Adriano Zumbo has taken desserts from the final course to the star of the menu. now he’s taking Sweets to the next level with his own TV show.
It seems like only yesterday that Adriano Zumbo was introduced to the world via his amazing croquembouche creation on MasterChef. Since then, he’s become a household name. His Zumbo patisseries have popped up all over the country, he’s had successful cookbooks, magazines covers (including two spectacular ones with Selector) and now has his own TV show.
His story is well known. His Italian-born parents ran the local supermarket in Coonamble, in the mid-west of New South Wales. As a bright-eyed boy endowed with the wonderment of Willy Wonka, one of his heroes, the confectionary aisle is where Zumbo developed his love for all things sweet.
He moved to Sydney at the tender age of 15 to start an apprenticeship with stints at Georges and Neil Perry’s Wokpool before heading to Europe for the World Pastry Cup to train in some of the best culinary institutions in Paris. After a few jobs back home, he took the plunge and opened his own shop in the Sydney suburb of Balmain in 2007. It’s been full steam Zumbo ever since.
Popularity for his croquembouche has been eclipsed by his marvellous and myriad macaroon creations and they are by far the biggest seller at his seven successful Zumbo stores. They are also the focus for his second cookbook, Zumbarons (see his master Zumbaron recipe next page). So with all of this attention, it seems only natural that the next progression was to host his own TV show.
ON SCREEN SWEETNESS
Zumbo’s Just Desserts has recently made its debut on Channel Seven. The title of the show has two meanings: a sugary serving of all things sweet, and the culmination of his success. We also play around with the idea of Zumbo getting his just desserts on the cover of this issue, and it is testimony to the fun nature of the 34-year-old that he loved getting cream pies smashed into his face, over and over again.
The TV show is an idea that the network and Zumbo sifted, blended and baked for a year before bringing it to fruition. Only time will tell if the celebrated confectionary creator has the on-screen charisma to match his bedazzling desserts.
To help him steer the small-screen ship, he has the considerable help of two very engaging co-hosts, British TV-host Rachel Khoo and Brazilian-born Sydney-based pastry chef Gigi Falanga. “I am the thorn between two roses,” Zumbo tells me when we catch up for a quick chat before his Selector photoshoot.
“Rachel is a great food personality with her own show and books. She trained in pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, so she has great knowledge of pastries and desserts and it was lots of fun filming with her. Gigi is my assistant and does the one-on-one with the contestants. I have known Gigi for a little while through the pastry scene and she is very talented. She brings a different dimension to the show.”
The format of the show is familiar for those who consume reality TV – a bunch of amateur pastry cooks compete for a cash prize with the added hook of the winner’s dessert sold in Zumbo stores.
Each episode sees contestants have the freedom to create whatever they want within a certain theme. They present their creations to Zumbo and Rachel to taste. The two least favourite go into an elimination test, where they have to re-create a dessert invented by Zumbo himself. A levitating chocolate Wonka hat and a dessert within a dessert within a dessert within a dessert, gives you some idea the level to which these home cooks need to rise to stay on the show.
“I think it (the elimination creation) is something achievable, but still quite difficult,” says Zumbo, playfully. “It requires a lot of multi-tasking and focus in the time frame to put something up to match what I have presented to them. But they are pretty darn good.”
MENTOR AND MUSE
One of the reasons why Zumbo has gained such celebrity is the fact that he is an inspiration to people who love baking and making desserts. It is a concept that he finds both flattering and surreal.
“When I started up I didn’t go out there to inspire others, I just did what I loved and it drew people in,” he says. “I find it quite emotional sometimes when I meet people and they tell me their story and that I am the inspiration. It is pretty special. Another element is that it makes me strive for bigger and better things knowing that I have inspired people.”
And now he is running his own show (both in business and on TV), Zumbo is recognised as true mentor in the industry. "When you mentor someone you definitely need to see something inside of them,” reckons Zumbo. “They have to be able to take positive and negative feedback on board, understand it and act on it. Another important thing is, believing in yourself. People have given me lots of advice over the years. I have always listened and taken it on board. But in some cases, you just have to go with your original feelings.
“It is surprising to find that a lot of people think their creativity is not worthy. They might have an idea, but they don’t have the self belief to put it to the test. Bringing that belief and ideas out of them is what a good mentor does.”
THE NEXT BIG THING
While hosting his own show is pretty big news, Zumbo knows people are expecting him to come up with the next big thing in desserts. He has set up a research and development kitchen to achieve this, but says he doesn’t feel the burden.
“We can always create whatever our imagination desires, getting people to like it is the hard part. But I love trying, and I love what I do, and that is the most important thing for me.”