A LEADING chocolatier who has made sweets for celebrities and in Michelin star restaurants will share the techniques behind his award-winning chocolates at a County Durham food festival.

Paul A Young, who was raised in Trimdon Station, near Durham, started his journey to an incredible culinary career at New College Durham where he studied hotel and catering management.

He then had lots of jobs working as a chef before his first big break came when he got an agency job delivering high-end dining for Land Rover as it launched its new Discovery model around the country.

Marco Pierre White, who had been awarded his third Michelin star, was the man behind the menus and Mr Young ended up working as a pastry chef at his iconic Criterion Restaurant in Piccadilly.

Read more: Why County Durham should be awarded the 2025 'City' of Culture

Mr Young said: “It was the job of a lifetime, I moved to London and lived on a friend’s sofa and worked in their pub to pay rent.

“The Criterion was the most beautiful room to dine in in London, every night it was full of celebrities.

“I ended up running one of two pastry teams, it was phenomenally hard work but amazing.”

He stayed with Marco Pierre White for six years, working in the famous Oak Room, Titanic and Quo Vardis restaurants and quickly rising up through the ranks of the kitchen.

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He said: “We had the most amazing clientele, I cooked lemon tart for Madonna and Guy Ritchie who used to come in when they were dating.

“It was exciting for chefs to know they were cooking for people they admire, it was the motivation to spur us on through very long hours.”

Mr Young took a break from the unsociable hours and worked for Marks & Spencer developing ready meals then on a new pizza line for Sainsburys, learning about product development and packaging.

He returned to a restaurant kitchen for 18 months, his pastry passion was reignited and he began to specialise in chocolate.

Friends in the industry encouraged him to enter some of his chocolate creations in prestigious competitions and he started to pick up awards.

He said: “About 18, 19 years ago, with nowhere to sell my chocolates and no brand, I entered and won a gold World Chocolate Award for my sea salted caramels, that’s when it really took off.”

In 2006 he opened his first chocolate shop in Islington and now has a second in Soho, along with a reputation as a flavour alchemist and books and TV appearances to his name.

He said: “I eat chocolate every day, for work and pleasure. I have thousands of recipes so my favourites change depending on how I feel but salted caramel always has a place at the top of the list.

“I still enjoy the mass-produced stuff too, but I’d encourage everyone to spend a bit more and try an artisan, single origin chocolate once in a while.

“You’ll get a good feeling about supporting growers in developing countries, have less fat and sugar and experience complex, beautiful flavours.”

Mr Young will hold two demonstrations at Bishop Auckland Food Festival this Sunday, cooking a bonfire brownie and then sharing chocolate making techniques.

The free Durham County Council-run event takes place on Saturday and Sunday and features more than 100 traders, demos and entertainment and is part of County Durham’s City of Culture 2025 bid.

For details visit bishopaucklandfoodfestival.co.uk


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