Puffing pastry is his Christmas wish
WHILE some teens may be hoping for iPods or skateboards in their Christmas stockings, Dean Grebert of Alstonville will be happily unwrapping obscure cake-decoration ingredients such as titanium oxide and pectin and a new set of baking moulds.
The 16-year-old Alstonville High student has found his passion in cooking and has his sights set on becoming a master pastry chef.
His enthusiasm has already caught the attention of a celebrity master chef.
The trainee chef from Alstonville's Il Postino restaurant will travel to Sydney on November 15 to spend a day with Adriano Zumbo, the chef who made famous the croque-en-bouche and macaroon challenges on the hit TV show Master Chef.
The trip is a prize organised by the publishers of Adriano Zumbo's new book, Zumbo: Adriano Zumbo's Fantastical Kitchen of Other-worldly Delights, and awarded to the celebrity chef's biggest fan.
It will be the second time Dean has spent time with Adriano in his kitchen.
He completed a week of work experience in Sydney with the chef in August.
"I started following Adriano in 2007 and after he appeared on Master Chef I started trying to make his recipes," Dean said.
The complex cake, desert and pastry creations of Zumbo's whetted the appetite of the Alstonville teen who now has pastry-chefing as his career goal.
"When I started to think about work experience for school I decided to email Adriano to see if he would take me in."
The email was well received, and within days the Sydney chef was replying to Dean to make arrangements for the work experience at his Balmain restaurant.
"He supports people who are passionate," Dean said.
"He's a lot of fun to work with," he said.
"It was a really good experience and it gave me an idea of what I really wanted to do.
"With baking there are so many shapes and colours you can work with. I love the creativity involved in it," he said.
"I've loved cooking since I was young; my first cook book was one of Jamie Oliver's which I bought when I was 12," Dean said.
So passionate is Dean about acareer in the kitchen he has already enrolled in a hospitality course at Wollongbar TAFE with credits going towards his HSC and has started a two-year traineeship, working for one evening a week at Alstonville's Il Postino restaurant.
"We're all so excited for him," Il Postino owner Tim Mulcahey said.
"Dean's only been with us for a couple of months and yet he brings a real plus to the restaurant."
When he's not working in the kitchen, Dean is dreaming up new things to cook.
"My favourite thing to make is macaroons- you can really play around with the colours and flavours and shape," he said.
"I also like walking through the supermarket and just looking at things and working out how they were made.
"I always keep a notebook at home and jot down whatever ideas come to me."
With a pastry chef apprenticeship in his sights, Dean has also started his own blog at: http://www.sosweetpatissier.blogspot.com/