Sunday, April 8, 2012

The day I met Adriano Zumbo

Posted by kel @ sweet treats at 8:30 AM
I've always been super jealous of Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella as she and Adriano appear to be good buddies. She often hangs at his house, candidly interviewing him, while he perfects new dessert flavours. As a professional blogger, she has my dream job - and my dream interviewee.

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine visited Adriano's store at The Star in Sydney (where we headed for dessert straight after we got engaged) and she saw him through the window. I was, of course, insanely jealous and I told my man that one way or another, I was going to meet Adriano.

Little did I know, he had arranged for us to attend the Mount Buller Summer School to take a masterclass with the man himself. Chris knew that I had been a bit down lately due to my dad moving overseas (amongst other things) so he knew this would be a perfect pick-me-up.

Yesterday we travelled the four hours from our house to Mount Buller to attend our session with Adriano. We were to arrive at the venue no earlier than 1.30pm but when we arrived at 1.10pm we were already about 15th in the line. By the time 2pm (start time) rolled around the line stretched right down to the road. I excitedly poked Chris in the ribs while squealing "there he is!" I appeared to be the only psycho staring through the window for a glance of the man we were all there to see.

When we were finally allowed inside we were handed bags containing recipes, along with a much-appreciated glass of champers. I quickly downed my champagne as trying to juggle a camera, a phone, a pen and my notes proved somewhat impossible.

After Adriano was introduced, he set about demonstrating how to make some Easter eggs. These, naturally, were not your run-of-the-mill eggs - they involved splattering some coloured cocoa butter and lustre dust on the moulds before carefully tempering some 64% dark chocolate, which he used for the shells.

Adriano briefly explained the tempering process, and demonstrated the seeded method that he prefers to use. He added some salted caramel to the prepared shells and showed us how to finish off the backs of the egg halves, ready for assembly. We were fortunate enough to taste some eggs he'd flown down from Sydney, which were filled with the same salted caramel as well as a blackberry gel. They were the shiniest Easter eggs I've ever seen - a sign they had been beautifully tempered.
Ohmygodohmygod. Get in my belly.

Adriano also made some strawberry-vanilla macarons for us while we looked on. It was so interesting to watch him make these fragile beauties; particularly as I struggle to make the damn things. I learnt a lot about making macarons from watching him; I think a lot of my problem is that I treat the mixture far too carefully. Adriano explained that egg whites must always be whipped on medium speed as whites that are whipped too quickly fall too quickly. Now, while making macarons it is the aim to knock quite a bit of air out of the mixture; however whites that are whipped too quickly don't have time to full develop the strength of their protein. He also explained that folding the mixture is unnecessary (another thing I've been doing wrong!) and that you should continue to work the mixture until it resembled a mixture that only just falls back into itself. Adriano also taps the shells vigourously after piping, and double-trays them in the oven.

He also explained that a fan forced oven is a necessity, as are flat trays with no sides. Unfortunately my current oven is not fan forced (I have my beautiful new oven sitting there taunting me, waiting to be installed!) so I will have to persevere regardless. When Adriano removed the shells from the oven I couldn't help but coo, "they're so perfect". Because they were. Each shell had an amazing frilly 'foot', they were perfectly flat on top and were perfectly sized. I suppose the fact that his staff make 25,000 shells a week would mean he's had a little practice. He encouraged all of us not to give up as they are notoriously difficult to perfect.
At one point I asked Adriano if he was appearing in the next season of MasterChef, due to air in the next few weeks (not that I'm counting down or anything...!) He cryptically said "I have not appeared on this season of MasterChef". Hmmm...curiouser and curiouser. They have not yet finished filming, but Adriano is off to New York today so I wonder if he will film when he returns. He is probably embargoed (as all of us in the TV game are from time to time) so I was happy to leave it at that. It wouldn't be Australian MasterChef without at least one appearance from the dessert king, now would it?

Adriano also spoke about the type of people he employs - he prefers to hire young people with passion and drive, over people who have worked at a lot of top notch restaurants. He finds those people harder to work with, and much prefers to surround himself with those who are willing to learn and get on with the job.

Adriano got a few laughs when he revealed his favourite dessert; rather than something high-brow, he opts for custard in a carton from the supermarket. True story. "You can even drink it straight out of the carton!" he excitedly added. Err yes!

Adriano is quite obviously a naturally shy person and appears embarrassed by all the attention he receives. After the demonstration I waited in line for him to sign my book (trying not to crumble from nerves and excitement!) and thought of all the things I wanted to say to him. I wanted to thank him for sharing his passion with us; I wanted to tell him how I almost got engaged at his Balmain store but couldn't due to a lack of V8 cake; I wanted to tell him he constantly inspires me and is my idol; I wanted to tell him about my macaron-filled engagement cake. Finally it was my turn to meet Adriano. He looked up at me, but I was thrown because he seemed so shy. He couldn't be shy! I am the shy one! So all of my thoughts went out the window and I awkwardly said "Um...it's for Kellie...with an 'ie'...K, E, L, L, I, E..." And that was it. I stammered "thank you" before moving over to the line of people queuing for a photo with him.

I was so disappointed with myself for being so starstruck in front of him. I had expected him to be used to weird fan girls such as myself, so I was really thrown when he was too quiet and shy to say hi to me. It's not his fault; he didn't ask for all this attention that his desserts have caused. I'm not annoyed with him in the slightest; I'm annoyed with myself for freezing and not being able to connect my brain to my mouth in the most important moment.

After the signing and photos we moved to the rear of the room and were treated to a delicious afternoon tea consisting of macarons, the famous croquembouche, and a tart topped with watermelon. My stomach was full of butterflies from just meeting Adriano so I shoved my treats into a cup and we left the ski lodge.

That croquembouche...ohhhh yum. Vanilla bean studded creme patissier encased in soft choux pastry. Tasty, tasty toffee running down the sides. Perfect in every way.

So...there you have it. Have you ever met your idol? Did you freeze like I did?

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