Christy Tania’s Inspirational Journey
WELL KNOWN TO THE AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC from her regular appearances on TV’s Masterchef, internationally acclaimed pastry and dessert chef Christy Tania built her culinary reputation as head chef of Om Nom Kitchen and Dessert Bar at Melbourne’s Adelphi Hotel. Christy has since opened her own artisanal frozen dessert shop, Glacé, in Windsor, Melbourne and is planning to expand the business into other venues.
“Change your plan, change your strategy, rest if you must – but never change your goal, and never stop striving for it,” is how Christy describes her philosophy. It’s this can-do mindset which has taken her from her original career choice of business management at IBM in Singapore and into the field at which she excels today.
“I was working with IBM’s Global Business Services Management team, and at age 23 I had become their youngest female project manager in Southeast Asia,” Christy recalls. “I was comfortable with my job but deep down I always knew I wanted to do something different, I just didn’t know what. As a sideline I had started my own business making bespoke cakes, and as that business grew, the volume was such that it was earning me more money than my work at IBM.”
Christy was being groomed to become an associate partner when one of her IBM mentors suggested to her she was at a crossroads – it was time to make a decision about whether to continue on her original path, or strike out on her own as an entrepreneur. At the same time, an unexpected marriage proposal pushed her to make a decision about her future.
“I realised I could get married, go back to the office and work in Singapore all my life, but I thought I owed myself the chance to see how far I could go on my own,” she explains. “I rationalised the choice by telling myself that if I failed, I could simply go back to IBM, so I decided to take six months to see where I could go. So I packed my bags and went to France to take an advanced French pastry diploma at the Ducasse Institute Ecole Nationale Superieure de la Patisserie. I didn’t look back and have worked in this area ever since.”
Having secured a stage at the Ritz in Paris, Christy soon became a commis. “I worked with all these amazing pastry chefs and that made me realise how much I had to learn. So I made the decision to hang in there and the more I stayed, the more I did, the more humility I felt about what I knew, and that kept pushing me to go further.”
With the Ritz closing for renovations in 2012, Christy’s current partner, an Australian travelling through France on a holiday Visa, suggested she return with him to our shores. “In my head Melbourne sounded like a little Paris, so I decided to come,” Christy says. “I had emailed Vue de Monde about work before leaving and the third day I was here I got the job. Then I joined Jacques Raymond for a while and at the same time Sean Preston asked me to help open Sake.”
Christy spent a year at Sake as chef de partie before being offered the position of sous chef, which she declined as it would have entailed moving into the savoury sphere, and she felt there was still so much to explore in the world of desserts. Fate then stepped in with a dream offer for her to open up the Om Nom Dessert Bar at the Adelphi Hotel. “The entire menu offering was desserts when we opened, so I was naturally very excited,” she says. “We were the first in Australia to do it. People were used to spending $12 or $15 tops for desserts but ours cost $23 or $28 and we were still fully booked. It was a challenge to change the public mindset, to convince people they could have a small savoury and save their stomachs for a big impressive dessert. I knew if we could pull this off then I would make my mark in the Australian culinary world.”
Christy stayed with Om Nom until 2016, when she received an offer to join the Langham Hotel as executive pastry chef. After a short stint there, she moved to open up her own business, Glacé artisanal frozen dessert shop. With its distinctive yellow interior and industrial style décor, Glacé’s look deliberately evokes the Beatles’ Yellow
Submarine. “I read somewhere that yellow makes you hungry, and my Dad is a massive Beatles fan, so it’s me trying to combine those influences into a retro industrial look, with pipes and portholes and even lifejackets and lifebuoys.
Asked to describe Glacé’s menu, Christy says, “We’ve concentrated on starting small and then expanding as we go. So we started off with ice cream cakes, and since then we’ve added a variety of large gateaux and cakes, then high tea, breakfast and coffee.”
Having built a high profile in the culinary scene, Christy has been asked to participate in the 2019 Proud to Be a Chef program as a mentor, a role she is excited about undertaking early next year. Looking back on her journey, she is uncertain when she felt she ‘arrived’ as a chef: “It’s an ongoing thing. I basically have always had a battle with myself – when you are climbing to reach a peak, you always have the option to go back down. But you keep going because you want to see what’s up there. You climb and climb and you reach a position where it is easier to look up than think of going down.”