Adriano Zumbo Talks To ELLE About Desserts, Challenges And The Finest Chocolate In The World

Adriano Zumbo

Switzerland and Belgium have charted quite a reputation for having the finest and smoothest chocolates in the world. But over the years, we have seen a shift towards locally produced chocolate and most of us will be pleasantly surprised to learn that you now have access to something similar closer home. ITC Ltd.’s Fabelle Exquisite Chocolates launched Fabelle Finesse–touted the world’s finest chocolate. And the team has used groundbreaking technology to achieve this benchmark. The Cocoa Finesse has enabled Fabelle to produce chocolate as fine as seven microns, beating the current number of 10 microns that chocolate manufacturers have been able to achieve. 

It’s no small feat to create a world record like that and is something that we imagine took plenty of ground work. “There were many challenges in terms of textures, deterioration and contamination, and when you go through the process of making it finer, the challenges get higher. It’s very technical. You also have to keep in mind that chocolate comes from a tree. So it is a perishable product. And it will undergo change when it comes in contact with air or pressure. So that was an issue but we managed to go beyond that,” Pastry Chef at ITC Hotels, Ruby Islam shares. 

To celebrate this accomplishment, the ITC team invited Australian pâtissier and TV presenter Chef Adriano Zumbo to unveil the chocolate in Mumbai. Fabelle Finesse has been created using cocoa sourced from Ghana & Colombia. Each bite envelops the rich aroma, delectable smooth texture and rich cocoa flavours – in milk and dark variants. And we got an exclusive tasting of the thin chocolate blindfold. Bite into it and the smooth chocolate melts in your mouth in seconds. Adriano also worked with this chocolate and presented a decadent dessert along with two indulgent chocolate jars (Smooth and Crunchy), which I want an unlimited supply of. 

Adriano Zumbo

But that’s not all that Zumbo came for. We all know how famous he is for the crazy dessert challenges he presents to contestants on Masterchef Australia (remember the croquembouche tower that shot him to fame?). The chef threw a challenge to chocolatiers across the globe on his visit to the city–whoever can create a chocolate finer than Fabelle Finesse will stand to win a whopping prize money of INR 1 crore! It’s time to whip out those aprons.  

Ahead, ELLE caught up with Chef Zumbo to talk about Fabelle Finesse, chocolate’s position in the dessert scene, chocolate trends and more.

ELLE: You made the chocolate jars with Fabelle Finesse. What made you choose to make that in addition? 

Adriano Zumbo (AZ): It was a nostalgic connection for me. When I thought of Finesse, I connected with something that’s smooth. And the first thing that struck me was peanut butter, as in the jar, not the peanut butter itself. So I wanted to mirror that concept, but in the chocolate Finesse that Fabelle created. The jars just give you that same feeling. We created a label, smooth and crunchy,  just keeping a clean set of textures, they laid it out without any flavours. I wanted to just enjoy the flavour of those beautiful chocolates and the textures that were created to replicate what they meant as a texture, that is smooth and crunchy in those jars. So that was where that came from. 

ELLE: So what do you think the global dessert scene is heading to? And where does chocolate stand in it?

AZ: Chocolate stands at the top in the global dessert scene. So many people love chocolate. It’s a stress relief, it’s a luxury, it’s an enjoyment, it’s an indulgence. Whether you eat milk, dark, or whatever you like, everyone has their own experience with chocolate, whether they want a chocolate dessert or just a chocolate bar that has nuts in it or vice versa, all those different experiences, but chocolate is always at the top. I don’t think anything will really ever knock it over because it’s just something that has a league of its own. The enjoyment that it brings to people’s souls and personalities, there’s nothing else that comes too close. 

ELLE: What are some of the biggest chocolate trends right now?

AZ: The biggest chocolate trends over the last couple of years have mainly been health driven. Whether it’s sugar-free, less sugar, less fat, or higher cocoa percentage, it’s pushing more people to add different inclusions that are slightly better for you. In the dessert world, for me, the classics reign supreme all the time. It doesn’t matter how much I can be creative, I’ll only ever appeal to a certain percentage of the market. But for the entire mass market, they just can’t be like Hazelnut Cookies and Cream, Red Velvet Cheesecake, Creme Brulee, etc. They just sit there and they’re mindless. People know them, and people connect with them. And a lot of them have had a lot of those connections in their childhoods. So I think it’s very hard to knock those out of being in the top seat. It doesn’t matter what trend it is because trends come and go.

ELLE: Do you think beauty is winning over taste with eye-catchy desserts on Instagram?

AZ: No. Taste lives over beauty. If you can have taste and beauty, it’s a bonus, but number one needs to be taste and texture. When you sit down in a boutique to eat a dessert, and it looks good but doesn’t taste great, you walk out. Within the next two hours, you’ll forget about that dessert. You’ll probably have a photo of it. You might revert to it one day and go, “Oh yeah, I remember that.” But when you walk out with a flavour in your mouth, a texture, and an experience, you know, you’ll talk about that and want that experience again. It’s like finding your favourite food and you go, “I need to go and get myself a packet of that, or I want to make that again because I’m hungry for it.” That experience lives within you. So taste and textures outdo beauty for sure. 

ELLE: You’re known for your complex and elaborate desserts like the croquembouche, V8 Cake, and most recently Polly Wanna Waffle on Masterchef Australia. How do you come up with these ideas?

AZ: You just gotta simplify it. When I think of things, it’s something that clicks in my mind. With Polly Wanna Waffle, Masterchef asked for a dish that is inspired by a candy bar and they gave a few options on where they kind of want it to go but I’ll just go bang! Straightaway, this is what I’m thinking. There’s a Polly Waffle Chocolate Bar in Australia and then I break it down. My biggest connection to Polly is through a common saying in movies that goes like Polly Wanna Cracker, so I just replaced that with waffles. And then I put the two together and started picturing how it would look as a dish and that’s how it unfolds. This happens in a lot of cases where there is a theme or an inspiration behind it. The other way is literally by flavour. You think of these flavour combinations and go backwards. And then you think about the concept later. So it’s either a visual or flavour idea and you work backwards in both ways and let your own imagination free. The key to that is believing in it because a lot of people don’t believe in their own minds. A lot of people are like, “Oh, no, it’s just you, buddy. No one’s going to want to eat that or buy that or want that.” And then I think, you know, over time, you need to build that confidence within your mind and go, “Now I’m going to do that. Let’s do that. We’ll make it work.”

Adriano Zumbo

ELLE: What are some of the quick desserts people can whip up with existing ingredients in their kitchen? Or when they’re expecting guests at home?

AZ: Tiramisu is always easy–get a packet of biscuits, coffee, mascarpone, and cream, whip them together, and distribute the sugar. Done. That’s super fast. Get those Savoiardi biscuits in addition. It’s very minimal. And Tiramisu is the number one dessert in the world. It’s the most Googled and the most sought-after dessert in the world. So there are a lot of desserts that are super fast to make such as Trifle, lava cake, and chocolate lava cake. You can actually do it in the microwave by mixing it, putting it in a bowl or getting some finesse ganache, sticking them together in the middle of a chocolate cake or in the microwave. You’ve got an instant delicious dessert in five minutes, which you can sit on the couch and eat. Apple crumble is another one. You can actually get store-bought biscuits, crush them up, and mix a few textures through them, such as nuts and granola. Put them in the oven, for 15 minutes, and you know, a scoop of ice cream, and you’re good to go. The key thing is to just get started when you get good quality ingredients. 

ELLE: What are some of the future product projects that you have in the pipeline?

AZ: I’ve got a little test kitchen in Australia, and I’m just playing around there. And I’ve worked on a few things, some new directions and trying to work on your book. And just keep working on products. I really enjoy just researching ingredients and trying to improve the product at the moment. And just keep it quite compact. And then just being able to collaborate with amazing brands like Fabelle. I also have a high tea in Sydney, being able to be in different places and expand the experience for the people. That’s kind of where I’m at, and whatever comes along the way, I take it on board and let the adventure take me there.

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