The dough diaries

Episode 1 of 3 - Makin' the Kraken

The completed Pièce montée will also include a Viking ship that's being attacked by the Kraken and a large anchor at the base of the sculpture

Okay, first of all, what the bleep is a Kraken?

According to ancient Norse mythology, it's a huge, squid-like creature that hangs out in the seas off Norway and Greenland and routinely attacks ships with its long, slimy tentacles. Surely the most effective argument ever against package cruises.

So it takes a particularly skilled and fearless kind of man to tame such a terrifying beast.

But Dean Gibson is just that kind of man. The Newcastle chocolatier and pastry chef is putting the fearsome Kraken firmly in its place by making a large, chocolate version of it.

"A chocolate sculpture is a masterpiece made 100% from couverture chocolate," says Dean. "The French call this a Pièce montée and it's a showcase of the skills of the pastry chef and usually follows a theme."

So why a Kraken?

Dean says that his love of the steampunk stylistic genre, which includes elements of 19th century fantasy and horror, has been a large part of the inspiration for his Kraken masterpiece. Of course, constructing a large sculpture entirely out of chocolate has its own challenges.

"One of the most difficult elements is balance," he says. "If you defy gravity it will break. I always take this to the extreme and make the sculpture look like it can't possibly stand up."

The other element to factor into the design is mobility. "It's going to be moved multiple times so needs some kind of handhold," Dean says. "It's also important that it can absorb some movement without shattering or breaking. Storage is also very crucial. The room can't exceed 24 degrees, otherwise the structure will start to soften."

In fact, the Kraken itself is only one part of Dean's vision of terror by chocolate. The completed Pièce montée will also include a Viking ship that's being attacked by the Kraken and a large anchor at the base of the sculpture.

Dean has been building awesome chocolate sculptures for 17 years, but his skills extend considerably further. He's also a skilled pastry chef and bread-maker, teaching the skills of his trade to eager TAFE students at the Hamilton Campus in inner-city Newcastle.

Dean has a long history with TAFE, having first enrolled as a 15 year old in 1980. "I was a second chance learner with LLN (language, literacy and numeracy) issues," he says. "I had a great teacher, Don McLean, who mentored me through my three years at TAFE, really setting the platform for my professional life journey."

That professional life journey now includes being in the Australian Baking Team, a group with the super objective of conquering the pastry world at the Baking Cup next February in Paris.

Dean will be the only professional in the world to compete at the highest levels possible in both pastry and bread. You could say Dean really knows his dough.

In the mean time, Dean splits his work between his teaching responsibilities at Hamilton TAFE and working on his masterpiece of chocolatey seafaring terror. So does he have a timeframe for the Kraken's completion?

"I'd say it'll take another few months, as I have to juggle the Kraken with my teaching duties and my obligations to train for the Baking Cup," Dean says.

And after that? What will be the Kraken's final destination?

Dean smiles. "It's an art piece," he says. "So when it's finished, we're planning a controlled melt at Newcastle Art Gallery."

So the fearsome beast is not only tamed, but melted. Revenge is indeed sweet.