Next time I'm in Tasmania, the first place I'm heading to is North Hobart, to seek out Sweet Envy, a hugely popular, old fashioned cake shop, bakehouse and sweet parlour rolled into one!
Sweet Envy, a.k.a. 'the grandest little bakehouse in town', is owned and run by acclaimed pastry chef, Alistair Wise, and his wife, Teena. Having both grown up and completed their pastry and bakery apprenticeships in Hobart, the pair went on to work in top restaurants in Melbourne, London and New York. Alistair worked for Gordon Ramsay and ran his pastry department at The Connaught, alongside Angela Hartnett. Meanwhile, Teena worked at The Greenhouse under an Alain Ducasse protégé and then moved on to couture cakes. Upon their return to Hobart, they received a call from Gordon Ramsay to open his New York hotel, The London, which received numerous awards for desserts and Best Bon Bon Trolley. Now based back in Tasmania, Alistair and Teena have brought to life their own specialised food destination, Sweet Envy, and recently produced a cookbook with the same name.
Alistair and Teena have a refreshing light-hearted approach to their work, as indicated by the hilarious stories and fun vignettes sprinkled throughout the book. Even the contents page made me smile, with chapters titled, among other things: 'Afternoon delight'; 'You Tart!'; 'I scream'; and 'Backdoor Fanny's'. The 100+ recipes are superb and include morsels such as 'Bada Bing!', which are described as 'chocolate cookies with a runny caramel centre and creamy caramel frosting, dipped in milk chocolate'. There are artisan goodies galore and clear instructions on how to create them at home. This is a book that sweet lovers across the globe will want to add to their shelves!
I had the opportunity to catch up with Alistair and Teena via email recently, and our 'conversation' follows below:
Hello Alistair and Teena, it's lovely to make your acquaintance. Thank you for taking the time for this conversation with me. Congratulations on the publication of Sweet Envy, it's such a delightful, beautifully written book!
You're both well-travelled, award winning pastry chefs who have worked in top restaurants in London and New York. I read that you first met in a quirky little pastry shop in Hobart. Tell me, how long ago was that?
Way, way, way too long ago! 20 years!
Some of your cakes have been heroes in New York and London. What's the most popular or all time best selling item at the cake shop and bakehouse?
Pecan sticky bun of course! It's chewy, sticky, nutty, caramelly, buttery pastry goodness gets everyone hooked! (Can I fit any more 'y's' in there?).
I'm in awe of Teena's cake decorating skills. What would you say have been the most spectacular or unusual number produced by the cakeatorium?
The most grand cake was for Hobart's Theatre Royal, which had its 175th birthday. Celebrating with an eight-tiered monster cake that had all the tiers representing different sections of the theatre from draping, to gold embellishments and a whole tier of fresh red roses. It was truly elegant feat that Alistair managed to get roped into helping with!
The most unusual cake would have to be the 'divorce cake' that was a heart cut through the middle with a beautiful house, car and manicured garden on one side and the other was a dirt patch with tent and smashed up car... literally the lady got a matchbox car and took to it with a hammer! Divorce party? Very strange!
I love that you have an obsession with ice cream. Tell me a little about Bessie and Harriet – the trucks.
We have a love of all things old, they ooze character have curves to die for and are built to last!
Bessie is a 1963 commer karrier original Mr Whippy van. She is a way for us to have a bit of fun, throw out some wacky flavour combinations that hopefully the punters will give a go, or if not we get a laugh at watching their faces recoil in disgust!
Harriet is a 1950's J Van which, way back when, got used as bread delivery vans here, so we thought we'd put cake in the back. What a cool way to rock up to a wedding!
We also just had another thought to get a small bond wood to have in tow as an extra little something something to work on. Maybe something savoury?
Do you have a favourite recipe?
Framboise, the first time making this cake was the day that our pastry grew up!
Who are your food heroes and who or what inspires you?
Alistair: Daniel Bowen, I like the way he thinks!
Teena: Peggy Porschen, she has amazing talent.
Matilda, our daughter, always inspires us. Also fresh local produce and social media is captivating at the moment. Looking at what's out there, seeing how we can adapt it to make it our own, and the challenge to make it better!
When it comes to the cookbooks on your shelves, do you prefer to keep the pages pristine, or do you love it when they’re well used and the pages are splattered with butter, oil and flour?
Depends which books they are... You always have those special ones you want pristine, but then you have your old favourites that you return to regularly that are completely trashed!
Is there a recipe you'd like to share with Good Things readers?
We just shared 100 recipes... Buy the book and take your pick!
And finally, what's for dinner tonight?
You've got us on a good night, we are actually attending a wedding that we have made the cake for, done the flower bouquets and also made one of the main dishes. Twelve x the trout en croute deliciousness! (which you will find on page 48-51 of the Sweet Envy book) give it a go!
Thanks so much for your time.
Sweet Envy - 100 recipes from the grandest little bakehouse in town by Alistair Wise and Teena Kearney-Wise, $45.00, Murdoch Books. Thank you to the publicity team at Murdoch Books and also to Alistair and Teena for giving me the opportunity for this conversation.
Tell me dear readers, have you visited Sweet Envy in North Hobart? And don't you just love the sound of this book!?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.