Paul Wayne Gregory, award winning chocolatier, London

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th February 2015
How do you create a raspberry chocolate that doesn’t taste like any raspberry chocolate you’ve ever tasted before? Ask Paul Wayne Gregory. How do you create a 7 foot man complete with a table made out of chocolate that needs to be taken apart and put back together without it looking like it’s been taken apart? Ask Paul Wayne Gregory. We’ve spoken to a truly creative chocolatier who’s made chocolates for the Queen, made a chocolate Nelson Mandela, who’s turned pure flavours into an art form and who’s made chocolate eggs look like marble and wood.mandela frame Making the impossible possible find out more in our interview with the award-winning chocolatier who certainly doesn’t shy away from a challenge here. So how did you get into this baking/patisserie route? I fell into baking by accident I actually was studying electrical engineering but I was on the wrong course and the only job that I could find that would fit in with my college course hours was a baker. I could start in the middle of the night and then go straight to college but after a while I realised that I quite liked the baking so I stuck with it. But I could see that the supermarkets were about to take over the bakeries and that they were about to die so I went to college and studied to become a main kitchen chef. I loved being in the kitchen but hated main kitchen and realised that I wanted to do patisserie. You usually choose quite early on if you want to do main kitchen or patisserie and by now I was quite late in my career so had to make a decision over how serious I take this. Chocolate Sculpture commissioned by Harrords to celebrate Chinese Year of the HorseWas it then that you went to France to further your knowledge? Yes, I took the time out and went over there to do my training but also worked in Spain but it was also between those two that I was studying classical patisserie which is where I discovered my love for chocolate and then re-trained to be a chocolatier. Where was it that you worked when you were a main kitchen chef? The main one was Restaurant Peacock Alley in Ireland with Conrad Gallagher but in France I worked with Monsieur Jean Valentine who was the classmate of Michel Roux. When I look back at it I must have been mad as when I was in the UK I worked Monday to Thursday here and then Friday, Saturday and Sunday in France; I did that for 3 months. After that I worked in France from Monday-Thursday and then worked in England Friday-Sunday as I was working in France for free as a stage just to learn; but after saving enough money I moved to France where I worked in the patisserie shop. Would you say that it is important to follow the route that you did and go to places like France and Spain to increase your knowledge? I would say back then it was important, as 15 years ago there wasn’t as much going on as there is now, now I think you can stay here. Personally I would say yes go abroad but there are enough pastry chefs in the UK that understand and enough on the internet to actually learn. So when did you realise that you had the skills needed for chocolate?
Signature chocolates: This won me my first award – my passion fruit chocolate and also my salted caramel – they set the philosophy and working methods for the company. Artistry pieces: Chocolate placards – as we’re the ones that invented them.
I had never tempered chocolate on marble before but when I was in France Jean said to me I’m going to show you how to do it but this is going to take you about 3 months to get right. And the first time I did it I got it right so he said to me if you ever go into anything go into chocolate, you have a natural ability to do it. But I had no idea what I was doing so it wasn’t until a year afterwards that I understood that this is really what I want to do. And then when I went to Spain I didn’t realise that Oriol Balaguer was a chocolatier, I went there to learn modern patisserie but as it was a mix of the two I knew then that I was a chocolatier. It was nice working with Oriol who had the same mind-set as in being innovative and doing new things. So what was the next step after Spain? Chocolate bust for Harvey Nichols 2011When I came back I couldn’t find a job, even after all that experience, so a lot of my friends were asking me to make them some chocolates but I couldn’t make them in their kitchen I had to make them from home. So I built a small extended kitchen and worked from there and that’s where the company started. I worked from home for two years before I moved into my first unit. And is that where you still work? We’re in the process of moving into a new bigger until from Croydon to Lewis, which will allow us to do a lot more as it’s a bigger and better facility. What plans have you got in mind when you say you want to do more? People are starting to come to us for artistry work, we’ve moved away from the traditional showpieces. Showpieces are symmetrical, a certain way and we don’t do that; we now do art pieces for example Nelson Mandela and then small hand-painted placards. We’ve got a new piece we’re working on now which looks like a stone carving but completely chocolate and that’s what we’re going into – more into bespoke art work. So are these artistry pieces the element that you enjoy most about your role or do you like creating the chocolates for your online shop too? I like creating full stop. When we set up again I will be the creative director so the creative element will be down to me and then the team will develop what I create.PWG 12 Box The whole philosophy for me is: “indulgence is everything”. There is more to it, it doesn’t mean just to indulge, the first range was about pure, single flavours, that weren’t mixed. That goes back to my chef days where it was about keeping it simple, if there was a carrot and coriander soup we stripped that back to being simply a carrot soup but it was the best one you could taste. If I was to say that I was creating a raspberry and mustard chocolate in your mind you want it to work but if I said I was creating a raspberry chocolate you already know what that tastes like so I’ve got stiffer competition to create a new raspberry chocolate; so that’s why I went back to the basics almost back to the building blocks (the indulgence blocks). We have 12 of these indulgence pillars that are foundation of the company and then we build on top of that. W50SB_049 (2)Is it right that you made chocolates for the Queen’s 80th birthday? How did that come about? It was fantastic. At the time of being asked I was supplying the Royal Opera House so they asked me if I wanted to do it, we selected certain flavours and then we did her afternoon tea too afterwards. What has been your favourite piece to create so far throughout your career? The most challenging and exciting piece is our chocolate man with a chocolate table. That was for the 50 Best Restaurants in the world and I had help from John Costello. John and I created that piece which was a 7 foot man with a table and bowls; all out of chocolate. But what was most exciting was that they said we can’t do any chocolate work in the hall or on site. So we had to make everything before but had to do it so it could be taken apart. The chocolate work we’ve already mastered, it’s the other elements that go with it that I love, so the idea of creating something that can be taken apart but doesn’t look like something that can be taken apart. What would you say has been your biggest achievement then or the one thing that you are most proud of? The pure indulgence range which has won two awards of excellence. Every chocolate in the box has won an award, we said we’re not going to bring out any more until every chocolate in the box has won an award. So we competed each chocolate which nearly killed me.PWG_WEB_1555 When I broke down the 12 chocolates it sounded great but how can you win an award with a flavour of vanilla? It’s a very hard thing to do – to mix vanilla with chocolate and win an award and I only realised the size of what we had taken on when we started competing. Happy now that all of them have won but me being me I’m going to re-work some of them as one of the 12 has won bronze, four have won silver and the rest have won gold; so I’m going to rework the bronze and the silver so all of them win gold. If you're thinking about becoming a pastry chef like Paul then see what positions are available here.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th February 2015

Paul Wayne Gregory, award winning chocolatier, London