Meet Lancashire's Willy Wonka who is conquering the world of chocolate - though he doesn't like it much
All he needs is a top hat and he’s Lancashire’s Willy Wonka - he already has the car numberplate after all.
Though, remarkably, Choc Amor’s Paul Williams is the first to admit he came from a starting point of knowing nothing about chocolate..
And ever since he’s been on a mission to educate people to do just that ever since he entered the industry as a complete chocolate rookie, as he explains.
“My background is nothing to do with food or drink but rather commercial finance,” says Paul.
“My last proper job before I became the North West’s Willy Wonka was a sales director of a specialist mortgage company in Manchester for 20 years and also working for myself doing commercial finance.
“I eventually moved over here when I met (my wife) Jackie and from there went through recession and had a few problems.
“You get to a point and think I have two choices - either jump off an M61 bridge - kind of fatal - or get off your backside and make your own job.
“I started looking into what I loved which was food and drink a and eventually came up with the idea of making chocolate on the 7th January 2102 as 2am in the morning .
“Couldn’t sleep, downstairs, getting stressed as money was tight and read an article about a chap who set up a chocolate business. I thought - I can do that! Then I thought - how do you make chocolate?
“I went on a two-day course and since then I have been hooked and passionate about chocolate.”
But he has a confession to make.
“Now, people who know me know what I’m like -I don’t even really like chocolate! “ he laughs.
“But for me it’s what I can do with chocolate.
“We’ve won 49 awards - just won two world awards including one where we ere the only one in the UK to win it.
“For somebody who doesn’t like chocolate it’s perfect.
“When I say I don’t like it - I don’t take it home for pleasure - but I eat chocolate all through the day to taste it.
“So I’m perfect for this job because I can be very judgemental over how does it taste.
“Anyone who knows our chocolate knows we have some weird and wonderful flavours.
“We have one here for, example, that is orange jalfrezi - so orange and curry.
“Now, people think, for example - chilli and chocolate - is a new thing but actually it was one of the first things to be put into chocolate two and half to three thousand years ago.
“It's one of the first things to be put in as it gives that lovely spiciness.
“The word chocolate actually comes from a South American work meaning ‘bitter water'.”
Paul couldn’t have launched Choc Amor, based at Cedar Farm Galleries in Back Lane, Mawdesley, without the support of his wife Jackie who has the enviable job as chief chocolate taster..
The self-confessed chocoholic was right behind the plan from the start.
“To be honest he is an amazing cook, “ she explained.
“So when we talked about him setting up the a small food business, I was right behind it.
“We came up with a lot of ideas before but when he said chocolate it was just 'yes' instantly.
"From day one it sounded like the right fit and I was definitely up for the job of tasting!”
Choc Amor is currently producing a quarter of a tonne of chocolate a week, has produced multiple intricate chocolate displays and won almost 50 awards - and demand is continuing to grow.
Paul explains: “Our mission is to change people’s perception of chocolate one mouthful at a time.”
As part of this ethos they run chocolate-tasting workshop at their Cedar Farm-base, explaining the tastes and sensations of the choc-experience.
And much like Willy Wonka, Paul is always experimenting with new flavours and pushing the boundaries of chocolate perceptions - with bacon for example.
Paul’s next challenge is to create a three course dinner in chocolate form.
He really is Wonka.