Adriano Zumbo’s desserts empire crumbles as debts mount

Celebrity Chefs Adriano Zumbo and Matt Moran at the Starlight Foundation Five Chefs Dinner in Sydney in May 2014.

Celebrity Chefs Adriano Zumbo and Matt Moran at the Starlight Foundation Five Chefs Dinner in Sydney in May 2014. Photo: Getty

Celebrity chef Adriano Zumbo is facing a battle to save his dessert business amid mounting debt that has forced it into voluntary administration.

The dream for the high-school dropout turned cakes king has reportedly soured to the point where debts could be as high as $10 million.

But according to website Good Food, administrators have confirmed the Zumbo empire of eight cafes, bakeries and cake shops in Sydney and Melbourne will continue to trade.

Zumbo, 36, is the face and name behind desserts, including his signature macarons, called zumbarons, and the zonut, his version of a pastry which is half croissant, half doughnut.

His reputation as what Arnott’s Australia called the country’s “foremost patissier” saw him collaborate with the company on a line of Tim Tams by Adriano Zumbo.

But his good PR apparently meant little when administrators appointed to companies of which Zumbo is a director held a creditors’ meeting on Wednesday morning in Sydney, according to Good Food.

DW Advisory principals Justin Holzman and Anthony Elkerton were appointed voluntary administrators on July 22 to manage three of Mr Zumbo’s businesses.

“We are hopeful that there will be a restructure by way of a deed of company arrangement,” Mr Holzman told AAP on Thursday.

That’s something we are investigating over the course of the next two weeks and we will be providing creditors with a further report in two weeks’ time.”

Landlords and creditors at the meeting were reportedly told that the multi-million dollar debt could be offset by $8 million in assets including equipment and other property.

Last month, Zumbo – whose hard-to-replicate creations on every season of Ten’s MasterChef saw him dubbed the “Lord Voldecake” and the “patissier of pain” –  sold his house in Sydney’s Balmain for $1.7 million.

The pastry chef, who has a tattoo of fictional confectioner Willy Wonka on one bicep, previously told Good Food of the pressure of maintaining his business interests.

“I get anxious for no reason,” he said. “I’ve got so many things on. I start to freak out. I get hot and I don’t know why, then I start to panic a bit.”

The son of Calabrian supermarket owners, Zumbo described how his initial appearance on a MasterChef croquembouche challenge led to “crazy” daily queues outside the Balmain store he opened in 2007.

“We’d bake all night and every morning by 10 o’clock we’d sell out and the shop staff would go home,” he said.

“We had to grow the kitchen and keep on growing and growing. We grew a base of followers from all over Australia. There was so much hype.”

The queues outside the shop famously once caught the eye of criminals who stole the safe.

His competitive 2016 cooking show Zumbo’s Just Desserts was a flop, lasting one five-week season.

The same year, he started dating My Kitchen Rules contestant Nelly Riggio.

Before her romance with Zumbo, Riggio appeared on the Seven show with her longtime partner JP Huillet.

In June this year, Zumbo said the pair were “definitely” keen to start a family, and wanted two children.

He and Riggio, he said, also hoped to launch a TV “travel cooking show”.

In May 2017, Riggio defended Zumbo after five employees claimed in an interview with Nine’s A Current Affair that he treated them poorly.

The chef was accused of withholding superannuation from his staff, not paying them proper rates and failing to pay them for overtime.

Zumbo issued a statement in response blaming a new overtime system implemented four months before the complaints.

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