Adriano Zumbo, also called Patissier of Pain or Dark Lord of the Pastry Kitchen, is an Australian pastry chef who became known worldwide after appearing on Masterchef Australia as a guest judge and asking contestants to replicate a beautiful croquembouche. His creations are truly unique and showcase a perfect technique which is often hard to master in a household kitchen, but not impossible. Tanzanie is his creation and I have to say it’s one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever made and tasted!
Born from Italian parents, Zumbo was raised in Coonamble, New South Wales, Australia where his parents owned a supermarket so he was connected to food early on. After finishing school, he travelled to Sydney to begin his apprenticeship as a pastry chef, working under important names, like Pierre Herme or Ramon Morato. At the same time, he started supplying homemade desserts to local cafes in Sydney and this was his first step towards opening his first patisserie in Balmain in 2007. His first patisserie was such a huge success that 6 more followed, all culminating with his first book, Zumbo Book, in 2011 and his second book, Zumbarons, in 2012.
He’s an adventurous pastry artist, proof of that being not only the bold flavor combinations he creates, but also the fact that he enjoys competing in the world’s most prestigious pastry contests. Adriano sums himself up as being simple and not at all complicated, totally opposite of his pastry masterpieces. “My type of cooking is comfortable, basic and quite simple”, he says. “I’m not one for fancy sparkles on my cakes, I prefer my cakes sprayed with glaze and the flavors have to talk for themselves”, he continues. That’s his cake philosophy, one that I couldn’t identify myself with more! “It’s about recreating something people eat all the time but in a different texture and a different reality.”, he says. If you go way past this comfort line, fewer and fewer people are willing to taste and actually enjoy what you create so you have to find and balance this thin line of being creative, but not going over the board with it, he explains.
Growing in his parents’ shop, he was used to sweets and developed a passion for lollies which he used to sell at school. “All I could think of was lollies; chocolate bars; Top Taste lamingtons; ginger kisses… that’s all that ever lived in my school bag”, he recalls. This early passion led him into a career that combines his love for all things sweet with tons of creativity.
He became famous after appearing as a guest in Masterchef. His business at that time was 8 months old so he took this opportunity right away, not for one second thinking it might bring him the success he witnessed then. About this experience, he recalls: “When I first went on, it was the first time they’d had a guest chef in the celebrity challenge. I wasn’t interested in TV, it came from nowhere, then they said, ‘We have a few other ideas we’d like to run past you’. I appeared on a few more episodes and then I just became part of the Masterchef family”. If there’s on thing Adriano is extremely happy about when he talks about Masterchef, is that his appearance in the show raised the profile of pastry chefs and brought a well-deserved attention to a long forgotten craft. If in the past people wouldn’t bother much about desserts, not they include pastry shops in their culinary travels or simply go out specifically for dessert. Buying a good cake is a cool, trendy thing nowadays.
When asked about what inspires him, Adriano says it’s the simple things in life that tingle his creativity, such as childhood memories, food fads, eating out and all sorts of experiences, without following any food trend. He thinks life’s about excitement, about not following the rules others have pointed out for you, but looking for your own path, even though it may be out of the ordinary. And just like any other pastry chef, his greatest reward is hearing the positive remarks people have about his desserts.