Barry Colenso - Derbyshire's Master Chocolatier
PUBLISHED: 13:07 15 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:59 20 February 2013
From confectionary masterpieces to a Royal Wedding cake, Barry Colenso's talent is truly remarkable. Amy Noton reports
Did I always want to be a Master Chocolatier? No. Barry Colenso admits. Yet with his fascinating chocolate designs providing both a visual and sensory delight, its hard to imagine him doing any other job. From impressing dignitaries at some of the finest hotels in the country with his work, to hosting sculpture seminars and creating patisserie displays around the world, the achievements of this highly acclaimed Master Chocolatier are certainly difficult to ignore.
Barry specialises in handmade and skilfully crafted confections, each a meticulous work of art. Yet his roots in chocolate design date back nearly thirty years when he became fascinated by patisserie work while at general catering college: My passion always edged towards patisserie because its so creative, he explains. Barry grew up in Leamington Spa and left for London to pursue his career at the age of 18. No stranger to dreaming up extravagant designs, he soon won a wealth of awards at the prestigious Culinary Olympics and found employment in several acclaimed hotels as a pastry chef.
Yet the path of his career wasnt always so clean-cut. As an enthusiastic 27 year-old chef, Barry had already set his heart on managing six Viennese coffee shops in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Id made my decision and my bags were packed, he remembers, But then I met Anton Edelmann, Executive Chef at the world-renowned Savoy Hotel in London. We were sitting in his office and after discussing a position at the hotel, he could see I was undecided. He turned to me and said in his gravelly German tones: Mr Colenso you can go to Riyadh anytime you like, never again will you be offered the Chef Patissiers job at the Savoy... and with that I became the youngest Head of Patisserie in the history of the Savoy.
It was during his time at the hotel that Barry created some of his most memorable masterpieces. I was so happy working twelve hour days because I loved what I was doing, he explains. He fondly recalls presenting HRH the Queen Mothers 85th birthday cake on the stage of the Drury Lane theatre, whilst creating and presenting a cake on behalf of Lord Porchester to the Queen is another occasion hell always remember
In 1987, his passion for chocolate finally bought him to Derbyshire after he was offered the position of Master Chocolatier at Thorntons. Despite his apprehension, it was the attraction of having his own creations available in hundreds of UK shops that tempted him to leave the job hed passionately enjoyed for over four years.
Whilst at Thorntons, Barry took part in the creation of a giant chocolate= Dougal sculpture for the 2005 premire of The Magic Roundabout and helped design the worlds first edible chocolate billboard displayed in Londons Covent Garden in 2007, complete with chocolate eggs and rabbits. Its this part of confectionary I love most, he remarks, theres no limit its a constant process of developing ideas into an edible reality.
This enviable ability to turn just about anything into a chocolate extravagance is inspiring, but if you ask Barry about the high points in his life there is no competition for his role in the recent royal celebrations. When the United Biscuits Company offered to recreate Prince Williams favourite cake for the Royal Wedding, its not surprising that Barrys world-class patisserie skills were called upon, and a series of secret interviews in Halifax soon followed. They said it would take about 10 days and would finish at the end of April, Barry laughs, Any fool would have put two and two together, but I had no idea who it was for at the time.
After re-locating to High Wycombe, the 29 day process of designing a cake fit for a Prince began. We made around 1,000 sample pieces for the palace to try and six different cakes, only receiving confirmation of the final design eight days before the wedding, he explains, Usually it takes months to create a mould, but a company in Ashbourne produced one for us in a weekend.
The extravagant cake contained over 12kgs of chocolate and 1,700 McVities Rich Tea biscuits, whilst Barrys handmade white chocolate leaves, fronds and flowers each took over six hours to create. The pressure was incredible, Barry remembers, All of the elements were made and transported separately, and once at the palace everything needed to be reassembled. It was such a huge project that the Queen, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry all paid us a visit. An awe-inspiring display of confectionery at its best, the result of the hard work was a gastronomic delight.
Barrys successful business, set up after he resigned from Thorntons in 2007, has since become increasingly popular. Today, when he isnt creating delicious treats and unique sculptures, he shares his passion with others at talks around the county, including Kedleston Hall six to eight weekends of the year. The production of Barrys own brand chocolate is carried out at a small factory in Mansfield, whilst his home in Holbrook, near Belper, is the perfect setting for chocolate taster days where visitors are taught how to create their own chocolate masterpieces. Barrys experience in product development also mean that his chocolate consultancy business is thriving.
With such an impressive rsum and an undiluted passion, Barry Colensos talent is truly special who knows what it will lead him to produce next? But for now, Barry seems thrilled to be doing what he loves best sharing his knowledge with others and creating hand-made, high-quality confections using only the best ingredients for everyone to enjoy.