Tim Clark - Co-Owner and Creative Director of Cacao

Tim Clark represented Australia in the World Chocolate Masters in Paris in 2005, was the youngest ever Executive Pastry Chef at Crown Melbourne, and in his twenties travelled the world on a luxury European cruise liner creating decadent desserts for international travellers. Now, his energy is focussed on Cacao – bringing a slice of traditional French pastry to Melbourne with a modernistic twist. Currently working alongside premium brands such as Mercedes Benz, Viktoria and Woods and Jackalope Hotel; Clark understands that you can achieve your goals by consistently refining your skills and not skipping on quality ingredients…

Before your journey with Cacao, what were you doing with yourself? 

I was Executive Pastry Chef at Crown in Melbourne for six years. I was looking after a lot of major events such as the Brownlow, the Logies and the Formula One launch party. I was in charge of a team of twenty-six pastry chefs and was overseeing the creation of desserts across all events and catering venues. Prior to Crown, I worked abroad for a number of years. First in Germany in a one Michelin star restaurant and then travelling the world on a six-star European cruise liner, Silversea Cruises. This was a fantastic experience not only from a professional perspective but also on a personal level. I not only had the opportunity to meet some great chefs and mentors but also had the chance to see the world and experience different culinary cultures.

How does a critical eye and attention to detail feed into the creative side of the business? 

Attention to detail is very important in elevating the Cacao brand to a premium status. Producing continuously high-quality products comes from hard work and determination. It’s a combination of a lot of things from the ingredients that go into making our products, to the level of experience of our team, and the uniqueness of what we make. We’re not creating products that can be replicated at home. We’re creating special experiences for our customers that are not readily available around town. We want to bring European quality and tradition to local audiences with our unique take and understanding of the Australian palate. This is what our creative process is based on with every product that we develop. First, we decide what we want to create and for what purpose, then we work out how we are actually going to make it. We then pick the right ingredients which is a key part of the process. Consumers today are very engaged and interested in what goes into the food they eat. They want to know the origin of the ingredients and this pushes us to be very selective with our choices.

 

It’s not enough that our macarons and chocolates look nice and taste good, they also have to be made using consciously selected ingredients. Knowing the origin and supply chain of what goes into our products matters to our customers.

What era in art do you feel influences your work for most – not just in terms of the making of the food but the brand’s vision? 

That’s a tough question to answer. Personally, I’ve always taken a real liking to surrealism as what you see is not always what you get. This mystery in some way also applies to great food. There’s always excitement about beautifully presented food which really heightens the customer experience.

I don’t think Cacao represents or is aligned with any one particular era of art. As creative people we get influenced by many things: ingredients, nature, colours, design, fashion, the seasons; and the list goes on. A lot of what we do depends on our customers and food trends as well.

In terms of our packaging, our aim was to create a sense of elegance and simplicity. We wanted the design and the finishes to provide a sensory experience to our customers even before they see what’s inside. Our brand colours – inspired by the transformation of the cocoa pod – reveal themselves in the inside of our chocolate boxes and used as a splash of colour on our macaron packaging. Ultimately, we want our products to take the centre stage, but it is also important for us that they are beautifully presented. We wanted the excitement to start from the moment you come across our packaging. The whole experience should be a sensory journey.

“The new look and feel of Cacao represents our desire to create a timeless brand that is based on craftsmanship, skill and quality.

I am very proud of our journey and the hard work that got us where we are today."

How does the constant changing of trends, whether that be in popular culture, art, or fashion, affect your process in creative duration of a certain product and future flavour combinations? 

I think you’ve always got to stay relevant and aware of trends inside and outside food. There is always something that can tie in really well with what you’re doing without compromising who you are. All outside influences play an important role in how our brand and range evolves. Some of it may come through in the presentation of our packaging, style of photography or storytelling. We may incorporate some new flavours in our products based on trends. Gin for example is very popular at the moment so our team may think about how we could incorporate this into a new chocolate product.

In terms of trends and direction, it’s also key for us to work with customers who make us want to challenge ourselves. Customers such as Mercedes Benz, Viktoria and Woods and the Jackalope Hotel help us keep evolving and moving forward.

Is there any related trend within the culinary field that you wish would disappear? 

Probably the raw chocolate trend. I don’t want it to disappear; I just would like better understanding and transparency around what ‘raw’ chocolate really is.

There’s this thought that eating raw chocolate has all these health benefits. There is no denial that ‘raw’ chocolate for example has higher level of antioxidants than ‘normal’ chocolate, but the truth is that nobody can categorically claim that their chocolate is raw. For chocolate to be raw, the cocoa bean should not be roasted. The moment it is treated over 45 degrees it is no longer raw; the same applies to nuts. In case of the cocoa bean, generally there is a fermentation process during which the membrane around the bean - a lychee type, fleshy texture - breaks down leaving you with the bean. The bean is then roasted under normal circumstances. What raw chocolate producers are saying is that ‘we don’t roast the bean, we just ferment it, then we smash the bean and make a paste out of it’. Because it hasn’t been roasted, they claim that it has greater properties, but there’s a lot of risk in doing that as not all bacteria is killed.

Unless you’re controlling the whole process from the sourcing of the beans to fermentation and the creation of the paste without roasting, you don’t know for fact that the chocolate you are eating is indeed raw. As I said, I don’t have a problem with the trend. In fact, we ourselves have recently introduced a product that we believe to be raw based on what we know. But until there is proper regulation in Australia around what ‘raw’ actually is, it will remain a grey area.

Do creative constraints concern you? Or, do you enjoy the limitations in both of the patisserie processes of both recipe building as well as building it structurally in terms of the more visual elements? 

I don’t think there’s too many creative constraints on us. We work with products and ingredients that are very diverse and flexible. It’s up to one’s imagination, experience and skill to be able to create what they want. As individuals we learn and experience new things every day. These in turn help us become better pastry chefs. I’m certainly keeping an eye on what other chefs are making, in particular with chocolate. But in terms of inspiration, I also get a lot of stimulus from outside of our industry. I am always interested in seeing what people are doing in fashion and architecture.

For all those at home that are wanting to improve on their culinary skills, what advice would you have for them? 

There’s always a lot of satisfaction in creating something. When I say satisfaction, I mean achieving something that you are proud of. My advice is to cook within your means and make sure that you enjoy the process. It is just as important as the result. Also, use good ingredients and follow the recipe. 

Published on 26/07/2019 by Leonie Henzell CEO beauty's got soul.

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