The four-times holder of the title of Britain's Best Chocolatier from the Academy of Chocolate runs a chocolate concession in Harrods, Knightsbridge, and is looking for a second retail outlet in London, having recently parted company with the co-directors of two chocolate shops in Richmond and Belgravia. He speaks to Janet Harmer about his recent trip to Antigua, where he spent time training staff at the Keyonna Beach hotel
What made you get involved in the Keyonna Beach initiative?
Andrew Michelin, the British owner of the hotel, wanted to import skills to upgrade the food and restaurant offer, while remaining true to Caribbean cuisine and ingredients. I was one of seven chefs invited to go over for a period of two weeks. We took existing dishes and put a spin on them, as well as creating new dishes which the hotel chefs could easily emulate.
Who else was involved?
Frederick Forster, executive chef, from Le Pont de la Tour; Patrick Trodden, retired senior lecturer in food and beverage management and culinary arts at the University of Salford; Justin Saunders, executive chef at Rowley's; and consultant chefs Peter O'Toole, Lee Maycock and Mark Lloyd.
What was the best thing about taking part?
The friendly and welcoming team. The local produce was also good to work with. I had never been to the Caribbean and thought it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
What was the biggest challenge?
How did you prepare your training programme?
I researched appropriate ingredients for the Caribbean and created a recipe file before leaving the UK. The training programme revolved around the French classics with an added Caribbean twist. We made spiced pineapple tatin, tropical financiers and rum babas made with the local rum.
How would you describe the pastry and chocolate industry in the UK today?
It is an exciting time as the market is evolving. There are more and more young people coming into the industry who are very passionate and happy to learn. However, there is still a lot of education needed to help nurture the market. Industry and colleges need to work together to make it happen.
What would be your one piece of advice to up-and-coming chocolatiers or pastry chefs?
Work in the very best establishments you can to give yourself a good foundation. What you put in you'll get back, so being prepared to work hard is essential.
What's next for your business?
As well as looking for a new site, I am finishing my third book. This one will be called Nostalgia and will reinvent dishes from my childhood - everything from my favourite chocolate bars to decadent gÁ¢teaux. It has been a great experience to recreate some favourites, such as the Cartwheel, rhubarb Mivvi and Charlotte russe. I still have a little bit of writing to do, but hopefully the book will be published in October.
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