It’s no secret that William Curley knows how to talk sweet. Voted ‘Britain’s Best Chocolatier’ by the Academy of Chocolate four times, this Scottish-born chocolatier is known across the country for his incredible attention to detail and innovative style.
We caught up with William to find out what it takes to raise the ‘bar’ when it comes to conjuring edible magic
What inspired you to become a chef?
A combination of the early influences from days spent baking with my grandmother and also fate. When I went to the local technical college, I was meant to learn woodwork but found cooking instead!
I spent many weekends at my granny’s house baking cakes with her and my younger sister. At the time you don’t realise the impact of early experiences such as this but as I began my career, this influence became a clear part of my journey.
We used to make Dundee Cake, Swiss Roll, Jams and Millionaires Shortbread. All of these I still make in my business in some form.
Where did you train? Tell us more about your culinary background…
At the age of 15, I started a course at the local technical college, which was City & Guilds Pastry.
From there, I went on to become an apprentice at Gleneagles Hotel. I spent three years here learning pastry, confectionary and chocolate work. This was the beginning of seeing the world of a luxury kitchen with a diverse infrastructure.
Next, I moved down South. I trained in the kitchen of Pierre Koffmann first of all, this is where I learned to refine what I do and I cite Mr Koffmann as my greatest mentor and influence. I also spent time at Le’Manoir Aux Quat’saisons, which was another major influence in my career.
What’s your favourite chocolate to work with?
I always work with Amedei Chocolate. They are a small Tuscan producer, with similar ethos to myself. I use Amedei chocolate because for me it is the best. The flavour is very balanced and intricate with good length.
Do you have any role models?
When I was an apprentice at Gleneagles, I trained under Ian Ironside. He helped me to put my foundation into place and taught me the workings of a pastry kitchen. When he was younger, he was the head pâtissier at The Savoy – a role which I went on to fulfil later in my career.
Describe your cooking style in three words.
Classic, innovative and natural.
What does hospitality mean to you?
The essence of hospitality should run through any business, and I believe be carried with you in life.
Making people feel welcome and cared for, while offering a unique experience. We try to embrace throughout our business, whether with interaction with customers, inventing products and creating an environment where people can experience what we do.
You’ve won some impressive awards. What’s been your favourite career highlight so far?
I am incredibly proud to be invited to join Relais Dessert in 2012. An association that represents many of the best Pâtissiers & Chocolatiers.
However becoming a Master of the Culinary Arts (MCA) in 2013 is my highlight and most proudest achievement. The award is several examinations that run during the course of a year.
You are judged on all of your skills from desserts to viennoiserie and from patisserie to a chocolate sculpture. The examination only comes around every four years and there are only currently seven in the UK. To say it was tough to achieve would be an understatement.
Name three of your top restaurants.
The best meal I have ever experienced was Michel Guerard’s Eugenie Les Bains in France. Incredible food, serve and wine.
I am lucky enough to live in London and we are spoil for choice with such a wide range of diverse restaurants. I am a fan of Trinity, Adam Byatts restaurant. It is French based but modern in style. You can get a nice walk in the common after eating there too!
London is great for world cuisine and Soho is the heat of this. One of my favourites for a casual but tasty bite to eat is Corazon, on Poland Street in Soho. It is Mexican small plates and never disappoints.
What’s your favourite chocolate and drink pairing?
That’s tricky as to appreciate great chocolate, a glass of warm water is best in terms of tasting the flavour notes.
I also like jasmine and mild green tea, as they are fresh flavoured without being overwhelming. A good whisky is also good to pair with chocolate – though flavours should be thought out.
What advice would you offer to aspiring chefs?
It’s incredibly important for a young chef to get foundation and knowledge into their training as young as possible. Working in a classic kitchen is vital.
Getting a broad range of skills is key. Enthusiasm and a will to work hard will get you far in our industry.
Finally… what’s your favourite midnight snack?
Has to be a Jaffa Cake, but one of our own from our Nostalgia range.
PLUS: Click here for William’s Jaffa Cake Tarts recipe
Find out more about William Curley and his creations via williamcurley.co.uk