Kirsten Tibballs on Fresh As garnishes and staying inspired

The Queen of Chocolate uses Fresh As products in recipes and for garnishing products.

While we drool over her exquisite creations, 'Queen of Chocolate' Kirsten Tibballs is busy composing new masterpieces at the Savour School. Foodservice sat down with acclaimed pastry chef to discuss all things sweet and her latest collaboration with freeze-dried produce manufacturer, Fresh As.

What's been happening at the Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School this year?

Savour Patissier of the Year is happening next month in Sydney and the team have been busy organising and planning for that. We have entrants from each corner of the globe, as well as a world class judging panel including Melissa Coppel, Jerome Landrieu, Frank Haasnoot and Paul Kennedy.

What led you to launch the Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School? Have you always been interested in teaching?

I founded Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School in 2002 to share what I know and love about the industry with people from all over the world. Teaching brings me such a sense of satisfaction and I find real joy in showing our students how to work with chocolate and the types of products they can create from it.

What's your current go-to recipe at the school?

Meringue sticks with sieved freeze-dried raspberry on top.

What advice would you give then to prospective pastry chefs looking to enter the industry?

Read as many books as you can and stay up to date with your favourite chefs on social media. Upskilling is one of the most important aspects of being a professional pastry chef. To stay relevant, you must be constantly evolving and creating what consumers are demanding. Customers want to see more advanced products and if you don’t nurture your skills and come up with fresh ideas, people will lose interest.

Kirsten Tibballs at work at the Savour School.

You've been working with products from New Zealand freeze-dried ingredients company Fresh As, how are you incorporating these products into your baking?

The great thing about Fresh As freeze-dried powder and fruits is that they can be used both in recipes and for garnishing your final product. As well as providing an intense flavour, they offer a crunchy texture that works perfectly when I’m making macarons and confectionery. I use them at home and in the school – they’re a go-to for a quick flavour boost.

What's your favourite product to use?

The passionfruit powder is great for adding a tropical element to any creation.

How can pastry chefs best utilise freeze-dried ingredients?

Their versatility allows them to be incorporated in recipes as well as being used as a garnish. Because of the freeze dried nature, they’re ideal for when you don’t want water present in the recipes but require a balance of texture and flavour.

As one of Australia's most celebrated and internationally respected pastry chefs and chocolatiers, how do you stay inspired?

I find inspiration in so many aspects of daily life, such as nature and architecture. An idea can stem from anything. Social media has a huge influence on every pastry chef, as you have access to images and videos of products from all over the world. I also read lots of patisserie and chocolate books.

How has the industry evolved since your first patisserie job as a teenager in the Mornington Peninsula?

The industry has come on such a long way! Again, social media has had a huge influence over the industry, with pastry chefs now becoming more daring and innovative with their ideas. There is also a huge demand for a more refined chocolate that has been created with high quality beans. We are seeing that now more than ever with bean-to-bar.

What's next for you professionally?

I will be doing demonstrations across the globe for Callebaut, including launching their Ruby RB1 chocolate. I have also just finished filming my TV show, the Queen of Chocolate, so watch this space!

For more information on Fresh As products, please visit fresh-as.com.