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The sweet taste of success

MASTER AT WORK: Paul Wayne Gregory prepares one of his latest chocolate creations

CHEF PAUL Wayne Gregory had two goals for his working life when he was younger-the first was to work as an electrical engineer and the second was to be self employed.

Although he has given up on the first aim, he has achieved the second by becoming one of Britain’s premier chocolatiers, winning an enviable base of clients for his artistic creations made of chocolate.

PWG, as the 30 something chef is affectionately known, got into cookery by default when he signed up as a baker to earn extra money while studying.

“It fitted into the lifestyle I was living at the time”, he says. “I was partying and because my course was two days and an evening, being a baker didn’t affect my working routine. I could work from 12 noon until 6 and go straight into college or go to work, go to college, sleep and then go out!”

College didn’t turn out the way he wanted. In the second year he found that he had been placed on an electronics course rather than the electrical engineering course he’d enrolled for so he decided to leave.

He found working in the bakery enlightening and a career in food beckoned. Gregory signed up for a course at Westminster College, the same place where Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley Whittington, trained.

Gregory from Croydon, south London, studied and worked part time. It was when he completed his course and started working in kitchens that his career quickly took off.

Although he liked the atmosphere of the kitchens he realized that something was missing from his repertoire and when a head chef position arose, the south Londoner knew what it was –he wanted to work with pastry.

So he returned to Westminster College where he undertook three years of intense study and working with chefs for free.

“I was 28 years old. The people in my class were 18. Everybody said to me, you’re not going to make it. There’s no way you can become a pastry chef. You’re old.”

Not long after this move, Gregory was given a major breakthrough when he got a chance to work with world famous Spanish chocolatier Oriel Balaguer who was based in Barcelona.

Gregory was so focused on futhering his career and working with Balaguer that he only told his girlfriend (now wife) Denise that he’d be going to Spain the day before he left!

The time he spent with, Balaguer proved a huge learning curve. But despite the famous chef offering him a job, Gregory wanted to return home to make his own mark.

He recalls “I remember landing at Gatwick Airport with just £2. I had no money. It was like starting your life again…” Gregory recalls. But a survival instinct kept him going.

“My parents were not rich, they carried themselves well and fought for whatever they had. My motivation has always been to be better than what I am” he says.
But despite the hard work, he did not get a job as expected and faced some tough financial challenges.

But fortune shone when a friend asked if he could make some chocolates. “I converted my kitchen to a base where I could make truffles by night and deliver them during the day. It gave me some breathing time to find a job” he says. “What I didn’t realize, was that while I was searching for work, I had the seeds of a successful business producing luxury chocolate.”

Major clients such as Searcy’s, The Royal Opera House and Mansion House followed.

As the orders poured in, he took a business course. However it was still a struggle.

When he moved into the Croydon based factory that he now occupies, he had a table, fridge, chocolate machine, rack and some moulds.

“Friends and family rallied around to raise money and for the first two years, the aim was to survive”, Gregory recalls.

But as the awards and sales show he has done more than that. He now distributes chocolates to airlines, his products are a hit in Harvey Nichols and he has just won a contract to sell his award winning chocolates in Selfridges. Add to that the pop up shop opening shortly in Brixton and we are looking at a major player in the luxury chocolate market.

The packaging is eye catching and the taste, the taste, which draws on his Jamaican heritage with flavours such as Blue Mountain Coffee and Passion Fruit, has won him an army of fans.

The chocolate profession has recognized this by making him a Chocolate Ambassador and his profile and influence is growing. And earlier this month, he judged the 2012 chocolate masters competition won by Ruth Hinks of Cocoa Black, Scotland.

As Jamaica celebrates its 50th anniversary here is a son of Jamaica who deserves to be celebrated.

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