London’s premier chocolatier Paul A Young let MSK into his chocolate workshop to talk to him about the rise of his artisan chocolate empire and how he’s supporting the future of the cacao industry.
Paul A Young is a master craftsman, a man dedicated to not only the finest chocolate but also the most intriguing flavour combinations. He’s on a mission to baffle and delight our palates with chocolates such as Goat’s cheese, rosemary and lemon; lemongrass and Sichuan pepper; and Black pudding, sourdough and rye whiskey truffle. These are chocolates for the cocoa adventurer and Paul A Young is leading the charge for a new wave chocolate connoisseurs.
When did you discover a love of chocolate?
My career was completely accidental and sort of morphed in to chocolate. It came from being a patissiere (Paul worked under Marco Pierre White) and from more people wanting good chocolate. I taught myself the artisan ways of chocolate, which is rare.
Why are you committed to artisan methods?
I’m a purist, if it says handmade I want it to be handmade. Everything in there’s completely natural – no vegetable fats. You can be more creative in small batches with handmade, more diligent with the ingredients that you use.
How do you come up with your flavour combinations?
It’s finding ingredients that aren’t unusual but might be unusual in chocolate. So that comes from loving food and being a chef and wanting to challenge people’s palates.
What chocolate do you use in your workshop?
We use Valrhona for our bulk but we’re into small producers so we use Michel Cluizel, Duffy from Lincolnshire some from Ecuador and Madagascar. Then smaller amounts from Dandelion San Francisco, and Mast Brothers from Brooklyn.
Why do you use small producers?
Just using the bigger growers will not sustain the cocoa industry. One of the foundations I’m associated with is Direct Cacao. Cutting out the middle man and buying from the plantation directly to support the growers.
It’s about showing farmers it’s a viable and sustainable industry – that’s the serious part of chocolate. That’s why we’re using lots of small growers and why we’re paying so much for the cacao. But it’s better quality with a better finish, more characterful chocolate with better complexities.
How can a shopper tell if they’re buying good quality chocolate?
It’s price and taste. Don’t be fooled by 70 per cent, don’t be brainwashed. It’s lies, we’ve got 63, 64 , 66 per cent chocolates that are vibrant, lively, interesting and robust and we’ve got 70-80 per cents that are delicate.
What’s next for you?
We’re looking at expanding but don’t know how and when. James (Paul’s business partner) and I have a very fluid business plan. We’ve just set up a chocolate club, which started softly in March, but we can’t post out in the summer. As soon as the weather cools we’ll start again.