This is the tale of Cason Banks, a young pastry chef from Surrey England who moves to London to start his career and follow in the successful footprints the Banks family are determined to keep on printing. Though Cason is relatively wealthy, moderately handsome and determined to create a life for himself, he is also shy, and adamant love is for a certain breed of urbanites. Part 1 – Cason meets the famous chocolatier Mr Christiansen.
Hi! My name is Christopher Sergi. I’m a novelist and a blogger currently living in the leafy suburbs of Surrey England. The Chocolate Prince will be an ongoing serial depicting the exciting life of Cason Banks as he navigates the new world of London on his search for success and love. Feel free to comment below on where you’d like to see the story go next!
Part 1 – My Meeting with Mr Christiansen
Verity Banks, my mother, once told me that my name, Cason Banks, was a name fit for the stars. That I was to be remembered, no, imprinted into the minds of those I met on my life’s adventures. She was also adamant that I were to one day move to London, for in London, opportunity paved the roads, where blood and life existed on every corner and in no way did stagnation have a chance to root you down. ‘Move to London!’ she said. ‘Get a fabulous job and a fabulous flat and get yourself a fabulous dog, a fabulous car and a gorgeous man.’
And yes, she was terribly liberal, advocating the fact that even at my age of eleven, she knew her little son would grow up to be a homosexual millionaire. But regardless, this has very little to do with that. We lived in Surrey, the rural neighbour of West London, which isn’t void of said opportunity, but just, well, doesn’t quite have the concrete edge or perpetual heartbeat of its capital.
My grandfather, mother’s father that is, was a very successful businessman in the property development game. Do you live in a two-floored new-build somewhere quaint and suburban? If yes, my grandfather probably had it built for you. Mother and father had insisted I take a leaf out of grandfather’s book: know what it’s like to the start from the bottom that is, which, from what you’ll later discover, would have to partially be the case anyway.
I suppose you could argue that mother had a mission for me. Unlike her over successful father, she, like so many other people in this world, suffered from the contradictory curses of both laziness and pride: Too lazy to start a career but far too proud to be kept. Father was a great husband to her: loyal and charming and did a great job of looking after all three of us. Mother on the other hand was more of a cheerleader, always egging us on to do better, rarely a worker in her own right, though never the image of a kept housewife.
Maybe she was the heart of influence when it came to my own decision making. She was my mother after all, but deep down, influenced on not, my dream too was to move to London and accumulate the necessities she had envisaged for me.
Yet the shit had truly hit the fan after my grandfather had sold the business and gone into retirement. It had just so happened that he had lost his fortune on a badly placed investment. His assets were used to pay back much of his accumulated debt, and as a result, the entire family were left with a just a modestly small fortune, though a fortune nonetheless, and it had been enough for me to go out there and start my dream. Not only did I buy a home for myself in the city, I had in fact been given the opportunity to start my life as a chocolatier.
So here I am, a one bedroom apartment in the heart of Belgravia. A little extravagant one might think for a family that lost the majority of its financial assets, but nonetheless, it’s a home, my home, the central operation of what will become my life. I’d love to do nothing more than to bore you with endless details about the blank canvass that is my apartment, situated down a small street you would mistaken for anything but central London. Or the fact I am indeed only a short walk from both Harrods or Harvey Nichols, or the fact I have Hyde Park on my doorstep should the urban jungle prove too demanding for my lack of sensibility, but I just don’t know if I can keep this excitement to myself!
London is spectacular. Don’t get me wrong I loved Surrey. Surrey is quaint, quiet, has a good mix of snob and lack of refinement, clean air and arguably the nice end of the river Thames. But London, oh London: dirty, dangerous, exuberant, exciting and a stunning melange of culture, energy, dynamism. It’s alive here. Want to know the details, of course you do. I, Cason Banks, now live at 26 Harding Mews SW1, City of Westminster, London. I’ll try not to let it go to my head.
The only thing is, I don’t have many friends. No really, I don’t. You think money makes you popular? Well, I suppose it does, but not with the right people. Growing up I didn’t do well with friends. Believe it or not I was a bit of book worm. I know, it’s a horrible cliché, isn’t it. Imagine me, sat alone in the school library, every now and then allowing myself a quick glance up at the window where the boys would pass on their way to PE. I scoff, they knew exactly why I was in there. It just so happens that even when you’re rich, being gay is most certainly not okay.
But that’s alright. I didn’t mind running off with princes and dragons and all that bollocks if it took my mind off things, and it’s not like I had an unloving family to return home to. In fact, I had a second love, one that never judged me, or complained when I would get angry at how one of the boys in my Chemistry class would pour hydrochloric acid into my rucksack. Now chocolate was and forever will be a love that forever loves. And when I knew this, when I finally came to the conclusion that chocolate was not only a treat for my mouth and sanity, it was to be my legacy. I ate chocolate every single day, twice a day, before and after school: a child’s form of dutch courage to start, and a child’s form of wine to wind down and finish.
Want to know about chocolate? I can talk you through everything there is to know about the stuff. But having said that I would never call myself a connoisseur, which is why I decided to begin my journey, to begin what mother had anticipated for me, by using 26 Harding Mews as base of operation, whilst I undertook the exciting role of apprentice, for none other, than master chocolatier Anthony J. Christiansen: a true artisan of the craft and a gold standard artist of chocolate creation. Believe me, though. I did not get this gig by sheer luck. I had worked my ass off from the age of sixteen, working my way up the catering game, until finally, I had been noticed.
Mr Anthony J. Christiansen had tasted my mille feuille whilst I had been working in a country estate hotel in Surrey. ‘I’d like to compliment the pâtissier, if I may,’ Christiansen had said. It was only a matter of seconds I was ushered out of the kitchen, into the country club and positioned before his table, my hands rough yet clammy, something I’m sure any good patissier would never admit to. ‘This mille feulle was spectacular,’ Christiansen said, his poise so bloody elegant it made my words stumble.
‘Oh, really?’ I said, barely able to comprehend how such a legend would take the time to compliment my work. In hindsight I would have taken a few extra seconds to rethink what I would have said to him, in fact a simple thank you would have sufficed come to think of it.
Christiansen laughed and took a sip of what I assumed was dessert wine, a brief flash of porcelain before his lips took hold of the glass rim. ‘You doubt yourself? he asked, eyes back on me and my toque, which I only found out minutes later had slid to an awkward angle…how embarrassing. Though it was only then, when the man himself had called me to his table, had I really felt something new. Christiansen had a glint in his eye, and ever the professional, he waited until the coast was clear, before beckoning me closer and sliding me his business card. He wouldn’t want to come across as poacher after all.
‘I’m looking for an apprentice,’ Christiansen said much quieter than before. So quiet it was rather intimate almost, and since I was closer to the man I could see his eyes for what they really were, without the filter of photography: a chocolate brown so fitting it seemed his mother or father had destined him for a life of gourmand excellence. I’m also guessing by the confidence in his posture, he also knew that I knew who he was, so there was no need for him to elaborate on what kind of apprenticeship he was offering me.
Christiansen rose, I assumed he had already paid. He offered another smile, which I accepted and reciprocated immediately with one of far less impact. ‘I hope to hear from you…’ he said, though held on, waiting for me to give my name. I hated moments like these. Do you just give your first name? Too modest. Your second name? Oh no, too pompous. Or your whole name? Too desperate maybe?
‘Cason,’ I said.
Christiansen exhaled, and I caught a whiff of sweet wine on his breath, not unpleasant though, I’ll admit. ‘Cason?’ he said. ‘That’s both familiar and unfamiliar.’ I could see he was trying to mull it over, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt by assuming it didn’t sound like Jason, but I couldn’t help myself and I told him anyway, my subtle shoulder twitch potentially too flirtatious. I straightened up immediately and pocketed his business card, angry at myself that I had not studied it beforehand.
One week later I phoned him, I accepted, a relief and excitement in both our voices. I would move to London, I would become his apprentice, and I would live my life as a chocolate making urban adventurer!
I really hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to Cason Banks and his love of chocolate. This will be a weekly serial introducing new characters and exciting new adventures for Cason and his new friends as he navigates the difficult yet rewarding city of London. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, make sure to sign up to my monthly newsletter to be the first to know when the next part of The Chocolate Prince is up!