Kirsten Tibballs – Award Winning Chocolatier & Patissier
Words by Connie Lambeth
In a recent chat with Kirsten Tibballs it was tempting to imagine her on speaker phone elbow deep in chocolate at her Savour Chocolate and Patisserie School in Melbourne.
Whatever sweet creation she was into when we hit the call button, there’s no doubting that Kirsten, proclaimed by Masterchef as the ‘Queen of Chocolate’ after her first guest appearance in 2013, has achieved big things since her first kitchen endeavours. With an early interest in pastry making, she entered her baked goods in both the cake and pastry categories at the Dandenong Show as a twelve year old. There was also the home cake-making business she set up, where at thirteen she was selling her treats to family and friends, adding ‘this would not be legal now’!
It wasn’t all smooth sailing however, as Kirsten reflects back to the time she and a friend decided to cook a cake from the Mickey Mouse Cookbook. Mistakenly using bicarbonate of soda instead of flour resulted in an oven explosion she laughingly recalls as clear today as it was back then, and said of course ‘mum got mad’ with the resultant mess. There was likely a lesson learned in diligent ingredient checks after that little mishap!
Probing the ‘early influencers’ in her culinary interests, we discover her mother is ‘quite a good cook’, and she adds that as a fifteen year old apprentice pastry chef there was plenty of parental support from both parents, in sharing the pickups in the wee hours demanded of those working in hospitality.
Kirsten also acknowledges Paul Kennedy, her work colleague at the Savour School she established in 2002.
“We bounce off each other for ideas” she says.
Kirsten Tibballs started out as an apprentice in a small patisserie in Mornington, and by twenty she’d climbed a few rungs to commis pastry chef at Sheraton Towers Hotel, Melbourne. Two years later she had won the National Australian Baking Scholarship Award, opening doors to travel to Europe to work with international pastry chefs in Brussels and Paris.
An incident she’d prefer to forget happened years later when she travelled to Belgium in 2016 for a major presentation. Ushered into a room to change prior to the event, she placed her chefs jacket on the sink without realising they were automated taps. The taps activated, the jacket soaked through, the hairdryer wasn’t up to the task, and the clear cover replacement didn’t quite do the trick! Still embarrassing she discloses!
Social media has made the biggest impact on Kirsten’s career and business endeavours, now able to reach a far wider audience both local and globally. While running contact class time, her online digital cooking classes reach well beyond the classroom, with a videographer employed in-house to film each class.
Kirsten’s creativity is the major driver in coming up with new concepts, ideas and recipes. When asked what’s the best thing about her job she says that people embrace chefs, where ‘everyone loves a surprise and to enjoy pleasure, unlike the nasty surprises that sometimes come from the accountant around tax time’!
Advice for a school leaver thinking about a culinary career in sweet creations?
“Go for an apprenticeship where you get hands on experience, as opposed to a school with less practical experience. Choose where you study carefully. Choose a place that is highly regarded as this can make a big difference to your outcomes. Continue to learn. Such early decisions will set the tone for your career”, says Tibballs.
We ask her if she has a favourite treat she likes to bake. Not into making the same thing twice, she prefers to strive for the new, particularly fond of a chocolate dessert if paired with fruit to create the right balance and cut through the richness.
Throughout our conversation it is clear that Kirsten’s creativity, passion and willingness to embrace a challenge, have contributed to a successful culinary career, with renowned global status. She is passionate about her craft, embraces knowledge in a continual learning process, and shares her expertise with chefs and foodies alike.
“I continue to learn and lose interest if I don’t experiment, test new concepts and continue to evolve”.
As an acclaimed chocolatier and patissier, Kirsten Tibballs deserves her sweet success.
Images Courtesy of Kirsten Tibballs/Evil Twin PR – Morgan Churcher
**Thank you Kirsten for chatting with The Australia Times – 1st November 2017
Connie Lambeth – The Australia Times News
Editor GOURMET – Food/Wine/Events
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