If we think of haute pâtisserie and Australia, the next thing that comes to mind will inevitably be a name of her own – Kirsten Tibballs. Exactly 20 years ago, this restless chef saw the need and the opportunity to create a space to train future Australian pastry chefs and chocolatiers. Thus was born Chocolate Savour School, which after two decades of relentless and rigorous work, is a reference in terms of quality teaching worldwide. This is the perfect excuse to talk about her again in so good.. magazine, #28.
‘I am proud of the fact that hundreds of successful businesses have opened based on their training with us, not only in Australia but around the world’
It is therefore safe to say that she herself has written the recent history of pastry and chocolate making on her continent. The celebration of this 20th anniversary demonstrates the strength and adaptability of Chocolate Savour School, as well as the drive and talent of a chef who has also had time to write two books and create and maintain her own television program.
For those of us at so good.. magazine, Kirsten is not only one of the best professionals in the world. We feel she is part of our team. From the very beginning she believed and bet on our publication like no one else, she holds the absolute record for number of collaborations with us (this is her tenth one!) and, from her school, she has never stopped promoting and even distributing so good.. magazine in her country. We like Kirsten Tibballs for her entrepreneurial character and her business tenacity.
We like Kirsten Tibballs for her ability to carve out a well-deserved niche for herself among the elite of an eminently man-led profession. We like Kirsten Tibballs for her generosity and her permanent smile. But above all, we like Kirsten Tibballs for her talent, for her evolving style, for her versatility, for her rigor and for a nonconformism that always leads her to seek innovation, as she shows in the four pieces she has created for so good.. magazine.
20 years of the Chocolate Savour School. What balance do you make of these two decades at the service of pastry and chocolate?
The industry has changed a lot in the last 20 years. Some of my success is based on my ability to embrace change and be nimble in my approach to business. I have a policy of sharing my recipes and techniques, so it forces me to constantly create new ones. Pushing myself to learn and develop has contributed to my success. Throughout Savour’s 20 years, we have also witnessed the take-off of social media. This has been the biggest transformation in the industry as it has shone a light on talented chefs that were previously tucked away in kitchens never to be seen.
Have you achieved the founding objectives of your project?
I began by just offering hands-on classes, still working part time to earn money. I reinvested what I earnt from Savour to slowly grow the business. Savour now has a retail section that sells specialty equipment and ingredients, and an online classes platform that was launched 10 years ago. My plan was to move with the industry and demand, and always stay innovative. I believe I am continuously achieving this.
‘I have a policy of sharing my recipes and techniques, so it forces me to constantly create new ones. Pushing myself to learn and develop has contributed to my success’
What, if anything, have you not been able to accomplish yet?
I strive to be the very best at whatever I do. Before I finish a project, I am already planning the next. I have my own television show, have published two cookbooks, and have a successful business that I have diversified with Online Classes. I still feel there is more for me to accomplish. Once that drive and ambition stops, I will know it is time for me to retire.
How has your school evolved in these 20 years?
In 2002, when Savour first opened, I did everything myself. Tested recipes, washed dishes, all the administration, cleaning, and even ironed the aprons every night. I would often work months without a day off. I began employing a team of the very best to support the growth of the business. I feel as Savour has slowly grown, we have embraced technology which has helped us grow and educate students globally. I never would have imagined teaching students online in the furthest corners of the globe.
How has the Chocolate Savour School influenced the evolution of patisserie in Australia?
Before Savour was established, Australian chefs didn’t have access to classes or an education apart from what they learnt on the job. I saw an opportunity in our industry for further training, so I opened Savour. I am proud of the fact that hundreds of successful businesses have opened based on their training with us, not only in Australia but around the world.
What are the main changes that have occurred in haute patisserie in recent years at an international level?
With social media, trends are changing faster, and we are associating particular styles to specific pastry chefs. I believe we are pulling away from coloured products and focusing more on textures and embracing natural colours.
‘When Savour first opened, I did everything myself. Tested recipes, washed dishes, all the administration, cleaning, and even ironed the aprons every night. I would often work months without a day off’
According to your experience, what is the most important thing for anyone who starts in this profession?
To have a willingness to learn and be open to new techniques. Once you develop and perfect a product it is important to move onto your next creation.
There are not many successful female entrepreneurs like you in the international pastry industry. Why?
I think as a woman there is always a compromise if you want to balance a career and a family. I am slowly seeing change with more prominent women being recognised in our industry. It is so important to shine a light on female chefs who continue to accomplish greatness.
‘I am slowly seeing change with more prominent women being recognised in our industry’
What are your plans for the next 20 years?
My focus moving forward is to continue growing Savour Online Classes. As the online platform grows, I am ensuring we keep up with technology which is why Savour has a new website being built.
Tell us about the creations you present in so good.. magazine. What is the idea in each case?
For me it is important that every creation I make has an element of innovation with beautiful texture and flavour. The Lemon Flower can easily be served as individual cakes, but I have designed it to be finished as a whole cake which creates more of an impact. I love the shape, and for me it has a touch of sophistication and femininity. It is not too sweet and is balanced well in texture. The Pecan Tart is the epitome of a sensory eating experience with notes of pecan, caramel and praliné, and finished with a contrast of matte and shine. The design was inspired by what occurs when you crack the chocolate on top of a cake, the result being beautiful individual and unique shapes. The Chocolate Passion is all about texture. This is my favourite to eat. A moist pain de Gênes, a delicious crunch layer and salted caramel topped with a light chocolate mousse. Coated in a caramelised rice crisp chocolate, topped with a liquid passionfruit sphere and finished with chocolate curls. The Banoffee Chocolates are created in my custom designed mould. Including flavours of banana, crumble and marshmallow encased in a white chocolate shell. They are finished with touches of yellow and brown cocoa butter to reflect the flavours inside.