Chocolatier Makes Giant Chocolate House

“You can sort of just zone out and not worry about what’s going on around you,” Chef and Chocolate-maker Ashley McCarthy talks to SCENE at York Chocolate Festival 2024

(Image: Dan Gordon-Potts)

Last week, in the middle of Parliament Street, York’s annual Chocolate Festival was well underway, with market stands crowding the cobbled walkways and offering everything from brownies, to luxury chocolates, and Hungarian Chimney Cakes.

Hosting its own bar, the Chocolate Festival gave space to chef and chocolate maker Ashley McCarthy, who was busy making a large, delicious-looking chocolate house right on the street.

Ashley, from Colton, recently featured on Channel 4’s Extreme Chocolate Makers. Here he became known for his impressive creations, particularly his chocolate houses.

Two years ago, Ashley starred on BBC’s The One Show which tracked him making a huge, intricate (and all chocolate) York Minster to celebrate the return of the chocolate festival after Covid.

Ashley’s delicious LNER train also on display at the festival
(Image: Jacob Bassford)

This year, things were a little paired back, with Ashley making one of his iconic chocolate houses, as visitors and festival goers wandered around and picked up sweet treats on the run up to Easter.

SCENE spoke to Ashley about what inspired the design, “we wanted something that was visual, so something like a chocolate house, which is something I’ve done many times.

“I know we can add things to it and it changes quite quickly so it’s quite dramatic and has a lot of detail.”

For everyone wandering around the street, he said “we want people to see something [being made], it’s more about the process.”

When asked what would be happening to this mammoth chocolate house, Ashley said, “everyone’s been asking me that but I’m not too sure!”

Everyone just wants to eat it, probably. But, despite the whole thing being entirely edible, Ashley warns that due to him literally making it on the street (with the help of a microwave), it’s not “hygienically edible.”

He assures me, “it’ll probably become biogas…so it will still get recycled.”

I ask him about how he got into all of this, why make chocolate?

“So, I’m a chef by trade and I enjoy playing with chocolate and that’s it – I love doing stuff with it. I enjoy cutting things out and sticking things, I think it’s just going back to childhood, really, you can play with it.”

For Ashley, it’s about making something with his hands, “as a chef that’s what I like. You can sort of just zone out and just concentrate on this and not worry about what’s going on around you. In the kitchen I really enjoy doing that, you know, just zone out.”

Inevitably, there’s also the wow factor of making something entirely out of chocolate, “everybody likes it.”

He tells me that historically York as a city is “built on chocolate,” making it the perfect place for a chocolate festival.

“Malton is the food capital of Yorkshire so why can’t York be the capital of chocolate?” 

The finished chocolate house
(Image: Jacob Bassford)

York Chocolate Festival is an annual celebration of the city’s chocolate heritage. It took place from the 27th to the 31st March 2024.

The festival is run by York Food Festival, which holds its main 10 day festival at the end of September. You can find out more here:

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