Top chef James's new chocs are Close to perfection

Top chef James's new chocs are Close to perfection

Raby Hunt owner diversifies with confectionery partnership

Double Michelin star chef James Close is diversifying - with the launch of his own range of chocolates.

The limited edition collection is a joint venture between the man behind the acclaimed The Raby Hunt Restaurant in County Durham and fellow chef Maria Guseva who also works at the restaurant.

Chocolates by James Close and Maria Guseva is a selection of six confections and two bars are available to buy exclusively from the Fenwick Food Hall in Newcastle until May 21 – or while stocks last, with just 1,000 being made as part of Fenwick’s month-long Meet the Artisans food event.

James and Maria, who work alongside each other at The Raby Hunt, have chosen to unveil their ‘Chocolate with Attitude’ 

The chocolates are partly inspired by the Gothic skull and Buddha pieces served as part of The Raby Hunt’s 15-course tasting menu.

“The dark chocolate skull and white chocolate Buddha have become an iconic part of The Raby Hunt dining experience,” the 37 year old says. “They are the final curtain call and we are regularly asked if we sell them to take home.

“We are a very creative team at The Raby Hunt that likes to think outside the box. The chocolate collection is allowing us to bring some of those unconventional and offbeat ideas to the wider public."

The flavours incldue honey, rosemary ganache and yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit) gel; Raspberry gel and Sichuan pepper ganache and Milk chocolate Earl Grey ganache with bergamot gel.

The individual chocolates cost £1.30 each with the tropical mango and passion fruit bar coming in at £3.50, and the black truffle caramel block at £4.

For James and Maria the launch of the chocolate collection is another twist in what has been a high-profile gastronomic journey. James is a former professional golfer who didn’t begin cooking until he was nearly 30.

Yet in the eight years since opening The Raby Hunt he has taken the former drovers’ inn to the heights of culinary success, culminating in the restaurant last October becoming the first in the North East to be awarded a second Michelin star. He is also the Good Food Guide 2017’s current Chef of the Year.

Maria fell in love with cooking after moving to Newcastle seven years ago and joined James’ team after completing a short basic cordon bleu cookery course and began making the restaurant’s chocolates 18 months ago.