Kirsten Tibballs, proclaimed by MasterChef Australia as ‘the Queen of Chocolate’, is one of Australia’s – and the world’s – most celebrated and respected pastry chefs and chocolatiers.
What it is about chocolate that you love?
I love that it makes people happy. When I gift one of my chocolate creations it is always met with joy, excitement and pleasure – there are not many industries that boast that. It is also the most versatile ingredient in the world, and can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes, as both an ingredient or decorative piece. Chocolate also comes in so many varieties, including white, milk, dark and ruby.
Where did your passion for chocolate, and the wider food industry, come from?
I had a passion for cooking from a young age, as I wasn’t able to attend school full time due to an illness, so I spent a lot of time cooking and preparing all of my families meals and treats as a teenager. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a chef or a pastry chef, so I decided to take on a chefs apprenticeship to test the waters. It was made clear to me very quickly, that there wasn’t enough creativity for me.
You’re the owner of Savour Chocolate and Patisserie School. Tell us a little about it.
I opened Savour over 18 years ago and we are still going strong today. I think part of my success has been my drive to continue to evolve both in the business and personally as a professional. We started out just as a hands-on school, but I quickly experienced a demand for the ingredients and equipment we used in class, so I added a store. Along with this, it also become clear to me that due to financial restraints or location not everyone could come to Savour to attend a class. For this reason, I started Savour Online Classes 7 years ago, which is a platform where students of all skills sets and levels of experience, can view a full library of tutorials from anywhere in the world at a cost of only $12.99 per month. We now have over 350 video tutorials and add a new video weekly.
What is one misconception about chocolate that you’d love to quash?
Not all chocolate is chocolate! Some chocolate (compound) is made with hydrogenated palm oil (trans fat), in which will be listed as vegetable fat in the ingredients. To ensure you’re getting the real deal, look for cocoa butter and cocoa mass listed as an ingredient. Cocoa butter is extracted from the cocoa fruit with very little processing and it will melt beautifully on your palate.
If someone wants to enjoy real chocolate, where should they start?
Always look for cocoa butter in the ingredients. Try to support artisan producers of chocolate, as this is where you’re always guaranteed to find the best chocolate.
Where are your favourite places in Australia to travel to, eat at and enjoy?
I love the Yarra Valley in Victoria as it has such a selection of great producers, restaurants and wineries. Start your day with a hot air balloon ride, before dropping into the Yarra Valley Dairy for a cheese platter, followed by a glass (or two) of sparkling wine at Domaine Chandon. You are spoilt with choice when it comes to lunch, however I love Oakridge Wines or Tarrawarra Estate, followed by a bike ride through one of the hundreds of trails and tracks. Finish the day off with a delicious pub dinner at the Healesville Hotel.
What does being Australian mean to you?
I love being part of Australia’s multicultural and diverse society. I am proud to be Australian and I think we are blessed with a stunning country.