Zumbo is the first cookbook from Australian Celebrity Chef, Adriano Zumbo. The book came out in 2011--two years after his first appearance on Masterchef Australia and the same year as his SBS television series of the same name.
Perhaps the book's introduction gives an indication which way this review is leaning--while we get a detailed history of Adriano Zumbo's early life and career he doesn't make a single mention of the book or any of the recipes contained within. The focus is clearly on the patissier not the pastries.
The recipes are divided into six categories: zumbarons--Zumbo's macarons--chocolates, pastries, gateaux de voyage, cakes, and dessert. Each features a chapter description giving a bit of background for the creations, but there is little to engage readers who may want to replicate some of the recipes at home. All the recipe instructions are clear and concise, but there are no secrets or tips and tricks--the most Zumbo offers are lines like "I hope you enjoy making them as much as I do," or "I hope these catch your eye."
If you do feel like trying your hand at any of his recipes, make sure you take the time to read all the instructions carefully. Many of the ingredients used are hard to find unless you're already familiar with local distributors in your area. None of the recipes give the approximate time it will take to complete them; if you decide to make the 9-step tanzanie you'll need to dedicate some time to not only craft an ingredients and materials list, but also to figure out if you should start preparing fur your dinner party 8 hours in advance or two days.
An attempt at Zumbo's Macarons
If you can get a good grasp of the recipes you're in luck. They're all good quality recipes that will produce what they promise, but its not an easy process.
Zumbo should be an incredibly interesting cookbook--it has so much potential. Take the corn and mango verrine, Clancy, the rain's a comin'. The name is a clever reference to the mid 90s McCain Super Juicy Corn Cobbettes advertisement. Or there's a night in the Cross--a dessert referencing Sydney's Kings Cross area that features a suspicious ziplock bag of powder sitting on top. Zumbo's recipes are clever and creative, and there's a cheeky wit that has clearly been involved in their creation--so why don't we see it? You won't find a mention of either of those references in the book and they're likely to go over the heads of some readers. Zumbo has an opportunity to become a snapshot of Australian culture, but instead it ends up as a book filled with pretty pictures.
At the moment Zumbo works as more of a marketing ploy--flick through the pictures and complicated recipes and you're more likely to find yourself in one of Adriano Zumbo's stores than in the kitchen firing up the oven. Let's just hope that they decide to reprint the book a few years down the line and Zumbo adds the annotations that are needed to turn this book into a must-have Australian cookbook.