Adriano Zumbo in his kitchen.
Adriano Zumbo in his kitchen. Photo: Steven Siewert

Stephanie Clifford-Smith

Growing up in Coonamble, in western New South Wales, Zumbo left school and started a pastry chef apprenticeship in Sydney when he was 15, showing foresight and self-knowledge rarely seen at that age. He has four retail outlets in Sydney and is about to open his first Melbourne patisserie in South Yarra. He has been the subject of an SBS TV series, is a MasterChef regular and recently released his second cookbook, Zumbarons. He lives in Balmain with his girlfriend, Daniella Ruggero, a lawyer.

Most memorable meal

I love my childhood things like ice-cream and Milo, stirring it up and getting it back to semi-liquid then sucking it off the spoon. I love custard out of the carton. It makes me happy. 

L'Arpege in Paris. I had a pretty special lunch there. It's a vegetable-based menu, with only a bit of meat. It was amazing. Instead of roast beef, they had roast beetroot. The whole beetroot - a big one - comes to the table and they carve it. Everything was so tasty there.

I'm cooking

Last dinner at home Chicken breast with lemon, soy, chilli and brown sugar. My mum bought me a bag of spinach from Coonamble. I've just been blanching it and serving it with some chilli and soy on top. Generally, I just like a piece of meat or fish with vegies or a salad. Or maybe a bit of simple Italian stuff like meatballs or involtini.

Secret vice I love my childhood things like ice-cream and Milo, stirring it up and getting it back to semi-liquid then sucking it off the spoon. I love custard out of the carton. It makes me happy.

The staples

My pantry Sourdough bread. If I'm in a rush and I don't get time to cook, bread is the easiest dinner possible. I might have toast and Vegemite, or dip it in olive oil or have it with a bit of cheese. The Little General olive oil from near Griffith is really peppery and has a good depth to it.

My fridge Ricotta, buffalo mozzarella, gruyere. I like a bit of brie, but I don't like to eat that too often. I eat a lot of butter and sugar at work, so that's enough of the heavy stuff.

Top shelf Cacao Barry chocolate, from France. I have two blends of my own made by them.

My tool kit

I use my Thermomix for everything. It produces incredibly shiny ganache because you can keep the temperature at 50 degrees and don't have to boil the cream. My Kenwood mixer has an induction plate and heats to 140 degrees. It's very sturdy and comes with heaps of attachments. Japanese knives: when you're making pastry, you get a nice cut because the blade is so fine.

I'm drinking

I have a short black every morning and tea at night before I go to bed. I have heaps of loose-leaf teas; Elmstock and Serendipitea are favourites. I like my tea black and strong with a lot of flavour. I even like it when it has gone cold, like an infusion.

Saturday night tipple If it's a sunny afternoon, it would be Aperol spritz. After dinner, it would be negronis, and gin and tonic after that. When I go out, I don't drink anything else, except for wine. At home I'm drinking Robert Oatley Signature Series Shiraz from McLaren Vale.

Inspiration

That mostly comes from cookbooks. Larousse Gastronomique has all the basics.

If I'm creating something in my head, I'll get the base recipe from that and tweak it. It's a good starting point. For savoury things I like The Cook's Book, edited by Jill Norman.

Ideal neighbourhood eatery

The perfect neighbourhood for me would have great pizza, my Sunday night ritual, and a Portuguese barbecue chicken place. I'm lucky I have Rosso Pomodoro (a pizza place) up the street. I sometimes go to Frangos in Petersham for the chicken but if it was closer I'd be there a few times a week. Their chilli sauce is the best.