Features & Stories

Author profile: Darren Purchese

I love teaching people, I love passing on my knowledge, I love doing TV that is encouraging and helpful and lifts people up.
— Darren Purchese

British born chef Darren Purchese is Australian patisserie royalty. If you are in Australia you will know of him. If you aren’t you will certainly have heard of Australian Masterchef, the globally watched show on which his complex creations have been set as tie-breaker challenges under his watchful eye and expert guidance. And you will have heard of The Great Australian Bake Off, on which he is now a judge, at the suggestion of national treasure Maggie Beer when she stepped down from the show. We were extremely fortunate to catch up with Darren between filming sessions to talk about his brilliant career, his journey to eminence in Australia, the cookbooks he has poured his heart and soul into, and his mission to encourage people in their home kitchens. You could find no finer chef to guide you, as he is not only at the top of his culinary game, but one of the very nicest. 

How did a boy from Surrey, England, reach such dizzy Australian and global heights? Which of his many tempting recipes mean the most to him, and which are you going to try first?

Darren credits his years at the Savoy with teaching him to cook, first under Derek Rook, and then William Curley. There he learnt his craft in all sections of the kitchen, discovering his culinary talent and falling in love with patisserie. From there he became head pastry chef at The Goring Hotel. Then, while working with Andrew Turner at The Bentley Hotel in Knightsbridge, a chance opportunity arose for the two of them to take part in The Brisbane Masterclass Weekend in Queensland, Australia. He got more than he bargained for, meeting Melbourne based chef Cath Claringbold, who was opening a new restaurant at the time and involved in hosting the visiting chefs. He only returned briefly to London, returning to Australia (this time to Melbourne) and Cath. He has been there ever since. 

His first job in Melbourne was at the legendary Vue du Monde. Darren says the vibrant food scene he found in Australia was “an eye-opener”. Ingredients and influences differed to those he was used to, thanks to the proximity to South East Asia, and the large Italian and Greek communities. Things remain truly seasonal, as produce isn’t flown in at all times of the year, which means only using things when their flavor is at its peak. Darren explains that Australia doesn’t have a long tradition of fine cuisine, so they are not bound by that. And the public are really well informed, and also keen to try and support anything new. This allows for tremendous creative freedom and play, an opportunity to experiment, to delight. 

In 2011 Darren and Cath set up Sweet Studio to do just that. A boutique in Melbourne at which they recreated restaurant desserts to take home. It was always an immersive experience, with all the senses considered, a sweet-themed soundtrack, sumptuous scents piped in, and everything a joy to look at.  The dishes had to “look amazing and taste even better”. And they took their fantasy creations on the road, creating edible installations, dessert bars, and afternoon teas for the great and the good, including the Melbourne Cup and Grand Prix. Events such as Sweet Architecture with Bompas & Parr were designed to be delicious and surprising, the final course of which might well turn out to be the teapots, cups and spoons that didn’t look edible at all. Willy Wonka, eat your heart out!

Their first book Sweet Studio: The Art of Design Desserts is packed with the kind of dishes that sum up this playful patisserie fantasy, and has become a bible for many aspiring and established pastry chefs. It documents the experimental flavor combinations that are Darren’s signature, such as the Coconut, Ginger, Mint & Passionfruit dessert that customers were initially surprised by, and then became so popular they weren’t able to take it off the menu for twelve years without an uproar. Like many of his creations it has gone through many iterations. 

When Darren first made caramelised white chocolate on Masterchef Australia it was a sensation, no one had heard of it. It is now on every second fine dining menu, and rightfully so. Caramelised White Chocolate, Banana, Passionfruit & Macadamia is a favorite recipe of Darren’s. Here the white chocolate is transformed through caramelization into something even more decadent, and beautifully paired with fruit and nuts to balance the sweetness.


Darren is not of the school of chefs who guard their recipes like state secrets and refuse to share. As he puts it; “the more people that can make my recipes the better”, an attitude that has him regularly giving masterclasses, real and virtual, to spread the patisserie love. As a result of this teaching, coming into contact not just with professional chefs but legions of home cooks, he wanted to write a book that had his ethos and flavors, but in recipes that were deliberately more accessible. Lamingtons & Lemon Tart is the result, a brilliant interpretation of his life’s work, combining England and Australia, fine patisserie and home cooking, and all utterly irresistible. 

His Peach Melba is a case in point. He was enchanted watching a fellow chef make a Peach Melba dessert when he first arrived at The Savoy, the recipe originally designed by Escoffier for the celebrated singer Dame Nellie Melba at the turn of the century. How magical, to create something with such a story, and then continue to bring joy with it across the years. He wanted some of that, and it was a key moment is sealing his fate as a pastry chef. He has made many versions of the dessert since, combining its core flavours of peach, raspberry and vanilla. What he did not know at the time was that Dame Nellie Melba was Australian, nor that he would end up living nearby to her estate, or that they would regularly order his version of her famous namesake dish for delivery. A full circle moment!

Lamingtons & Lemon Tart also contains simpler, more home-cook friendly versions of many of his other great flavor pairings, such as the Caramelised White Chocolate Mousse, Coffee, Banana and Passionfruit and the Coconut, Passionfruit, Ginger and Mint. There are several versions of the eponymous Lamingtons, and tart-sweet Lemon Tarts with Raspberry Marshmallow.


Peach Melba from Lamingtons & Lemon Tart by Darren Purchese


Darren doesn’t only have a sweet tooth, and this is demonstrated by his more savoury-focused books Chefs Eat Toasties Too, Chefs Eat Breakfast Too and Chefs Host Christmas Too. The idea for the first of these titles sprang from his love of cheese on toast – try his Comforting Old School Cheese Toastie – and it was such a success that two more bestselling books in the series followed. To Darren’s great delight he finds that other chefs are rather jealous that he got to write a book about toasties. The book’s 90 recipes are a masterclass in taking a simple concept and then making it utterly delicious. Some of Darren’s favorites from the breakfast book include Coffee & Cacao Maple Granola Clusters, and Spiced Lamb Pizza with Fried Egg, Hummus & Lemon. Just two of 80 marvellous ways to start your day


Spiced lamb pizza w fried egg, hummus + lemon from Chefs Eat Breakfast Too by Darren Purchese


Darren and Cath made the difficult decision to close Sweet Studio in 2023, having been in the kitchens there together for twelve years. Prior to that Cath has run nine restaurants. Darren had rarely been far from a kitchen. They can now finally say yes to some of the many requests they have been obliged to say no to over the last 12 years – keep your eyes peeled for his upcoming series of The Great Australian Bake Off, and if you are in Sydney you might join him on Cunard’s Great Australian Culinary Voyage. Their new website Studio Kitchen is a portal to all the appearances, masterclasses, recipes, afternoon tea collaborations, consultancy, demonstrations and dinners Darren can pack in. Nonetheless he found the time to talk to ckbk, share boundless foodie enthusiasm, and give us some top picks from his scrumptious books. Thank you, Darren! 

Darren with his fellow Great Australian Bake Off presenters


ckbk Premium Members have access to the full content of all of Darren Purchese’s cookbooks and more than 800 other great titles, with new books added each week.

Top recipes from Darren Purchese’s books on ckbk

More ckbk features

Nisha Katona’s latest book takes your tastebuds in new directions with bold twists on classic recipes

Barbara Feldman Morse’s book offers myriad ways to enjoy these classic French teatime treats

Forced rhubarb brings welcome color and delicate flavor to the table in the early spring - here are some great ways to use it