Interview: Adriano Zumbo


Interview by Robyn Doreian

I couldn't see myself going to university and so at 15 I got a job as an apprentice at Dobinsons Cakes.

Macaron king.... Adriano Zumbo.

Macaron king.... Adriano Zumbo. Photo: Marco Del Grande MDG


Until I was four I spent a lot of time in Italy, as my parents, Frank and Nancy, used to return to their homeland for months at a time. At home in Coonamble, the country NSW town where we lived, I spoke Italian, but stopped when I started school as it was deemed uncool.

My parents owned a supermarket and I spent a lot of time hanging around the shop or at home by myself, as my older sisters, Rosalba and Patricia, were at boarding school. I would get up to mischief, stealing lollies from the shop and selling them at school and also taking coins from the cash register to play video games. When I got caught, Dad would grab me by the ear and drag me down the street and back to the shop. He was a very quiet person but if I did something wrong, he'd go off like a cracker.

At school I lived off the food I'd taken from the shop - lamingtons, chocolate, ginger kisses - so when I came home, I had little appetite. At dinner time, Mum would sit there with a wooden spoon and try to make me eat. I'd tell her it smelled awful and start retching and she would eventually give up and cook me a separate meal. I would only eat chicken schnitzel, ultra-thin steak and pasta with no sauce - I drove her crazy.


My first crush was on a girl from primary school. We were in year four and I sprayed our initials on the school fence; I later got suspended for it. When I was 10, she came to my house on Valentine's Day with a card and a rose. I was there with my mate playing Matchbox cars and I was so embarrassed.

I couldn't see myself going to university and so at 15, when I went to Sydney for a school formal, I got a job as an apprentice at Dobinsons Cakes.

I then moved in with Rosalba, who is 12 years older than me. At that time she was a histologist at a morgue and used to drive me to work and take care of me. She was very quiet and reserved and I found myself a bit like that: holding it all in and then blowing up. But I learnt to be the opposite, in that if I had something to say, I'd just say it.

When I was 19, I began work at a French sourdough bakery in Balmain. The boss's daughter was 17, blonde and beautiful. Back then, I was one of those kids who was into looks. We got engaged but it went pear-shaped, and after three years together we split.

Despite French women being beautiful and sophisticated, I was single from 2003 to 2005 while studying in Paris as I found the women unapproachable. It was only when I opened my first patisserie in Balmain in 2007 that I began dating again. I had heard that a beautician who worked a few doors up wanted to meet me and so we went out. She was beautiful, liked food and was easy to get along with. I also found her Irish accent sexy. But whereas I worked a lot, she went out a lot, and in the end our differences divided us. The break-up was mutual.

I was pretty shocked when Cleo magazine asked me to be a 2010 "Bachelor of the Year". I was out of my comfort zone as I'm a chef - my job is not about looks - but it was cool to be a part of it.

On the deciding night, when I walked off the stage, 400 women in the crowd were staring at me, and for the first time in my life I felt like a piece of meat.

That experience, coupled with [appearances in SBS TV series] Zumbo and MasterChef, has given me confidence and forced me out of my shell.

The exposure has also increased my profile. People often ask me for a photo, but last year at a bar, four girls approached me. They said if I cooked them breakfast, all four would follow me home.

I didn't know what to say, so left with my friends.

Growing up with two sisters, I know what women are like. I have a lot of female friends and don't have a problem going shopping and hanging out for the day. Once I made a dessert for a girl's night out, but it wasn't a pick-up thing; rather an act of friendship.

What I look for in a woman is sex appeal: it's essential to have that attraction. She's also got to be into food (to an extent) and talk a lot, as I couldn't go out with a quiet person, as I am quiet myself. I don't have a physical type, but I'm not into skinny women. To me, skinny women are like a straight road: boring because you are always going in a single line. Curvy women, however, always keep you excited. You have to watch the road, as danger could lie ahead.

Adriano Zumbo's cookbook of whimsical sweet treats, Zumbo ($50, Murdoch), is out now.

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