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, without skipping a beat, named the canelé as his absolute favourite. I asked him if he meant cannoli! (how green I was) But no - these are worlds, textures and tastes apart.
It wasn’t until I travelled to Japan a few months later that I first found and devoured them and the canelés obsession seed was planted. Work, life and completing my apprenticeship distracted me until I had a craving for them a couple of years later and could not find them anywhere. Thus, the canelés seed began to grow. I decided to make them, with varied results. 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.
Somewhere in the between, and after receiving such a warm reception of them from friends and family - I decided this was it. This was going to be my thing. Canelés have so much flavour, are rich in history and able to be decorated so beautifully, yet I couldn’t find them in this style, anywhere. Even the original ones were hard to find. Producing canelés satisfies my taste palette and creative desire with just enough of a technical challenge to keep me grounded, on my toes.
And this is how Bella & Tortie* was born.
*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 Asia and Europe with permanent stints in Sweden and South Korea, opened my eyes to a whole new world of food. From the bustle of Thailand with its contrastingly perfectly balanced sweet, salty, spicy and sour food, the wintery streets of Prague lined with hot mulled wine and Trdelník, to the colours and exotic fruit in La Boqueria, Barcelona. And of course, all the traditional pastries and breads from Paris, which would not be complete without a visit to Pierre Herme at Galleries LaFayette. It’s these experiences that continue to motivate and influence my food today.
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.