With his dapper waistcoats and irrepressible charm, Paul A. Young would cut a fine figure as a modern Mad Hatter. His TV career has been marked by appearances on BBC2’s Food and Drink, ITV’s This Morning, Sky One’s Taste and Carlton Food Network, and memorably a starring role in the 2009 The Apprentice final. In 2006 he was invited to become an honorary member of the Academy of Chocolate. Together with business partner James Cronin, Young currently owns three London chocolate boutiques: one in Islington, one in the City and since June 2011, a third flagship branch in Soho. London is one of the chocolate centers where chocolate has huge following.
Surveying Paul’s stellar career to date, it’s hard to believe his humble beginnings. Paul was born in 1973 in Yorkshire and raised in the small mining town of Trimdon Station, Co. Durham. He studied hotel catering and management in Durham and Leeds before being spotted by Marco Pierre White who poached him to work as a pastry chef at The Criterion Brasserie. After working his way through the ranks, Paul landed the high profile role of Head Pastry Chef at Quo Vadis in Soho. Always one to confound expectations, Paul left to work with Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s to develop a line of products that picked up two nominations for The Award of Excellence. Paul enjoys a reputation as one of Britain’s most adventurous chocolate makers with a love of full-bodied flavour combinations and a strong focus on herbs, alcohol and spices.
Q. Where did your love of chocolate begin?
A. When working as Head Pâtissier for Marco Pierre White, creating beautiful chocolate desserts back in 1996.
Q. What was your favourite chocolate as a child?
A. My grandma always bought me a box of Thorntons Continental at Christmas but as a weekly chocolate treat I loved Texan bars and Caramac, not really chocolate but it was totally addictive.
Q. What in your opinion differentiates mediocre chocolate from something magnificent?
A. Texture, balance of flavour, balanced aftertaste with a clean non-fatty finish. Reddish brown in colour not black and over roasted. MUST be vegetable fat and artificial flavouring free.
Q. What do you love most about working with chocolate?
A. Its versatility is endless in every way. Flavour pairing, moulding, decorating, it’s very visual as well as tasting amazing.
Q. What did you learn from working as a pastry chef in Marco Pierre White’s restaurants?
A. Consistent attention to detail, stamina, focus and fresh is always best.
Q. Where do you get your creative inspiration?
A. It’s something that is naturally in me. It’s a never-ending process. I feel lucky to have this.
Q. In the past you have famously married Valrhona and Amedei chocolate with both Marmite and garlic. What would you say is your most innovative creation to date?
A. Definitely my Cigar Leaf Caramel, Roquefort, Roast Walnut and Thames Honey Chocolate and my Divine Bovine Truffle for Gaucho restaurant.
Q. What has been your funniest TV moment?
A. Recently with Nate Berkus on his huge US TV show. We were too busy eating truffles to notice a furiously smoking saucepan. We have a great rapport, so it’s funny, messy and always a giggle.
Q. If you were marooned on a desert island which chocolate bar would you choose for company?
A. Mast Brothers Vanilla and Smoke. It’s the most exciting bar of chocolate so far in 2012.
Q. Do you have a guilty ‘low-brow’ chocolate secret?
A. Kit Kats with tea. Bite off each end, suck up the hot tea so it makes the inside soggy then eat.
Q. Who or what inspires you?
A. Being alive. I really quite like it. We are very lucky to be alive and living in the UK.
Q. What exciting new creations are you currently working on?
A. Sorry I never let any secrets out but there will be a big launch of two new chocolate-based items launching after Easter. Something we have not offered our customers before…