Having turned 10 this month, Paul A Young tells The Resident why this Islington luxury chocolate spot remains special, what has contributed to its massive success and reminisces about humble beginnings
Words: Mark Kebble
I simply can’t help myself. Offered one of Paul A Young’s very fine chocolates, I am instantly drawn to his award-winning salted caramel. ‘That’s the one that has not changed a bit,’ says the master chocolatier as I wolf a bite-size chunk down with a ridiculous grin on my face. ‘I created that 13 years ago, before we had the shop, and it hasn’t changed at all – and it never will.’
The first year was the hottest summer we have had in the past ten years. It was very good for socialising, very bad for chocolate!
Incredibly, considering I remember the day Young’s shop opened on Camden Passage, it’s been a decade of treating Angel locals and those much further afield. Having made a name for himself as a pattisier who was a dab hand with chocolate, Young decided it was time to have his own name above a door and, finding the Camden Passage location almost by chance, he opened in April 2006. ‘The first year was the hottest summer we have had in the past ten years,’ he sighs. ‘It was very good for socialising, very bad for chocolate! That was tough, but the first year always is.’
It was a cast-iron guarantee for early visitors, though, that his stunning creations would go on to be hugely successfully. It wasn’t long before Young was picking up countless awards from the industry. ‘It’s good to be recognised,’ he nods as we look over some of the certificates that adorn the shop walls. ‘You know it’s not just you that thinks your chocolates are good. I don’t have a method [of coming up with his creations]. There isn’t one, and I don’t think anyone who is creative does have a set method. You have got to feed creativity. Whether it’s the season, something you have eaten, seen at the market, when talking to people… To be honest I would like to have more time to create things, but there’s so much work to do to keep the business running! That’s very different from the early days, where my time was spent just in the kitchen.’
I am tired all time, but as a chef that’s part of the deal. Your day is backwards. You are tired in the morning and wide awake at night.
As well as the Camden Passage shop, Young now has outlets in Soho and Bank, and business is thriving. The shop in Camden Passage constantly evolves, which adds even more appeal for making regular visits, but how would he say he has changed in ten years? ‘The beard,’ he laughs, rubbing his facial hair. ‘I look back at those early photographs and I look so much older now! I am tired all time, but as a chef that’s part of the deal. Your day is backwards. You are tired in the morning and wide awake at night. I know more about business now. Before I wouldn’t say I was running a business, I was climbing up a cliff and holding on for dear life! It’s all a cliché, but you do become wiser and it’s nice to be able to answer questions clearly with all the expertise you have built up over time.’
Regular workshops are held here in Camden Passage, sometimes with Young at the helm, sometimes with one of his well trained chocolatiers. ‘We have been doing this a long time and some things will remain a secret, but it’s nice to let people know what we do,’ he explains. ‘I never ever forget that when a customer comes through the door, even after ten years, I think “phew, another customer”. For anyone who has a business, if you don’t feel grateful for every customer who walks through the door, then stop.’
If all else failed, and if for some reason the economy collapsed and we could only have one shop, then this would be the one.
To mark the 10th anniversary, Young will be reintroducing some collections that have graced the shop in that time, all with a subtle tweak – although that salted caramel will remain untouched. Considering how far he has come since 2006, does the Camden Passage shop still remain important to him? ‘If things don’t work here it affects me the most,’ he states. ‘If all else failed, and if for some reason the economy collapsed and we could only have one shop, then this would be the one. I am more protective of this one for sure. This was where we started.’
33 Camden Passage N1 8EA; 020 7424 5750; paulayoung.co.uk