Adriano Zumbo's Sweet Australian Success

We speak to the dessert king about his rise to to the top and his latest venture, "Just Desserts."

As a child growing up in the rural town of Coonamble in NSW, Adriano Zumbo had a sweet tooth and a fussy appetite. Raised by his Italian grandmother, who came to Australia to help his parents while they ran a busy IGA supermarket, he tells of being addicted to everything from homemade tiramisu to the frozen sweet section at their family store.

He quit school at 15 to become a pastry chef—a move that required him to relocate to Sydney to share an apartment with his sister who was already living there. She was 12 years older and drove her brother to and from his apprenticeship to help make his dream a reality.

“Women in my family taught me to work hard and be patient. They’ve been great supporters of my dreams ever since I was a kid,” said Adriano Zumbo.

Dessert king Adriano Zumbo
Dessert king Adriano Zumbo (Courtesy Adriano Zumbo)

His rise to stardom as a pastry connoisseur is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to a craft that he fell in love with as a teenager. He worked under renowned culinary icons in Australia and France including Ramon Morató and Pierre Hermé.

“I got the working-hard gene from my mum,” he said. “You don’t get anywhere without working hard and putting effort into it and having a passion. I guess I saw my parents work hard at running their supermarket and later a service station and nothing comes your way without dedication. They put their entire lives to their work and in turn it gave us kids a good life,” he said.

Zumbo first came to the public’s attention via “MasterChef” as a guest patisserie and chef back in 2011. He became known for his V8 cake, croquembouche and fairytale house.

Macarons are one of his signature dishes—at one point creating up to 63 flavours 
that included hamburger, pig’s blood and 23-carat edible gold. He also had his own series on SBS which followed his macaron journey from his graffiti-inspired kitchen called The Lab in Rozelle 
in Sydney.

A colourful mural outside The Lab in Rozelle
A colourful mural outside The Lab in Rozelle (©Roshan Sukhla)

“Before doing “MasterChef” my creations were gaining traction, but doing the TV spot certainly helped,” Zumbo said. “I really enjoyed the TV work and it’s quite a different world to baking behind the scenes and creating desserts away from the public view. I also like the element of teaching and showing others how to do things,” he said.

Zumbo started making cakes under his own name in 2007 and supplying cafés around Sydney before launching his brand to the masses. He now owns and runs six successful stores between Melbourne and Sydney. 

He is now the host of his own television show called “Just Desserts” on the Seven Network—the aim of the show is to put amateur dessert makers to the test.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to host my own show,” Zumbo said. “It’s also exciting to see that 
my passion has paid off and continues to work for me—I’m 
just a country boy who moved to the city to do what he loved. I always wanted to play football and do sport but my Italian mother used to put me off and say I had to work. In some ways that led to exploring my pastry passion early 
in life,” he said.

Zumbo's famous macarons called Zumbarons
Zumbo's famous macarons called Zumbarons (Courtesy Adriano Zumbo)

Zumbo’s Must-Do in Sydney: “I’m pretty much always at work, but when I get some down time 
I love to eat at Mr Wong. It’s chilled out and relaxed and good to go for a meal with great atmosphere. This is where you’ll find me with friends.”

Zumbo’s Dessert Pick in Melbourne: “I love the gelato at Pidapipo in Lygon Street, Carlton. It’s simple and clean. Some gelato is too creative, I love their style.”