A supermarket in the small town of Coonamble, NSW, seems an unlikely starting point for a sweets empire. But it was there that high-profile pastry chef Adriano Zumbo first discovered his fondness for sugar.
The supermarket belonged to Zumbo’s parents. As a schoolkid he would happily wander the aisles, sampling the shop’s junk food selection. By the time he moved to Sydney as a teenager, that sweet tooth had kick-started a career. Zumbo found work in a cake shop, and eventually his way to Paris to study pastry-making, before returning to set up his own patisserie in Balmain. With a vivid range of desserts, cakes, tarts, and macarons, his quirky take on sweets took hold, and he’s since been featured on MasterChef, released a recipe book and expanded his Zumbo outlets to seven locations in Sydney and Melbourne. The country boy is now a firm city fixture.
His recent addition at Melbourne’s Emporium might be his most brash move yet. When his first-floor kiosk was still under construction, Zumbo plastered online criticism of his South Yarra store around the facade of the Emporium site. “Overpriced, overrated and outrageous” bleated one wall. “Definitely overhyped. My local bakery makes better macarons”, went another.
But Zumbo’s reasons for opening were much simpler than addressing critics. “I chose to open in Emporium because it’s simply a great shopping centre,” he says. “It’s beautiful to look at and you don’t get lost.” The criticisms only underlined his influence.
As a stand-alone store in the middle of Emporium’s first floor, Zumbo’s kiosk makes for a colourful first impression. Initially he was offered a much larger spot, but decided the intimate kiosk worked better for attracting foot-traffic.
“I wanted a city location because you get more visitors,” says Zumbo. “A lot of people work in the city and go there on their lunch breaks.” Zumbo himself casts a watchful eye over proceedings at Emporium, overseeing deliveries from his flagship South Yarra store every morning, and says the Emporium location is almost matching his South Yarra store for trade.
Having just opened Little Frankie, an Italian pasticceria and gelataria in front of his new high-tea salon Fancy Nance in South Yarra, Zumbo's empire grows.
This article is presented by Emporium. If you find yourself in the city with a few minutes to spare, head here to see everything on offer in the Emporium cafe court.