First published on 15 Nov 2011. Updated on 11 Feb 2012.
Forget about being Melbourne’s ‘queen of desserts’ – Philippa Sibley is the queen of the one-liner. When describing her new cookbook PS Desserts, stacked with step-by-step basic techniques and her signature dishes, the famed chef of some extremely elegant and renowned work says, “Yeah, this is my mullet book. It’s all business up the front, and party out the back.” This is a lady whose words of wisdom you want in your kitchen.
Having spent the last decade conquering a sugar mountain, the famed pastry chef who once cooked for Oprah and has appeared on Masterchef with her 'Snickers bar' dessert, has decided to kick her candy habit and turn her attention to "normal cheffing" at new venture Albert Street Food and Wine in Brunswick. The restaurant/wine bar/foodstore, due to open this Saturday (December 10) will see Sibley smashing out some classic pizze, hefty terrines, sexy soups (cream of carrot with scallops, anyone?) along with a rotating selection of signature desserts from her book. Expect classic Mediterranean fare, an impressive wine list and every decent olive and cheese that Victoria can muster, on sale at the venue's 'top-up station'.
It's a big change, but Sibley, who has done time at three Michelin star-toting La Côte Saint Jacques in France, and waved her magic whisk over Melbourne’s est est est (RIP), Bistro Guillaume and Il Fornaio actually finds the sweet course of her career hilarious. “I’m often pigeon holed as a pastry chef, but I was doing normal chef work for 12 years before all this kicked off. The irony is, I’m actually allergic to flour, and I can’t even touch it without getting red.” The hands in the book are stunt doubles, supplied by Sibley’s sister. “Plus, I don’t have a sweet tooth – at all.” Her publishers tell us, “She asked whether she could say that she doesn’t eat desserts at the front of the book.” They replied in the negative, but it’s this flagrant honesty that makes the firecracker cook so damn likeable, and her food so good. While there’s beautiful technique and artistry to her dishes, there’s absolutely no BS. “I’m pretty old school – I like tomato and basil, and strawberries and cream.” So, having given her secrets away, Sibley decided that it was time to move on.
“I’ve done desserts. Now it’s time for people to come and eat some meat. I’m good at other things too!” Damn right she is, and we’ll queue up for any terrine, macaron or sweet one-liners Sibley is dishing out any day.