Kirsten Tibballs, who Masterchef proclaims ‘the queen of chocolate’, is one of Australia’s most celebrated and internationally respected pastry chefs and chocolatiers. She’s an author, an award winner and an ambassador for Callebaut.
To transfer her knowledge to other passionate foodies and professional chefs in Australia, Kirsten established Savour Chocolate and Patisserie School in Melbourne in 2002. Savour School has a state of the art facility in Brunswick and plays host to renowned international chefs each year. Many of the school’s students have gone on to open their own boutique chocolate shops and patisseries around the world.
Tell us about your beginnings as a pastry artisan?
I have had a passion for chocolate and patisserie from a young age. I started a small birthday and wedding cake business from home from the age of 12 as I didn’t attend High School. At the age of 15 I started my pastry chef apprenticeship and I haven’t looked back. I have always enjoyed harmonising flavours and the artistry of a pastry chef.
What are the most important moments in your professional career?
So far I have had some amazing highlights in my career, representing Australia and winning a gold medal at the Pastry Olympics in Germany. Competing for Australia at The World Pastry Team Championships, judging The World Chocolate Masters in Paris, managing the Australian Pastry team in The Patisserie Grand Prix Japan, demonstrating as an ambassador for Callebaut chocolate and of course opening Savour.
Why did you decide to open your own school in Melbourne?
I noticed a large gap in what was being created in Europe in comparison to what was being produced in Australia. We really had no artesian chocolate stores and very few patisseries. I was fortunate to have had some experience and training in Europe so I not only wanted to share my knowledge but also bring some of the leading pastry chefs and chocolatiers from around the world to teach at Savour.
How was Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School when it opened and how it has evolved to today?
When Savour first opened I taught about 2 classes a week from a small kitchen I did everything from teaching, office work and cleaning. I now employ ten staff and operate seven days a week. We moved the school two years ago to a great new facility which includes a retail outlet selling chocolate and speciality equipment.
Which are the main principles of your training philosophy?
Savour offers boutique chocolate & patisserie classes. Our short courses are structured to suit the beginner through to the dedicated professional. We always aim to use the best ingredients and offer expert tuition in an encouraging learning environment. We aim to innovate and inspire professionals throughout the world.
What pastry level you may find in Australia nowadays?
The pastry standard, and more so the chocolate, has improved dramatically in Australia over the last 10 years. Melbourne is the food capital of Australia with some fantastic chocolate & patisserie stores.
What future plans do you have for your school?
I would like to keep Savour as a boutique school that focuses on being leaders in the industry.
What is the most important message you transmit to your students that want to become good patissiers and chocolatiers?
We have had more than 80 students so far open successful chocolate and patisserie business around the world. The most important advice I can give to a student is that they need to continue learning to maintain success.
You regularly attend the most important pastry championships in the world, why?
I have viewed every world championship over the last two years. I always learn a great deal from viewing the competitions and I love meeting other passionate pastry chefs. I would like to compete again internationally one day!
This Q&A was originally published in So Good Magazine.