I'm Suzi, founder of Bella & Tortie.
I’m a pastry chef who made the life changing career move from interior designer to apprentice pastry chef at 30! I swapped dollars for dough, fashion for baggy chef whites and furniture gallery events for night shift starts. And I couldn’t be happier. Since qualifying I have worked at Jocelyn's Provisions, Nodo, Dello Mano, The Standard Market Bakery and Stokehouse Q, which have all helped shape and define me into the pastry chef I am today.
I first heard about canelés through kitchen banter with a fellow pastry chef. We were talking about our favourite pastries and he named the canelé as his absolute favourite. I had never heard of them and unable to find them in Brisbane, I didn’t think any more of them.
It wasn’t until I travelled to Japan a few months later that I first found them and was absolutely blown away by the intensity of flavour and contrast of textures in such a small pastry.
Back home I decided to make them, and whilst the ones I’d tried in Japan were of varying levels of excellence - I was absolutely floored upon tasting my first one fresh from the oven. Nothing can beat that crispy, crunchy outside.
I then became so focused on creating the perfect canelé, making batch after batch in search of the perfect honeycomb structured crumb and dark, but not burnt, crisp outer shell. I tried silicon - not for me - and ended up investing a small fortune in copper moulds. I test baked ten different types of vanilla before settling on the luscious and ethical tahitian bean by Heilala and trialled brown, raw, caster and icing sugar, different yolk ratios, cake flour, plain flour, every. possible. variant.
And this is how Bella & Tortie* was born.
Whilst canelés are my passion and keep me striving for perfection as they are a fickle bake and notoriously inconsistent, I also love to create cakes, tarts, brioches and cookies. With not a very sweet tooth myself, I always try to keep my desserts on the less sweet side and use a contrast of textures and flavours.
*Bella & Tortie is named after my two adorable rescue cats, Isabelle and Tortimer who have kept me company through many lonely hours of nightshift work.
"Food is everything we are. It's an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It's inseparable from those from the get-go."
Travelling throughout my twenties to South East Asia and Europe with permanent stints in Sweden and South Korea, opened my eyes to a whole new world of food. (However sadly I wasn’t as pastry obsessed when I visited France - sure I devoured croissants, tarts, eclairs, baguettes, rillettes and fois gras - but I don’t even recall seeing a single canelé!)
Although the language barriers were at times, stifling, the one language understood the world over is food. Sweden is where I first had cinnamon buns and understood the importance of coffee break and cake through Fika. South Korea is where I learnt the true meaning of seasonal, slow food cooking and was given an opportunity to work in my first commercial kitchen and have my first market stall.
Food brings people together, divides opinions, warms the soul and fills the belly. It is powerful and can evoke memories from a mere smell or make you remember someone long gone from a single spoonful. And I’m so grateful I get to be a part of this.
Please peruse the site and shop and if you have any queries feel free to contact me.