Table Talk: Gareth Whitton

Table Talk: Gareth Whitton

Gareth is the chef and co-founder of Melbourne specialty bakery Tarts Anon. With a lengthy career as a pastry chef in fine-dining kitchens, Gareth approaches tarts with technical brilliance and endless creativity, honing his years of experience into one delicious medium.We spoke to the chef about how he came to decide on tarts as his specialty, his day on a plate, and countless kitchen failures.




Tarts Anon does one thing and does it to absolute perfection. How did you come to decide on tarts as your niche?

I think that my love for tarts was born from my obsession with classic cooking when I was a lot younger. I would be whipping out old school French classics at any opportunity for staff meal or when friends were over for dinner, and the tart was the go to as it was the most technically impressive thing you could do without too much specialist equipment. So when I had my creative outlet squashed by 2020s Covid outbreak, it was the best way to scratch my culinary itch. The rest as they say, is history. 




Can you share some insight into your creative process that goes into your monthly flavour development? 

My inspiration comes from absolutely everywhere. Whether it’s the revamping of an old classic, the reimagining of childhood Nostalgia, reconstructing a crowd favourite in tart form, or something that we just know is gonna taste great. We will usually stay towards something that has a really great story – as it’s an amazing way to engage with customers.


Can you share a tart failure or kitchen mistake? Was there something you really tried to make happen that just wouldn’t work?

I have had many a kitchen mistake - too many than I care to recall! From stick blending a custard inside a vac pac bag to repeatedly forgetting to set timers on the oven - not to mention the failed cup of Tiramisu as seen on Dessert Masters. But in terms of a dish or pastry that I couldn't manage to get right, I've never been able to nail my (perhaps somewhat ambitious) recreation of a cheese and vegemite toast tart. The components are just too strong and profound on their own, so much so that the bread is arguably the most important part. But despite these failures, I'm equally as stubborn, so watch this space.




How do you balance your menu between your sweet and savoury tarts?

We always go for a 3-2-2 split. There are always three custard tarts, two savoury tarts, and two cake based tarts – whether a financier, a sponge or Frangipane. Although, we find that the savoury ones are always the hardest to get just right, as we do want to keep the aesthetic of the Tarts consistent – and this proves to be tricky when dealing with savoury food.



Congratulations on your upcoming cookbook! Can you share a little bit about the behind the scenes of piecing together an entire book?

It was a very challenging experience. We weren't sure that we had done enough to put a whole book together, but in hindsight, we are very happy with what we put forward. We were also very lucky that we could shoot the entire book on site – so a lot of what had been shot was taken downstairs and sold on the counter! Also, due to the very demanding nature of our situation, as young parents managing a small business together without any immediate family in Melbourne – we actually took a short week-long holiday in Fiji, where we managed to get the bulk of all the writing done while Otis was in daycare. Not a bad way to do it.




Take us through an average day on your plate. What does breakfast/lunch/dinner/dessert look like for you? 

On a work day, breakfast is usually a few cups of coffee and not much until lunchtime. Then its usually leftovers from the night before — pasta, fried rice or curry, then dinner is always the main event. As I really miss cooking savoury food, I tend to put all my savoury cooking energy into nightly meals which can be anywhere from 6-hour slow-cooked ragus to fresh vibrant Thai beef noodle salads. I'm currently obsessed with Japanese curry — so chicken Katsu curry with rice and wasabi coleslaw is a regular feature on our weekly menu. 



 What are your favourite rituals around food and dining?

I don't really have many to be honest. Christmas dinner might be one that always has to have a certain flavour to it, but as Australians — that can mean so many things. There are so many things around traditions and cultural norms that I think are open to interpretation, and a lot that could always benefit from breaking the rules. This is usually the way that good traditions are created anyway, so I would likely call myself unconventional in that sense. Having said that, I do love to observe the traditions and cultural practices whenever I travel — so I'm not consistent with my anarchy.


If we were to peer into your pantry and fridge at home, what are 5 things we would always find?

Chinese chilli crisp chili oil, Italian style chilli oil, parmesan cheese, sour cream and chives rice crackers, and full cream milk for my morning coffee.



Favourite season for produce?

Summer. As a pastry chef, having stone fruit and berries in season is a blessing. plus the beauty of being in Australia, you are likely to be able to get your hands on any fruit at that time of year (except for quince) so its more a case of having multiple options. However the fat content of cream on the warmer months always seems to drop a few percent from the more artisanal producers, so you can't have everything.



By Alice Oehr and Tarts Anon