The Best Advice Ever: Tarts Anon's Gareth Whitton and Koko Black's Remco Brigou on the Value of Collaboration

When a top chocolatier and pastry chef come together, magic happens — and this pair told us all about it.
Andrew Zuccala
Published on July 02, 2024

Tarts Anon and Koko Black are both huge names in Melbourne's food scene, as are the folks who dream up all their delicious creations. Pastry Chef Gareth Whitton built Tarts Anon into one of the city's top cake shops, won Dessert Masters, is working on a new cookbook and even created a pressure test for MasterChef Australia. He's a household name, having also worked with teams at Mill Brewery, Gelato Messina, Al Dente Enoteca and Kori Ice Cream.

Koko Black's Head Chocolatier Remco Brigou has been working in the world of chocolate since the age of 18, and has been an innovative tour de force at Koko Black for nearly eight years. He's also no stranger to partnering with other chefs, having worked with Lune, Connoisseur, Black Star Pastry and Tokyo Lamington.

Now, these two giants in the sweet-toothed sphere of Melbourne's hospitality industry have come together for World Chocolate Day, creating a limited-edition chocolate and leatherwood honey tart. This decadent treat is only available from Friday, July 5–Sunday, July 7, at a few Koko Black stores across Melbourne and Sydney, and at both of Tarts Anon's Melbourne locations.

We chatted with both Whitton and Brigou about collaborating on the new tart, and how valuable that these partnerships can be for both chefs' personal growth and the success of their businesses. We also touched upon the role that collaborations can play in helping hospitality companies stay afloat during these incredibly difficult times.


Gareth Whitton from Tarts Anon and Remco Brigou from Koko Black interview - World Chocolate Day

On Coming Together to Create a Limited-Edition Chocolate Leatherwood Honey Tart

Brigou: "World Chocolate Day is a very important day for us at Koko Black. It is the day that truly celebrates what we do, and for this special occasion we like to work with like-minded brands to create something amazing.

The entire Koko Black team, myself included, have always been big fans of Tarts Anon — we'd often discuss how amazing the tarts are and how we would love to work with Gareth and the team one day.

So, this was the perfect opportunity, and we reached out. After the first introduction call, we knew straight away that both our brands share the same values, beliefs and spirit for innovation and excellence. We knew straight away that this was going to be a great collaboration."

Whitton: "We were asked to join forces with the team at Koko Black as part of their annual celebration of World Chocolate Day. After being such big fans of theirs as well as seeing the elite execution of their previous WCD activations, we were thrilled with the opportunity to work together.

Remco and I got together after piecing together a few rough ideas, and chatted out some of these napkin sketches and how we could bring them to life. I had a format that I had in mind, we knew it had to involve chocolate, and we then fell on the idea of using the leatherwood honey honeycomb as inspiration.

We also pulled from Remco's Belgian heritage with the peperkoek, plus a couple of textures and recipes that we use quite regularly at Tarts Anon."


Pandan and cocnut gelato - Gelato Messina and Tarts Anon collaboration.

Whitton's previous collaboration with Gelato Messina

On Why It's So Great to Work with Other Chefs

Brigou: "For me personally, I love working on collaborations. It is a great way to meet amazing like-minded people in the industry, but it is also a great way to stay inspired.

The richness that comes from sharing knowledge and ideas is very valuable to me, and it is something that I will always be thankful for."

Whitton: "I always try to work with people who are either very similar to us, or completely opposite. Kinda like matching colours of clothing. Not similar enough, and it's hard to find a connecting point, but if it's either easily interchangeable or very complimentary, then it doesn't seem forced.

It opens you up to new environments where you perhaps aren't as confined with your creativity, and also allows you to explore things that you wouldn't see day to day."


Gareth Whitton from Tarts Anon and Remco Brigou from Koko Black interview - World Chocolate Day

On the Power of Partnerships to Help Businesses Get Through These Tough Times

Brigou: "I think it is important for brands to work together, not only so we can all leverage from each other, but more importantly so we can create an experience to both our customers and maybe introduce our customers to a different brand that they maybe never heard from before."

Whitton: "[Collaborations] are a (relatively) low-cost way of exploring new ventures, and keeping outgoings low is of the utmost importance in times like these. Particularly in branches of the industry that rely on seasonal trade (like ice cream, for example) it helps to collaborate with brands that thrive in cooler months to keep revenue coming in.

The underlying issue that the industry faces is that the market is becoming so unbelievably saturated right now, which feeds the staffing crisis and the high turnover of businesses.

There's a new competitor emerging every other week, so the revolving door of what's 'hot' is moving faster than ever. Collaborating is a good way to stay relevant and be ahead of the game."


Brigou's previous collaboration with Connoisseur. Image by Julia Sansone.

On What's Holding the Industry Back Right Now

Whitton: "It's hard to be too optimistic in times like these, there are too many motivated and passionate people trying to grab a hold of a dwindling number of opportunities.

The emergence and prevalence of the food blogger is giving a platform that previously only the passionate and culinarily educated had access to, to anyone with an opinion.

Now Google reviews and social media are rife with ill-informed and sharp-tongued critics single-handedly destroying businesses, and politics are creeping deeper and deeper into our dining rooms.

It seems nihilistic to say, but I fear that most people are too concerned about staying afloat themselves that we're all treading water right now.

The amount of tax that small businesses pay is frankly obscene. This is the big killer — wages will always take the biggest chunk, but that is an investment in people.

When significant amounts of money are routinely taken from you and continually hinder any opportunity to grow, you are faced with the grim reality of choosing between success in your business or compromising your values to solely chase revenue."


Gareth Whitton from Tarts Anon and Remco Brigou from Koko Black interview - World Chocolate Day

On the Best Advice That Brigou and Whitton Have Ever Received From a Collaborator

Brigou: "I have had the privilege to work with a lot of amazing people and all of them have taught me so much, whether it is techniques, flavour combinations, or the passion and determination to deliver a beautiful product.

I also like to think I have inspired them as well and maybe even taught them something, because that is the beauty of collaborations. It is a two-way street and I feel that sharing knowledge and letting people discover new things is the heart of our industry."

Whitton: "The best thing I have learnt from someone I've collaborated with is to understand what it is you want to get out of the partnership.

Having a game plan instead of trying to just feature two representations of your brand side by side will always triumph. Quality over quantity."


Gareth Whitton and Remco Brigou's limited-edition chocolate and leatherwood honey tart is only available from Friday, July 5–Sunday, July 7 at a few Koko Black stores across Melbourne and Sydney, and at both of Tarts Anon's Melbourne locations. For more information on where to get the tart, visit the collaborations's website.

Published on July 02, 2024 by Andrew Zuccala
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