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The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry: Lee Tran Lam quizzes chefs, critics, bar staff and other people from the world of food about their career highlights and lowlights, war stories and favourite places to eat and drink in Sydney.

Aug 23, 2017

Yes, Donato Toce has gelato for breakfast. And he actually gets paid for it – it's part of his job. He is the "cow milker, sugar hauler, head chef and gelatiere" at Gelato Messina, the much-loved Sydney institution that sells desserts such as Elvis The Fat Years, Robert Brownie Jr, Biggie S’Mores, This Is How We Scroll and the Game of Cones range inspired by the seven kingdoms of Westeros. (There are also great non-pun-related flavours, too, like tiramisu, apple pie and pistachio – the latter made using nuts hand-picked by grandmothers at the foothills of Mount Etna).
Donato used to be the head chef at A Tavola, opposite the original Darlinghurst store, but he was compelled to join Gelato Messina eventually. Pavlova, once of his first gelato flavours, was a massive hit and typical of Messina's ultra-creative experiments (which have included the time they made roast chicken sorbet, for instance, or the disastrous tomato flavour).
There have been multiple marriage proposals at Messina (there are now 16 stores) and it's become such an institution, there are even Messina-inspired Tim Tams in supermarkets.

Of course, when you're dealing with gelato, there's always a fear there'll be a melting disaster (and Donato definitely has lived through some intense experiences). And there are the "spreadsheets of freezability" that Donato has to maintain.
He chats about all this – plus the Messina queues, how the biggest compliment he ever received was via a complaint, the seven-course dessert degustations at Messina Creative Department, where he likes to eat and drink in Sydney – and more.