Sweet Envy opened two years ago along the main strip of North Hobart on Elizabeth Street and continues to go from strength to strength in building their repertoire of delicious treats and in gaining a well-earned following.
The talented chefs behind all things deliciously wicked and wonderful, both sweet and savoury, are the dynamic duo, Alistair and Teena.
Iced Vovo popped into the shop for a chat with Alistair to find out about their baking backgrounds, what get’s them excited about sweets and more:
Q: Let’s start with a little about your training – do you both have training in cake making etc or how did your passion for cakes and pastries come about?
A: We both grew up and completed our pastry and bakery apprenticeship here in Hobart before moving to Melbourne to further our skills and experience. We worked in a number of the top restaurants and Hotels of Melbourne before looking further afield for new challenges.
We packed up and moved to London, working in Michelin Star restaurants. I (Alistair) for Gordon Ramsay running his Pastry department at The Connaught with Angela Hartnett, and Teena working at The Greenhouse under an Alain Ducasse protege before moving on to couture cakes to refine her skills as a cake designer.
We did a lot of traveling around Europe and experiencing different food and cultures before returning home to Hobart. We were looking around for our own shop and deciding what to do when we received a call from Gordon Ramsay to move to New York and open Gordon Ramsay at The London, which received numerous awards for the desserts and we also won Best Bon Bon trolley whilst there. Gordon wasn’t very encouraging of our win, in fact we really had to keep quite about it whilst at the Hotel but we were absolutely thrilled with the recognition of our achievements.
I felt I was starting to become a mini Gordon, getting all uptight and cranky, so we decided we’d had enough of the frantic Hotel world and moved back to Hobart with it already in mind to open up our own pastry shop. We’d seen a lot of wonderful cake shops opening up around New York that had a really relaxed but stylish vibe to them and that is what we wanted for our shop.
Q: You’ve also branched out into icecream with your van Big Bessie what was the impetus behind that?
A: I realised, kind of by accident, that I had a real passion for icecream. I love making it and coming up with wonderful new flavours. We’d been doing the tub icecream for a while and then we had the idea for an icecream van. I started searching for one on eBay and found Big Bessie in Perth. At first we didn’t know whether to buy her or not and so the auction finished and I noticed that she didn’t sell so I dialled the contact number every day but it was over a week before someone finally answered. It took some negotiating with contacts and friends to try and get the van back to Tassie. When it arrived we were thrilled because she is one of the original Mr Whippy vans and still had the original 1962 machine that was operational. I had to go back to school, so to speak, to learn the science behind making the soft service icecream.
We are really lucky living here in Tasmania to have access to many wonderful producers and produce, as well as other complimentary products from Australia and beyond. We get our milk from Ashgrove and having access to so many wonderful products we have been able to experiment and be quirky with flavours.
We’re currently thinking about a range of ‘Medicinal’ style ice cream flavours for winter. I mean who doesn’t want to eat ice cream when they are sick? It’s the best cure isn’t it 😉 So, I’m working on the idea of a Butter Menthol Hokey Pokey and a Pear and Fishermens Friend flavour amongst others. We really don’t take ourselves too seriously as you can tell from the names we give our products.
Q: What is your favourite thing to bake/make and why?
A: Pecan Sticky Bun because it has to be perfectly balanced between being crispy yet chewy. There is actually a lot of work that goes into making the buns and the salted caramel that runs through it. The pecans we use for the bun are sourced from Adelaide and are wonderful.
Q: What is the most technically difficult product you have in the shop?
A: The specialty cakes Teena makes have the most artistry in getting the cake to not only taste great but look fantastic too. There is a lot of work in engineering the boards and cakes into shapes etc before she even gets around to the decorating side of things.
Q: What would be your most popular product?
A: One of our most popular products is the Salted Almond Caramel Icecream, we just can’t keep up with demand sometimes. We have one customer who comes in and buys a litre tub of it just for her and hides it behind the peas in the freezer from the rest of her family.
Q: It’s not all about Sweet treats you also have a number of savoury pies, pastries, sandwiches, breads – why the expansion to savoury?
A: Customer demand really and we also love making savoury pastries and breads too. Like the rest of the sweet treats we have tried to make the savoury selection fun too with products like our Rabbit Pie we had out for Easter, or our Tongue in Cheek Pie, and our sausage rolls are a little different as we add ricotta to them. We really saw how well it worked having some sweet and savoury choices in a number of cafes in London and New York we loved to visit ourselves, then once we got going here customers were also looking for a bit more to their lunchtime choices. We are also going to have soup in Winter and who knows what else.
Q: Do you have any other plans for expansion?
A: Not really, but we are always expanding our range of products and now with Big Bessie too that’s probably enough for us at the moment. We’ve been trialling what we call The Ghetto Dessert Bar over Summer in the side lane on a Friday night where we have some music playing and Big Bessie operating for a bit of a fun atmosphere.
We have been working hard to design a concept involving all of our experiences and travels and we hope that is what Sweet Envy is, a mix of our past but also our future.
Sweet Envy are at 341 Elizabeth St, North Hobart, Tasmania. You can also find their details on the Fab-Finds Page.