It’s taken 20 kilos of Belgian chocolate, 5 kilos of icing and 40 hours of painstaking work in the kitchen, but Ashley McCarthy couldn’t be happier with his Dahl-icious new sculpture, that is guaranteed to bring chocolate cheer to a children’s hospice this Christmas.
The chef and owner of Ye Old Sun Inn in Colton, near Tadcaster, has created a meticulously-handcrafted chocolate artwork celebrating the work of children’s favourite Roald Dahl, incorporating elements from his many best-selling books. Look closely and you’ll find Willy Wonka’s chocolate waterfall, the BFG’s enormous belt, James’s magical peach and a host of eponymous heroes from marvellous Matilda to Fantastic Mr Fox. All Dahl life is here – and it’s delicious.
Ashley, a father-of-three who runs a multi-award winning family pub with his wife Kelly, designs and makes an ambitious chocolate sculpture every Christmas to raise money for Martin House Hospice, which cares for children and their families in nearby Wetherby. This is his ninth creation in as many years – and his biggest and best yet.
‘I started off years ago with a simple house – a bit like a gingerbread house, only made of chocolate,’ he explained. ‘But it’s evolved beyond all recognition since then.
‘To be honest, it’s become a bit of a hot topic in the pub and on Facebook as people start making suggestions for what I should sculpt. The debate starts in January and heats up in the summer – months before I so much as pick up a knife.’
This year’s delicious celebration of all things Dahl actually started life as a Facebook suggestion. A keen bean put forward the idea of a creamy recreation of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and Ashley’s fevered imagination and creative hands-on skills took it from there.
‘I haven’t had any specific training as a chocolatier,’ he said. ‘But it’s a skill I’ve honed and developed over the years.
‘I can honestly say I love every minute of it. I don’t have a lot of time to spare, so it must mean something that you’ll often find me elbow-deep in chocolate at all hours of the day or night at one of our busiest times of the year.’
He does it because he loves it, but also to raise much-needed funds for Martin House, which needs to find around £5 million a year to carry out its vital work. When his chocolate sculpture is complete, it’s given pride of place in the pub beside a plaque explaining what it is and which cause it’s raising money for. ‘People are very generous,’ said Ashley, ‘particularly when they realise it’s for Martin House. We usually find around £1,000 in the collection box.’
The sculpture and the money are taken to the hospice on Christmas Eve. Then, on Christmas Day, the children are invited to admire it once last time before smashing it to pieces. This might seem a little brutal, but there is method in their festive madness.
‘We fill the sculpture full of individual chocolates – usually four or five boxes,’ said Ashley. ‘The structure itself has usually been quite manhandled by the time Christmas actually arrives – people prod it and poke it because they can’t believe it’s made of chocolate; some even try to snap a bit off. But by filling it with hundreds of chocolates, we make sure every child still gets a well-deserved treat.’