Sydney’s SWEETNESS The Patisserie is creating gourmet goodies that allow us to indulge, and delight in, our sweet tooth.
Stepping into the premises of SWEETNESS The Patisserie on a cool morning, my senses are immediately awash in gorgeous scents, pretty packaging and a host of temping treats. I’m here to talk to Gena Karpf, founder of Sweetness, and take a tour of the premises.
Gena greets me warmly and we stand for a few moments in the front retail section of the store while she tells me about her background. “I previously worked for IBM,” she explains, “but I decided I had to follow my passion so I left and started this business, originally from home. We sold our produce at markets to test the waters and see if there was a potential audience for what I wanted to create.” Gena quickly discovered that her beautiful, handmade confectionary, chocolates, slices and biscuits were extremely popular and she decided to try and find a kitchen from which she could expand her business.
Located in the bustling centre of Epping, in northwest Sydney, Sweetness The Patisserie was founded in October 2008 and features a small retail shop at the front (just 10 per cent of the building’s total footprint), with a large, open commercial kitchen at the rear. All items are made on-site and in full view of customers. “My goal was to create less distance between the customer and the food,” Gena says. “We introduce new products all the time, particularly geared around seasonal and locally-sourced produce.” Gena’s team of staff — divided between the kitchen and front of house — work tirelessly to maintain the high standards that have been set.
“It’s lovely to be able to make small, sweet food at an artisan level,” adds Gena. There is no automation here; all products are handmade on the premises of Sweetness The Patisserie and this is a part of the business that Gena is adamant she won’t change. “There will be no factory growth for us,” she says firmly. “Our objective is five stores in the next 10 years, but not all will be in Sydney.”
It’s easy to sense the passion Gena has for cooking and creating sweet treats (Gena says she is “wired” for sweet foods) and much of this, she feels, can be traced back to her childhood. “Desserts were special when I was growing up. My parents were both bakers and would compete with each other. Sundays were particularly special; we always knew we’d get dessert on Sundays,” she laughs.
Taking leave from IBM, she took a side journey from a planned trip to Scotland to Ecole des Trois Pont in Roanne, Loire River Valley, France, a cooking and language school that ran a five-day pastry course. Gena then enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu school in Sydney as soon as she returned. “I’ve had three careers and I’ve spent them all trying to find the right words,” Gena shares. “When I applied for Le Cordon Bleu, I had to write why I wanted to undertake this study. I thought it would be very hard but I found it was so easy to talk about this thing that I love. In life, there are things we tend towards and I was put on this earth to make sweet things,” she laughs.
“Like raising a child, it’s rewarding and challenging all at once. I leave at night with a strong sense of satisfaction that this is everything I wanted it to be.”
SWEETNESS The Patisserie
38 Oxford Street, Epping NSW 2121
Phone: (02) 9869 3800