5 minutes with pastry chef Kirsten Tibballs

05 June, 2017 by
Danielle Bowling

Director of Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School, Kirsten Tibballs is one of Australia’s most celebrated pastry chefs and chocolatiers. She represented Australia at the World Pastry Championships in Las Vegas, where she was recognised as the best in the world for her handmade chocolates. She also won gold in the Pastry Olympics in Germany and has been a judge at the World Chocolate Masters in Paris, The Patisserie Grand Prix in Japan and The World Chocolate Masters National selections in London.

Here, she talks about her favourite ingredient and shares her observations of chefs’ sweet skills.

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WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON MISTAKES CHEFS MAKE WHEN HANDLING CHOCOLATE?
A big mistake is overheating chocolate as it must be stirred at regular intervals when using the microwave.

Knowing when to melt and when to temper is another common mistake I often see. It is best to use melted chocolate when it’s being used as an ingredient. Temper your chocolate if it is being used as a garnish or for dipping.  It’s also important to remember to only temper chocolate that has cocoa butter in it. Finally, don’t use a double boiler to melt or temper as the chocolate will absorb moisture from the steam.

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WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE CHEFS DO MORE OF WHEN WORKING WITH CHOCOLATE?
When working with chocolate, practice is so important in allowing you to get a feel for it and to build your confidence. I’d like to see chefs go back to basics: understand exactly where their product is coming from, know what techniques to apply and how to properly treat each ingredient to achieve the best result.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE CHOCOLATE TO WORK WITH AND WHY?
I am an ambassador for Callebaut chocolate and my favourite would have to be their 80 percent Powerful Dark Couverture. Not only is it versatile, it is very intense with a touch of sea salt to balance the bitterness.

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WHAT’S THE BEST DESSERT YOU’VE HAD RECENTLY?
Without a doubt, it would be the winning entremet created by Santiago Cuyugan at this year’s Savour Patissier of the Year competition. The flavour combinations were spectacular and included everything from chocolate, caramel, almond, yuzu and hazelnut.

WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO SOURCE YOUR CHOCOLATE FROM?
All of my chocolate is supplied by F. Mayer Imports. I work exclusively with Callebaut F. Mayer Imports as they are brilliant to deal with and nothing is too much trouble for them.

Callebaut chocolate is one of the rawest forms, meaning it doesn’t skimp on quality or flavour and allows me to execute all the techniques and creations I dream up.

TELL US ABOUT THIS YEAR’S SAVOUR PATISSIER OF THE YEAR COMPETITION.
This year was the second annual Savour Patissier of the Year competition and the standard was truly outstanding. We welcomed the best pastry chefs from around the world, with each finalist being handpicked due to the overwhelming number and quality of entrants. The creations that each of the finalists plated up were nothing short of impressive and it makes me excited to see what the future holds for this great industry.

HOW ARE TODAY’S YOUNG PASTRY CHEFS DIFFERENT TO THOSE OF YEARS GONE BY?
Today’s young pastry chefs are more creative and daring than ever before; they aren’t afraid of pushing the boundaries. Proving that anything is possible, pastry chefs today really think outside the box by giving classics a modern twist using new techniques. This was something I noticed during my recent appearance on MasterChef Australia. Young patissiers definitely have a broader knowledge of cooking applications and are of a higher standard than I’ve seen before. For amateur chefs, the talent is really impressive.

WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSONALITY TRAITS FOR A PASTRY CHEF IN TODAY’S HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY?
At Savour Chocolate and Patissier School, we are fortunate to teach some of the best young pastry chefs in the industry. What sets those apart from others is their determination and passion FOR the industry and what they do. I believe this is reflected through the quality and types of products they create.

Image: Herald Sun