Growing up in Jerusalem, Alon Shabo’s family had a catering business, so he literally grew up in the kitchen between the pots and pans. “I always loved pastry; I studied it professionally and worked with top Israeli chefs, but my parents wanted me to have a proper degree so I ended up enrolled in dentistry school.”
Inbal Sinai (IS): How did you get from dentistry school to what you do today?
Alon Shabo (AS): “I survived in dentistry school for three years. Although it actually taught me some useful skills for my work today like performing extensive research or reading through piles of books in order to understand a theory or a phenomena, I knew I wanted to be in the culinary world. I took a year off to explore various directions, and when the year ended I decided to open my own studio.
My day job here in my studio in Tel Aviv’s Florentine neighborhood, includes mainly pastry workshops and partnerships with commercial brands on product development. But my most passionate occupation is designing cakes; inspired by fashion, architecture, graphic design, and art, I create unexpected collaborations, explore new techniques and materials.”
IS: Your attention to details and fine aesthetics is evident in the cakes you design, the pictures you post on social media, and the art that decorates your studio walls. Were you always drawn to artistic practices?
AS: “I find most of the creative worlds alike. I see and treat my cakes as edible art that is destined for demolition - a sad yet beautiful concept at the same time. And since the pastry world is restricted by rigid boundaries and rules, I try to incite my creativity elsewhere - architecture, art, graphic design - whatever intrigues me at the time. Recently it has been fashion; I wake up at 6am and watch runway shows for hours like a dedicated fashionista.
I believe the magic happens when I challenge myself. Baking cakes is something everyone can do, but giving it this unique artistic touch is the added value I aim at.”
IS: How do you keep reinventing project ideas? What is your source of inspiration?
AS: “My inspiration stems from the collaborations I do, from my dialogue with the creative people I work with. I believe each of us should profit from the process and from one another, and I always take something new from that dialogue into my practice. I do a lot of research, sketches, trial and error, until I find what works, so the creation process excites me just as much as the final outcome.”
IS: You sometimes work on a project for three days until there's finally a cake. Then what?
AS: “Not all the materials I use are edible, but nothing goes to waste; it is either being exhibited in the studio or sent to family and friends as a treat. Since the cakes are destined to be consumed, documenting is extremely important; photos and videos are all I have left once the cake is gone. So I professionally document both the process and the final outcome, post it on social media where it can interact with my audience directly, and use it for my self-learning or for passing the knowledge forward.”
IS: Do you feel like your hard work and attention to details are being valued in israel?
AS: “Yes. I am very connected to my audience on instagram and receive immediate feedback to every new project I share. I notice my work inspires people and moves them and that makes me happy. Maybe people need it especially here, in a place where eastetics is not a primary collective value.”
IS: What's next? What’s your dream?
AS: “First of all I want to open my own place where I can sell my pastries and give customers direct access to my creations. I am aware that economically it doesn’t make much sense to work for so long on each cake I sell, so I will have to find a way to differentiate between a “ready-to-wear” collection and a “haute couture” one, and price them accordingly, just like big fashion houses do.
Another dream of mine is to open a pastry school that emphasizes creativity, esthetics, and attention to details - I want to treat my students like art students. While these are two different crafts, I believe we are all artists in a way.”