You might recognise Kirsten Tibballs from her frequent appearances on MasterChef Australia over the years and her decadent, intricate dessert creations.
You might know her as the Director of Savour Chocolate & Pastisserie School, a place for pastry chefs to hone their craft. But what you should definitely know about Kirsten Tibballs, is she is living out everyone’s Willy Wonka dreams; forging a career in decadent indulgence, and becoming Australia’s undisputed Queen of Chocolate.
While Australia might not have a royal family, we have no issue with Kirsten Tibballs running the show (have you SEEN her desserts?!). Perhaps we can print her face on the chocolate gold coins at Christmas. Food for thought.
Having just released her new cookbook rightly named “Chocolate”, there’s no sign of Kirsten Tibballs slowing down. We managed to catch her between creating our wildest edible dreams and taking over the world one recipe at a time to ask a few questions!
Your new cookbook, “Chocolate” is for the home cook, and covers biscuits, cakes, sweet treats and desserts. Which is your favourite way to eat chocolate?
If I can’t be bothered cooking anything, I can admit that I’ve chopped up a huge block of Callebaut chocolate into bite-sized pieces…
Such amazing quality chocolate is moreish and it’s chocolate in one of its rawest forms, which is delicious!
When it comes to mastering the art of delicate and decadent desserts, is there still a skill or a cooking method you struggle with in the kitchen?
The thing I struggle with the most is time! I’ve been fortunate to master my skills with so much practise, but I struggle with finding enough time for everything – being a busy mum, teaching and travelling around the world means I’m often left with little time to rest!
You are fondly known in the industry and a household name as The Queen of Chocolate, if you had to choose, who in the cooking world do you think would be the King?
That’s a great question! It’s quite hard to choose – I’ve had the privilege of working with so many great people through Savour School – from Paul Kennedy who teaches a lot of our classes, to guest chefs such as Antonio Bachour, Sebastien Cannone… the list goes on! Savour really brings out the best and it’s so fantastic to see them all in action. However I think I’ll nominate Deniz Karaca, he won the Savour Patissier of the Year competition this year and I was so impressed by him.
We’ve just jumped into Spring and slowly stepping into warmer weather, which means more fresh produce to nibble on, what fresh ingredient are you loving right now?
I’m really enjoying using passionfruit, lemon and raspberries. The availability of fresh summer fruits is one of my favourite things about the warmer months, and I love being able to add delicate, fruity flavours to creations.
What’s your biggest no-no when making a dessert?
Don’t skimp on quality! I definitely think it’s a huge mistake when people think they can use lesser quality products to create something magnificent – the baking process starts when you choose what to cook with, so choose well. I’m so proud to work with incredible brands like Bulla Dairy and Callebaut chocolate because I know that everything I put into my desserts is the best.
As the Director of Savour School in Melbourne, you would see a lot of students come through in the early stages to becoming great pastry chefs. What have you found is the key ingredient your successful students have had in common?
We have many people come through for different reasons – some as a hobby, some because it’s something they’ve always wondered about so wanted to try and then those that want it to be a huge part of their future. No matter the reason, the thing that sets successful students apart is their determination and their passion; a lot of the work we do takes patience and perseverance and a fair few failed attempts! However the students that stay determined are those whose passion has never left them and I’ve seen go on to become exceptional pastry chefs or do incredible things with their work and get real joy from it.
Lastly, if you could only have one dessert for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
That’s a hard question! I’d say a chocolate cake, because you can still get the delicious sponge but you have a choice in toppings. I love a creamy ganache the most! I have a recipe for a ‘Decadent Chocolate Cake’ in my recent book Chocolate, it’s so simple but luscious and goes just as well with fresh berries and cream – really the best type of dessert!