For centuries, many cultures have created their own approximations of ice cream. The Roman emperor, Nero, famously ordered ice be brought back from Italy’s highest mountains for his desserts, while in France, Louis XIV was said to have served ice cream perfumed with flowers at his banquets. Snow was commonly mixed with grape juice across the Persian Empire, and in 9th-century China, Emperor Jing Zong mixed buffalo milk with various ingredients and chilled them in ice pools.

It’s these stories that inspired the new CONNOISSEUR Empire Collection, which range from the hazelnut, chocolate and coffee combination of Nero to Jing Zong’s red bean and coconut. When we were given an opportunity to collaborate on the launch, we saw a chance to use these stories as a jumping off point for an in-depth series exploring the origins of these flavours with some of our favourite chefs.

We start with Pasticceria Papa’s Salvatore Papa. It was 1988 when Papa arrived in Sydney to start a new life. His move was prompted by a visit the previous year, where he discovered that Australia was lacking something particularly important to his culture: traditional pastry and bread. Today, there are three Pasticceria Papa locations, serving traditional Sicilian cannoli and re-framing classic recipes for Sydneysiders.

From Italian pasticcerias we look to the fourth installment in the China Doll family of eateries; China Diner, and speak with chef Sebastian Gee. Gee understands perfectly the delicate balance between tradition and modernisation, constantly searching the history of Chinese cuisine to better understand it, something that chef and owner of Turkish restaurant Efendy Somer Sivrioglu knows well. Many of the region’s famous recipes were crafted as a result of scarcity and the necessity to balance the [ingredients at hand](( The complexity of France’s food culture could be discussed for days. “When someone asks me to define French cuisine, I never know what to say,” Ludovic Geyer, co-owner and chef of Bistro Papillon in the Sydney CBD, admits. Geyer explains that aside from the sheer number of different courses making up each meal, technique is also key to the definition of each dish.

All four understand that flavours are so much more than the sum of their parts. There’s also the experience, history and simple pleasure found in eating, sharing and socialising. In this series, each chef has given us not just the stories behind these flavours, but a window into the place they have in the cultural life of the cuisines they come from. If you’re inspired to dive in yourself, each chef has given us a recipe using these classic ingredients in some classic dishes, and we’ve highlighted the best places in the city to explore and experience these flavours in their natural homes. So what are you waiting for? Come on a tale of discovery.

This piece was produced in partnership with the CONNOISSEUR Empire Collection.

View our entire Empire flavour exploration here.