School, the successful cookery school started by Kate and Fraser Clarkson in 2012.
“I had worked with Fraser and Kate pretty much since the beginning offering some chocolate classes at the cookery school,” explains Andrew.
“Then after I had run a Christmas course with them last year Fraser asked if I was interested in buying the cookery school. I thought he was half joking.
“I never set out to buy a cookery school.”
But it made Andrew think. Up until the pandemic he travelled all over the country and around the world, teaching other chefs the finer details of chocolate making.
He liked the idea of having the chefs coming to him instead, and having all his facilities under one roof.
“Although all my normal work, including food festivals and giving talks to WIs, all dried up during the pandemic, I was very busy,” he explains.
“It seems that a lot of people have taken stock during lockdown and many chefs in particular have decided to do something slightly different, and many of them want to start their own chocolate business and so they approached me as a consultant to help them learn about being a chocolatier.
“I also felt passionately that there should be somewhere in the North for chefs to go as most of the places are in the South.”
He says a Facebook forum he set up in February 2020 now has more than 12,000 followers all asking him questions about chocolate.
“There is a whole mix of people, from professional chefs to members of the public, all wanting to know about making chocolate,” says Andrew.
“Then the opportunity came to buy York Cookery School and it just seemed the perfect opportunity to build on what the Clarkson’s have been doing, but also to have a home for my own consultancy business where I can offer one-to-one tuition, and follow-up consultations.”
Andrew knew he wanted to be a chef from a young age.
He spent all his time growing up, when not at school, at the Aysgarth Falls Cafe in Wensleydale which was owned by his grandmother and where his mum worked.
“I was involved in all different aspects and I knew very early on that I wanted to be a chef.”
At the age of 16 he left school and went to the then Scarborough Technical College to study catering alongside the likes of Michelin-starred chefs Andrew Pern, James Martin and James Mackenzie.
Patisserie was his passion, chocolate fascinated him from the start and he knew that this was something he wanted to progress beyond the hotel kitchen.
Completely by chance he met Beverley Dunkley, the now head of the UK Chocolate Academy, invitations to various courses and demonstrations followed which culminated in Andrew taking up a position with Barry-Callebaut, the world’s largest manufacturer of chocolate and cocoa.
During his time with the company Andrew got the opportunity to train with many of the world’s finest chocolatiers, and relationships were formed which have shaped Andrew’s career to this day.
“I worked for them for five years and it was the best job,” he recalls.
He is so grateful to Beverley that he has asked her to officially open his cookery school.
“We have held one course although we do have had to reduce numbers to make sure that we are Covid compliant,” he explains.
“It was so nice to see people face to face again although I have been doing some one to one tuition.”
Although he wants the school which is based on York Eco Business Centre to be home for his own chocolate training and consultancy business he also wants to expand the courses on offer at York Cookery School.
“I plan to bring in some new chefs and experts, as well as some familiar faces, to do a variety of classes, including an amazing cake decorator.
“But I also want to make sure that it is really accessible.
“It would like to see courses for students heading off to university and also for families working to a tight budget as well as introducing more children to cooking.
”It is amazing facility here and I want as many people as possible to have access to it.”
He also plans to allow businesses and chefs to use the kitchens or development purposes and to even try out equipment before purchasing.
There will also be facility for corporate team building events.
“I am very excited to now have a base in York – the spiritual home of chocolate. I was involved in helping to set up the York Chocolate Story and it just seems right to have my base here now.”
It is clear that Andrew literally lives and breathes chocolate.
His passion for it seems to ooze out of his pores and also his desire to pass on his love and knowledge to others whether they be an amateur wanting to learn the basis or a professional looking to add to their skills.