Pastry chef Klemen Popit and his wife Malči Turšič of DeToni Patisserie and Bakery on their love of making sweets

You arrived in Australia only recently and already you are running a very successful business. First of all, why did you decide to leave Slovenia?

Simply it was a challenge for us. We already had a successful business in Slovenia and after 12 years we needed a new challenge. In Hotel Mantova in Vrhnika my job was managing the front of the house and the kitchen staff, creating and developing menus for the cafe and the restaurant. When we started with our home-made gelato and Italian-style desserts we realised this was one of the best decisions we made. Only then I realised that this was my passion for life so I made a decision to further develop my skills in pastry at the famous Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute which is one of the best worldwide. My options were Paris, London or Sydney, and finally I chose the last as I don't speak French and don't like the London's weather.

How did you go about setting up a business in Sydney? Did you get any help? How did you find out about how to start a business in Australia?

At first we didn't get or seek any help as we didn't know many people here. Setting a business in Australia I believe is much easier that in Slovenia. We found all information needed on internet sites like the Australian Taxation Office and other similar government sites. Our start was very basic from our unit kitchen in Allambie Heights, just me and my wife. After ten months working at home we decided to rent a commercial kitchen and expand our business. Today we have a team of 13 pastry chefs, kitchen hands, delivery drivers, etc.

You settled on the Sydney North Shore. There are not many Australians who would be brave enough to start a business in such an affluent area. What made you confident enough to do so?

When we moved to Sydney we didn't really know much about different areas and micro locations but we love the sea, beaches and the life style here. After exploring different options on where to settle down a family friend convinced us to move to Northern Beaches and I am happy that we did. The only downside is the cost of living as it is one of  the most expensive suburbs in Sydney. But we wouldn't change it for anything.

Sweets are perishable, yet you are selling them overseas. How do you solve this problem? Do you export them to Slovenia? Any other countries? 

In Australia we are selling nationwide which means we are present in all bigger cities around Australia. To Europe we are currently exporting only to Slovenia as a trial. At the same time we are exploring the possibilities of doing business in Asia as it is a fast growing and promising market.

What is the secret of your success?

Ha ha ha, I don't know really. If you are good at what you do, hardworking and really passionate about what you do then you are on a good way to succeed. Creating products that people already know but in an improved, better and nicer way will definitely help too. Our philosophy is to only use the best ingredients available on the market which was a problem at the beginning as customers like to compare your product price with prices for similar products on the market but quality differs a lot.

Did you find it difficult to adjust to living in Australia?

I have a friend who said you really need two years to adjust and I would agree. Now, after almost four years, we settled quite well I think. After all, with this weather, beautiful beaches and the natural environment, it's not hard to settle here at all.

Are you involved with the Slovenian community in Sydney? 

Unfortunately not as much as we would like. We are working long hours Monday-Friday, sometimes on weekends too. We are enjoying weekends surfing or relaxing on the beach or at home. Recently we met a couple of Slovenians and we have been in touch since. Actually there is a Slovenian BBQ this Saturday and we are looking forward to attend and meet some new fellow Slovenians.

What would be your advice to a Slovenian company or individual that wishes to start a business in Australia?

Firstly you need a business idea and good realistic goals. It all starts from there. A bit of money helps as well, as in the beginning no bank will give you a loan if you don't have any business history. And again, lots of passion.

What are your plans for the future?

Our plan is to continue to grow our business as I really love what I do. In February we are moving our production to new, bigger premises as the current kitchen is becoming too small. We would like to move into retail business as well and start with a new line of French-style patisseries in Australia. But as the Aussies like to say: We go with the flow! 

You can visit DeToni Patisserie and Bakery online or at 332 Sydney Road, Balgowlah NSW 2093

Pastry chef Klemen Popit and his wife Malči Turšič of DeToni Patisserie and Bakery on their love of making sweets