Established in 2012 by Melbourne-based French chef Younes Khazour and his wife Kate, Asterisk Kitchen celebrates the joie de vivre of exquisite sweet French treats made from age-old recipes that embody the authentic spirit of France, while showcasing some of Australia’s freshest and tastiest local produce.
Specialising in artisanal French meringues and biscuits, made with the finest ingredients sourced from around the Yarra River in Warrandyte, Melbourne, each Asterisk Kitchen creation is a work of art that will make an immensely pleasurable gift. Crafted to excite, impress and satisfy the most discerning of gourmands, Asterisk Kitchen’s variety of baked confections are delights that you won’t soon forget.
Popular items include gluten-free, fat-free meringues in flavours such as caramel, blood orange, kiwi, lemon, raspberry, passionfruit, pomegranate, rose water and gold dust, toasted hazelnut and vanilla; bite-sized petit Belgian cookies inspired by the classic Sablé breton biscuit made with 55 percent dark Belgium chocolate; and uniquely textured massepain cookies made with crushed almonds and honey. A must-try is the biscuit rose de Reims – a twice-baked rose-coloured biscuit made following a 17th century French recipe. These luscious biscuits are the perfect companion to a glass of champagne, moscato or rosé and can be used to decorate cakes such as the Charlotte gateaux, used in a crumble or crushed and folded into cream. These products are available in attractive gift packs and have shelf lives of between six to eight months.
Ambassadas chats with chef Younes and his wife Kate to find out more about Asterisk Kitchen and life in Melbourne.
Ambassadas: Why did you name your shop Asterisk Kitchen?
Younes: The first product we launched was the canelé. To make the canelé, we used an asterisk shaped copper mould. Asterisk meaning little star in Greek mythology. Being French myself, I wanted to show my heritage, and of course everyone knows the famous French cartoon characters – Asterix and Obelix, so that’s how we arrived at the name.
Ambassadas: How did you become a confectionary chef?
Younes: My family has always been involved in food manufacturing and hospitality back in France. My great grandfather was the chef de cuisine in a local castle, my grandmother was a chef, and many of my aunts and uncles are passionate gardeners and amazing cooks.
I stumbled upon baking and confectionary by chance one summer, when I was 14. My best friend and I decided that school was not for us, so we decided to do a pattissier apprenticeship. It was a real eye-opener for me to work with such skillful patissiers. Every single morning, I was so proud of the amazing creations that were produced with the traditional recipes.
Ambassadas: How does creativity and innovation come to play in the baking of traditional confectionary?
Younes: As a young apprentice, I was often told that innovation is the only way to gain recognition as a chef. However, I learnt that I didn’t always need to invent new things, but that I should always strive to innovate, bring something fresh to the market, and surprise people by pleasing them with a gift of my own little treasures. Invite them into my world. Tradition is with no doubt the first step in creativity, you have to learn the basics if you want to innovate. Then you should never stop being inspired, by anything. You can be inspired by an object or a landscape, or even a culture or color.
Ambassadas: I tried your rose de Reims champagne biscuits when I visited Melbourne. They’re really very special, and I love them! Where did you get the idea from, and where did you find the recipe?
Younes: Thank you! As I mentioned, you need to be familiar with tradition before you innovate, but in some cases, there’s no point in trying to change something that is already perfect. The recipe for rose de Reims is 300 years old. I wasn’t looking to change anything, all I wanted to do is make this tradition travel as far as possible, and ensure that its quality reflects the authentic concept. I want to share this delightful treat with as many people as I can.
I had this recipe in my personal book for more than 20 year, but never really paid too much attention to it. Then, one day, looking through notes and drawings, I decided that it was time to give this a go again, but it was more challenging than I anticipated. I had to refine the recipe so I could use raw ingredients from Australia rather than items usually found in France, but I am really happy with the end result.
Ambassadas: What are the best sellers at Asterisk Kitchen in Melbourne? And which is your favourite?
Kate: Many of our customers like the raspberry meringue with freeze-dried powder sprinkles made from real raspberries. My favourite is definitely the caramel meringue. It’s not too sweet and is perfect with coffee or on ice-cream with a little nougat.
Kate & Younes Khazour
Ambassadas: What are the most important skills that a confectionary chef needs?
Younes: First and foremost, you need to understand the raw ingredients that you are using, and the chemistry of each of these ingredients and how they work with other ingredients. You also need to be passionate about food if you want to be a game changer. Commitment and the willingness to work long hours is also crucial, but I think the most important thing for a confectionary chef is to be sensitive, to be able to communicate your emotions through your product and present them in a way that will make all the difference.
Ambassadas: What’s your favourite coffee shop in Melbourne? And what’s your favourite restaurant?
Younes: I like Chez Dre, where a French baker makes the best croissant, and always comes up with great new ideas for bread. My favorite coffee roaster in Melbourne is Gridlock Coffee; the café’s Head Roaster, Con Haralambopoulos is a master roaster, and has won many awards around the world, including World Best Barista in 2010. He make such good coffee, I almost always have my coffee there.
For restaurants, I like Cuttler & Co in Fitzroy for its progressive and innovative cuisine. Saint Crispin in Collingwood is also good. In Hong Kong, I like Akrame.
Kate: Blood Orange in Auburn has great coffee and the Italian baristas will make you laugh. Breakfast is a must there, and the owners always try to get the best organic produce where possible. A good restaurant to try is Sut & Wine, a Korean BBQ place in Box Hill.
Ambassadas: How do you like to spend your Sundays in Melbourne?
Younes: If I am not in the vegetable garden with my children and our free roaming chickens, I like going to Victoria Street in Richmond for some Vietnamese food, then head out to Fitzroy, where the urban art is phenomenal. Then I might catch up with friends at a café with a terrace where we can enjoy the nice weather.
Kate: I like to take advantage of my zoo pass with Younes and the kids, so I enjoy trekking out to any of the three zoos in the city: Melbourne Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary for Australian native animals or Werribee Zoo for the African adventure.
Asterisk Kitchen confectionary is now available at:
Retails: Roomi, Shop 102, 1/F, Stanley Plaza, 22 Carmel Road, Stanley, Hong Kong. +852 2899 0945