Behind the scenes with Zumbo’s Just Desserts’ Gigi Falanga

Our antipodean community who’ve caught glimpse of our Editor-in-Chief’s new TV programme, Zumbo’s Just Desserts will already be familiar with this Brazilian-born patisserie wiz. Gigi Falanga is the one keeping contestants in check and serving up their challenging dessert creations on time. We wanted to get to know the person behind the chef’s uniform. Here’s what we found out:

You’re a pastry chef by trade, have you always had a love of food and cooking?

I’ve always loved food. My family background is Italian and both my grandmothers used to cook and feed us all day.

In my early twenties I was into fitness and very interested in healthy food. I was amazed by how much you could change a recipe by using healthy ingredients and still provide tasty food with low calories. When I decided that I wanted to move back to Australia (I lived here before) I needed to study to stay in the country and cookery was my number one option.

I completed an advanced diploma in hospitality, including commercial cookery III, and during my journey I got a job in a fine-dining restaurant and fell in love with pastry. The colours, textures, beauty and elegance of plating desserts made my passion grow and I started looking for new challenges; and here I am.

We’re all really excited about Zumbo’s Just Desserts here at Khoollect! Tell us what it was like filming with Rachel Khoo and Adriano Zumbo…

I couldn’t have asked for a better position than to be between Rachel and Zumbo. Two very successful personalities with so many skills to share. We all thought it was very pleasant working together. We complimented each other with our different styles and personalities, delivering the best of our knowledge and experiences.

Zumbo is a hard worker with crazy ideas but is most of all an easy-going person. Rachel was very respectful with everyone. She would describe food in detail and gave feedback aware of the competitor’s emotions. She also gave me guidance that I couldn’t be more thankful for.

Outside of your TV gig, you make beautiful cakes and run your own company. What do you love most about what you do?

Mixed feelings. It’s a pleasure to be part of people’s lives through my cakes. I bake cakes because it reminds me of celebrations, special occasions and it’s also my passion to make people happy and impress with a beautiful and tasty cake.

I also love colours, flowers, fashion and hand-craft work, and combining all these passions together. The satisfaction of a beautifully finished cake is unreal.

Gigi Cakes

As a pastry chef, you had to offer your expert tips and tricks to contestants on Just Desserts; what’s your best advice for people wanting to get into cooking who might be nervous in the kitchen?

You definitely have to love cooking and be persistant. To be able to calm yourself down and get through those stressful moments (We come across many haha). To be organised and write down any information that might help you is also relevant.

Study and research about your industry to make you feel more confident. When you build confidence you are more creative and you can handle anypressure or mistake.

Zumbo said something on the show that I will never forget: ‘turn the negative into positive’.

Could you name your favourite dessert of all time?

I don’t think I have one in specific. I appreciate a nice tart, ice-cream and entremets. I love textures, freshness, and balance. I don’t like anything too sweet in desserts.

You’re from Brazil originally, and now live in Australia. Do you miss any foods from Brazil?

Yes I do. I always try to go once a year back home to see my family and when I’m there I eat way too much. Recently I have been baking a lot of Brazilian food/dessert because of the Olympics.

I was always working as a full-time pastry chef and I’d never made many Brazilian desserts. Now that I am driving my own business there are a lot of opportunities to show the Australians a little bit more of it. The ‘cheese bread’ is one of my favorites snacks.

What are your must-see sites for those visiting Brazil for the first time?

Brazil is such a big country. There are so many places to go and see. I am from Sao Paulo and my must-see is Skye and Terraco Italia (two great roof-top bars). Teatro Municipal is a wonderful famous theater, and for fine dining D.O.M from Alex Atala is a must-do.

For a holiday destination I would say Trancoso and Fernando de Noronha in the north, and Garopaba in the south.

Where do you call home now, and what are your favourite places to eat, drink and play in your new city?

Sydney is home now, I live on the Northern beaches of Sydney because I love the beach and everything related to it.

Around my area my favourite place to eat is an Italian restaurant called Ormaggio, a casual lunch at The Boat House and Japanese cuisine at Waka. For drinks, I’m always at the Wharf Bar or Hugo’s Bar.

Now in Sydney city there are many more options. I love Quay, it’s my favourite fine-dining restaurant. Drinks at the Opera Bar is always fun.

What are you excited about next?

I am so excited about everything. I’m loving this new step in my career. I like to talk with people and share information.

I have a few goals that I want to achieve. One of them is to improve my business. I want to build a team and bake amazing desserts and cakes.

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Sonya Gellert

Sonya Gellert is a contributing writer and associate editor for Khoollect. She lives in Sydney....

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Loving Zumbo's Just Desserts?

Read about the stylist who preps Rachel Khoo for the show!

Want more of Gigi? Visit her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to follow her sweet adventures.