Being at the forefront of the British chocolate scene, Paul A. Young's passion for his craft and his cutting edge creativity have won him numerous awards and led to him being ranked amongst the world’s best chocolatiers. He tells FOUR about his creativity, how he develops his products and his never-ending love for sea-salted caramels.
I wake up at 6.30am as my dog Billi has his own internal alarm clock, which means we both have to get up. I dislike routine and don’t perform well if I have a set routine so I make a strong effort to make each day different, even if this just means walking a different route to work. I start the day working at home in my office so I don’t get distracted and can get through some admin and emails.
With four shops across London, it varies which shop I’m in each day. Whichever shop I’m visiting though, I try to check in with the team on the shop floor first thing, check the products and sample a few truffles. Not a day goes by when I don’t eat one of our sea-salted caramels – they’ve won Best Sea Salted Caramel in the world at the International Chocolate Awards and I never tire of them!
With Valentine’s Day and Easter coming up, I’ve been doing a lot of product development at the moment so I’m spending a lot of time in my development kitchen at the Royal Exchange shop. I used to do development in the flagship shop on Wardour Street but it’s a busy working kitchen so it’s nice to be able to work through ideas in my own space before sharing them with the rest of the team.
We opened our fourth shop in November, paul.a.young fine chocolates at Heal’s. It’s a different concept to our other shops, with seating allowing our customers to sit down and enjoy hot chocolate, brownies and chocolate cake in-store. I love being able to see customers enjoying our products – in our other shops they don’t eat their chocolates until they leave the shop, so we don’t get to see their reactions when they take that first bite. It’s such a rewarding experience.
The new shop has an open kitchen, which is really nice as customers can see me working on our baked products, many of which are exclusive to the Heal’s store. This month sees the launch of our brownie pies, which grew out of the success of my brownie mince pies at Christmas and will see a different flavour each month. The Heal’s shop brings a new element to the business as it’s also a café so it’s great to be able to do more baking.
Because everything is made in our in-store kitchens completely by hand, we are able to introduce new flavours every week so I spend a lot of time coming up with new recipe ideas and working with my team to put them into practice. It’s great because it allows everyone to be really creative. I get inspired by unusual flavours and love coming up with new combinations that are unexpected, it really inspires me. It sometimes takes a lot of experimenting to get the balance just right and create a truly delicious chocolate.
It’s important for me to keep the link between all my teams in all four shops and to spend some time on the shop floor each day, meeting my customers.
Lunch will be on the go. It’s great when I’m at the Soho shop around lunchtime because I can go to one of the amazing street food producers on Berwick Street in Soho. I’m very lucky that I live in Covent Garden so whichever shop I’m at, it doesn’t take me long to get home. I’ve had my dog Billi since August last year so I always make sure I pop home to see him and take him out for some exercise. It’s a nice way to break up the day. He’s a gorgeous miniature dachshund and always gets lots of attention wherever we go – when we appeared on Sunday Brunch I got more messages about him than the recipe I was making!
Afternoons are often taken up with meetings – with my team or potential collaborators. I enjoy working with different brands and coming up with exciting collaborations. I’ve just launched a book called “How to Make Chocolates” with Lakeland and it’s been great working with them on making chocolate making equipment more widely available.
Then I head home to cook dinner and unwind. I quite often do a bit more work at home, writing recipes and thinking of new ideas as I am at my most creative and active late at night… most chefs are! I often don’t go to bed until quite late but before opening my first shop I worked as a pastry chef so long hours are something that I’m used to.
Some evenings I might host an event at one of our stores. We’re adding more classes all the time, with my head chocolatiers from the different shops hosting evenings as well. It’s a chance for our customers to find out more about what we do and get stuck in trying it for themselves – the best bit is always when they try tempering by hand for the first time.
If I’ve got time when I finish work I love to go out to dinner with friends – London and in particular Soho at the moment has so many great restaurants and it’s important to keep up to date with the latest trends in the food world.