The chef behind the world’s most Instagrammed cake explains why he no longer scrolls the ‘Gram.
Christopher Thé, the gun pastry chef behind the world’s most Instagrammed cake, tells Richard Cornish why he turned his back on the ‘Gram.
Christopher Thé, the gun pastry chef behind the world’s most Instagrammed cake at Black Star Pastry, has shifted his focus to native ingredients at Hearthe, a small but ambitious cake shop in the inner western Sydney suburb of Stanmore.
In an interview with food writer Richard Cornish, Christopher talks about life after the world-famous Strawberry Watermelon Cake, and explains how his new focus is building a great team, celebrating local food, and staying off the ‘Gram.
Q: What was it like being a social media phenomenon?
A: It was an amazing achievement as a chef. The cake started as a challenge for a friend who was having a wedding. I had this vision for a cake with a red stripe at a time when wedding cakes were two-tiered and covered in royal icing. It became world famous! But I don’t go on Instagram anymore. I no longer want to be influenced by other people’s (baking) ideas. Also, I don’t think social media, generally, is good for the psyche.
Q: What makes you happy?
A: I have a small shop. Nothing gives me more pleasure than putting together a great team who love to bake. I also have people who love to make ice cream, and people who are chocolatiers. It is a little shop, and I still find it rewarding to fill a display with beautiful food.
Q: What is firing you up these days?
A: Presently I am cooking from the heart, food that means the most to me. Food I love to eat. I loved creating fun food a few years back, but now I am working on the edge of where my customers will allow and financial restraints. Other than that, there are no boundaries.
Q: You’re using a lot of native bush foods at Hearthe.
A: I love our native bush ingredients. This land has so many foods that are delicious as well as ancient. Desert lime, muntries, Geraldton Wax. Using them has raised my awareness of the foods growing naturally around where I live, such as lilly pilly, paperbark and warrigal greens. I have also learned how important it is to buy native ingredients from indigenous-owned businesses.
Q: And how are you using them?
A: We are using desert limes from Western Australia, so plump and juicy. They go into a cheesecake. The delicate little pearls go between the crumb base and the cheese filling. We top it with a jelly made with Geraldton wax which has a lovely citric tang. We are using the muntrie, which we are buying from Nathan Lovett. I am making a custard tart with a pastry made with charcoal – it gives it the appearance of charcoal. The tart is filled with a classic crème pâtissier, and the muntrie are used on top.
Q: Anything savoury?
A: I am also making a bush tomato relish that goes on our pies. I am presenting a session at Fine Food about the process of getting a product into jars for retail sale. So many things to think about from Best Before Date to Nutritional Panels.
Christopher will share his expertise and one of his baked creations at Fine Food Australia’s newest deep dive into the business of hospitality – the Concept to Consumer Masterclass. Book early to hear from Australia’s top food development experts on the science and secrets to creating exceptional food products in a two-hour masterclass from 8am on September 13 at Fine Food Australia’s The Source Kitchen, sponsored by Investment NSW and presented by Straight to the Source.’
For a taste of Christopher’s sweet and savoury treats, Hearthe Artisan Cake Shop & Cafe opens from 6am-3pm Monday to Saturday, and from 7am until sold out on Sundays. Find it at 16 Douglas St in Stanmore.