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Canberra’s dream dessert creators

Belinda Neame and Amanda Whitley

EVER SINCE ADRIANO ZUMBO BURST INTO THE MASTERCHEF KITCHEN IN 2009 WITH HIS TOWERING CROQUEMBOUCHE, GOBSMACKING V8 CAKE AND RAINBOW OF MACARONS, WE’VE BEEN CAPTIVATED BY IMPOSSIBLY COMPLEX DESSERT CREATIONS.

But for some, the obsession started long before it became fashionable. We meet three Canberrans who are living their food fantasies.

Le Bon Melange

NATALIE VANDEN BOSCH

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Natalie Vanden Bosch’s childhood love of cooking has endured throughout her life. After finishing 
high school in 1987, she wasted no time following
 her dream.

“I started my apprenticeship [the following Tuesday] at Quigley’s, a fine dining restaurant owned by Terry Fiddler in Launceston. Terry has a profound understanding of his trade and was a terrific inspiration, mentor and boss,” she explains.

Moving to Canberra after two years, Natalie continued her apprenticeship at the newly opened PARKROYAL, and under the guidance of a hard and disciplined French-Austrian chef, learnt many new skills.

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Natalie Vanden Bosch

“I was given the opportunity to work in the pastry section for nine months and this is where my love of pâtisserie started,” she says.

It was to be a short-lived affair. When her time 
in pastry kitchen came to an end, she moved into commercial cookery; and at a time when pastry departments were closing down, she embraced the security of this role.

But Natalie’s ‘sweet dreams’ never left her. In 2013, nearly 25 years after she first stepped into the pastry kitchen, she completed her pâtisserie certificate. She now spends hours gaining inspiration from “food porn” on Instagram and is in complete awe of the work of French pâtissier, chef Johan Martin.

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“I daydream up most of my products. Sometimes I have a plan and I just let the product develop as I go. I record the details of my ideas so I can refer to them later on. The shower is always a good place for creative thinking!” laughs Natalie.

“I am obsessed with what I am doing. I go to sleep thinking about what I’ll be making in the morning,” she says.

“My biggest dream now is opening a French patisserie and café called Le Bon Melange. I want to create an eclectic place where people can get lost in a moment, transporting them to what I imagine to be a little piece of Europe.”

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Cabinets of beautiful pastries, petit gâteau and entremets, pies and fresh filled baguettes are planned for this Gungahlin slice of Paris, as well as crusty fresh French bread.

“I have had plenty of time to come to the decision to follow my dream. I am not getting any younger and I definitely feel that it is now or never.”

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Find out more about Le Bon Melange here.

Ricardo’s and Space Kitchen

Rick de Marco

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Canberra’s answer to Zumbo, Ricardo (Rick) De Marco, can’t remember not being surrounded by food.

“My parents owned a supermarket. I was always there and knew nothing other than working seven days a week. I especially loved the confectionery aisle!” he says.

Opening his first eatery, the eponymous Ricardo’s Café in Jamison, at just 19, Rick is now known just as much for his business nous as for his spectacular sweet creations. He credits his parents for much of his success.

“I’m amazed when I think about my parent’s achievements during those early years. Dad had no background in business, but learned as he went. He was a great resource when I ventured into business.”

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Rick de Marco

These childhood memories have played a big role in influencing his dessert creations at Ricardo’s Café in Jamison and now Space Kitchen in Woden.

“A lot of the desserts have been created from memories and flavours. I love colour, shapes and textures,“ says Rick. Case in point, their new dessert, ‘The Mushroom’.

“It has been inspired from my childhood of playing Super Mario Brothers but the flavours are from adulthood, combining rhubarb and vanilla with a type of Ferrero Rocher texture inside.”

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Peeking inside Rick’s tempting cabinet of fantastical creations, it’s staggering to learn he has no formal pastry training. There are Big Boy Ferrero Rochers – double nutella mousse rolled in hazelnuts dipped in chocolate sprayed in gold, resembling miniature gold-sprayed moonrocks; quivering Peanut Butter Domes – peanut butter mousse coated in caramel on a raspberry curd chocolate tart; and Milo like you’ve never seen it before – Milo mousse, salted caramel centre and an Oreo biscuit base. The only limit is Rick’s imagination.

”I’m always trying to improve the products and dreaming up the next big thing. Sketching an idea on paper and then creating it with your own hands is pretty rewarding.”

Find out more about Space Kitchen here and Ricardo’s here

La Sable Pâtisserie

BEN TURNER

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Award-winning baker Ben Turner’s passion for pastry and desserts began 10 years ago when he was working as an apprentice in a small pâtisserie in Bowral in the Southern Highlands.

“As an apprentice, I was able to watch some of the best pastry chefs in the world compete. I watched as these amazing chefs created masterpieces from just chocolate and sugar. It was at this point that [I knew] this is what I wanted to do.” says Ben.

It’s a skill Ben says has always come naturally to him, something that’s evident in his stunning artisanal products.

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Ben Turner

“I love being creative, experimenting with different flavours and using lots of colour. I draw most of my inspiration from food, especially fruit.

“I am constantly thinking about new cake flavours and I always strive to create something that no one has tasted before.”

Ben loves being able to experiment with different styles of cake designs, but has a weakness for chocolate, and has learnt from some of the best in the business. Travelling to Melbourne in 2014 to attend Savour Chocolate & Pâtisserie School, Ben was taught by two of his biggest influences, award-winning chefs Kristen Tibballs and Paul Kennedy.

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“Chocolate decorations are by far my favourite decoration to use. I was lucky enough to be able to work with Paul, who is one of the best chocolatiers in the world.

“I draw inspiration from the different shapes around me and mould the chocolate into those shapes,”
he explains.

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Last year, Ben’s dream of opening his own patisserie came true, with Mitchell’s La Sable becoming 
a firm favourite among Canberra’s dessert and pastry aficionados.

“To be able to do what I love every day is a blessing.”

Find out more about La Sable Pâtisserie here

Photography by Tess Godkin

You can read this article in full and more in our latest edition of Magazine: The Dream Issue. Available for free while stocks last. Click here to find your closest stockist. 

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Belinda Neame

Belinda is HerCanberra's Production Manager. A foodie and lover of handmade, Belinda enjoys nothing more than a good coffee and seeing Canberra businesses thrive. In her 'spare time', Belinda organises the quarterly Canberra street food event, The Forage with her husband Tim. More about the Author

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Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author

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