Sebastian Kobelt, Pâtissier and Chocolatier,

The Staff Canteen

Growing up in Berlin watching his granddad make a whole range of cakes, pastries, and bread, pâtissier and chocolatier, Sebastian Kobelt always knew he would follow in his family’s footsteps.

Now with his own self-titled company, the chocolatier supplies tailor-made Artisan chocolates to a number of luxurious clients including The Gleneagles Hotel and The Balmoral in Edinburgh. He also retails his creations through his own shop in Linlithgow and hosts a dessert only tasting menu showcasing the best of seasonal ingredients.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Sebastian about starting his company from scratch, being named Scotland's Pâtisserie of the year 2017 and representing Germany at the World Chocolate Masters.

How did you get into pastry?

rhubarb, hibiscus & coconut
rhubarb, hibiscus & coconut

It runs in the family – my granddad used to run a bakery in the Eastern part of Berlin. From an early age I spent my holidays helping in the kitchen. It was there I watched the pastry chefs make the most delicious cakes and pastries and I knew that's what I wanted to do.

Have you covered any other areas of the kitchen?

No, it's a little different in Germany. My three years training was entirely devoted to becoming a pastry chef (Konditor in German). There's so much to cover when it comes to continental pâtisserie - cakes, desserts, sugar and chocolate work, not to forget the Christmas and Easter specialties. Working such a long time in kitchens one picks up a thing or two though.

When did you start your business, Sebastian Kobelt?

I started five years ago literally from scratch with a prep table, one small oven, a fridge and a second-hand tempering machine.

What prompted the decision to start your own business?

It was a slow process over a number of years to the point where I really fancied the challenge of going it alone on my terms.

Can you tell us about the business

We sell a range of tailor-made artisan chocolates to wholesale clients which include some of Scotland's most luxurious hotels such as The Gleneagles and The Balmoral in Edinburgh. We sell a broader range of our chocolates, continental style pâtisserie and seasonal mini desserts in our shop to the public.

Info Bar

Signature dishes 

Dessert: pumpkin, elderberry and buckwheat

Entremet: milk chocolate, salted caramel and bitter orange

Enrobed chocolate: salted caramel squares

Desert island desserts

After 25 years in the job I've become more of a savoury type but if I had to choose it'd be something simple – a good bar of dark chocolate perhaps?

Finance is usually the biggest challenge when starting a new business or restaurant, how did you go about this and what support were you given?

I spend a lot of time number crunching. I did it in manageable steps which has proved to work. I started with consultancy work where there was no funding required. Then as I had saved up just enough money, I set up production in a small industrial unit in Linlithgow and started supplying the trade. Again, two years later with the help of a small business loan I opened my shop on Linlithgow's high street. The advantage of this approach is that it leaves me pretty much debt free.

In terms of support 'Business Gateway' was very helpful in the early stages to get things off the ground and get me into the right mindset. Now I rely more on my network of fellow business owners who will always be able to give advice as they have more often than not dealt with similar problems before. There's a lot help out there you just have to ask the question and many people don't expect anything in return, they just want you to succeed.

Do you miss working in the kitchen of a restaurant?

No, I think I struck quite a good balance in my own kitchen. Sometimes I'm back in a restaurant kitchen when I host my dessert-only tasting menu. So I really have the best of both worlds.

How did it feel to be named Scotland's Pâtisserie of the year 2017?

Really exciting and a very proud moment. Most of the time I'm in my own little world and focused on getting things right so it's great that this commitment of my team and myself is being recognised.

signature chocolate cake

You’re also a German Chocolate Master and a World Chocolate Masters finalist, what is it about entering competitions that you enjoy?

To be honest I never thought it would pan out the way it did. I entered the German Chocolate Masters because I wanted to find out where I rank among some of the best pastry chefs and chocolatiers. Never did I think for a moment I could come out on top.

However, I did win and secured the ticket to represent Germany at the World Chocolate Masters. What I enjoyed most about the journey was to be around like-minded people. I like to be around talented and creative people. It inspires me, gives me new ideas and makes me push myself.

Why do you think it is important for pastry chefs and pâtissiers to enter competitions?

It's important for individuals to enter these competitions as they'll come up with new techniques and further develop existing trends. It's equally important that someone provides a platform for pastry chefs and chocolatiers to showcase their skills and 'push boundaries'. In my opinion Callebaut and Cacao Barry have done a terrific job in establishing the Chocolate Masters and by doing so help participants excel in their field which in turn benefits the whole industry.

Do you have any competitions lined up for the future?

I'm not planning on entering any competitions for the foreseeable future. The business clearly takes priority, however, I do encourage and support my team if this is something they'd want to do.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

It would have to be my granddad who sent me on this journey.

Are there any areas of pastry you would like to learn more about?

It's an old but true cliché – one learns something every day. Running my own business enables me to experiment as much or as little as I like to. It's a great feeling to come up with something and your customers buy into it right away.

Sebastian Kobelt
Sebastian Kobelt

What advice would you give to young patissiers looking to start their own business?

Believe in yourself and set yourself achievable goals. When I started out I put down in writing what it was I wanted to achieve in year one, year two and so on. Then I looked at it in detail and worked out what I had to do to achieve it.

What’s next for the future?

My biggest ambition is to open a cafe and dessert bar. This has always been top of my list and it's the one prospect that keeps me going.

*A question from our sponsors Callebaut:

With special occasion dining being so popular, do you add special pastry dishes to your menu to allow your guests to celebrate, making their meal even more memorable?

Hosting my dessert-only menu is quite special in itself, I think. The diners are treated to seven dessert courses. Every dessert is designed in a way so it relies on naturally occurring sugar rather than loads of sugar being added. I pair ingredients one wouldn’t normally associate with a dessert.

As a result  you end up with a rather unique dish somewhere between sweet and savoury.

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th September 2017

Sebastian Kobelt, Pâtissier and Chocolatier,