In early 2015, Anna Petridis and her mother Gina had just come off of hit Australian reality cooking show My Kitchen Rules, an experience which Petridis says was a “disaster”, as the duo were among the first to be eliminated.
After the show ended, Petridis’ father asked her if she would like to run a café with her mum. She jumped at the chance to flex her creative muscles, and the mother-daughter duo soon launched their café Pâtissez in Canberra, Australia’s capital. And from those seemingly innocuous beginnings, the now-famous FreakShakes emerged.
For the uninitiated, FreakShakes are the mammoth oozy, drippy, super-sized milkshakes piled sky-high with pretzels, cookies, cakes, mousse and lashings of cream – created by Petridis – which became such an instant hit that the name is now a registered trademark.
The Canberra store was regularly inundated with crazy-long queues, with people willing to wait up to an hour for their FreakShakes. Sales went through the roof, and according to Petridis, they were selling 500 to 600 FreakShakes a day.
The FreakShakes’ reputation soared on Instagram, where the drinks proved both photogenic and popular. Even Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was spotted drinking one!
As a result of the almost immediate success of the original FreakShakes, copycats emerged all over the globe, from London and New York to Malaysia (Garage 51 introduced probably the most popular version late last year).
Petridis says that she is still overcome by how huge her creations have become, as she thought they were a cool idea but never imagined they would take off the way they have.
“I’d been doing a lot of market research and had seen a few cool milkshakes and thought, ‘Hey, I think I can do better.’ So I pitched the idea to my business partners and everyone thought it was lame... except for my brother and mum. I decided to sneak it onto the menu and if it didn’t work then, oh well, I’d just take it off,” she says.
Petridis never got the chance to even contemplate taking them off the menu. It’s safe to say there might have been a riot if she’d even mentioned removing the FreakShakes from the store.
In fact, the one-year-old store has taken off in such an astounding way that she is now busy expanding and opening outlets in Asia – and the first is the brand-new Malaysian Pâtissez outlet in Bangsar’s Telawi area.
From the get-go, Petridis was approached by many potential business partners who wanted to help her expand elsewhere, but she was determined to find partners who shared her ideals. When the right Asian business partners came along, they helped her connect with licensees in KL.
“We weren’t looking at one city or location in particular – it was about finding the right people first,” she says.
Caroline Lee, one of the owners of Pâtissez Malaysia says that the brand’s footing here is largely predicated on the Asian predilection for sugary desserts, which is why she is confident that locals will take to Pâtissez in the same way that Australians have.
“I think Asians typically have quite a sweet tooth and Pâtissez Malaysia has been very popular, especially with the younger crowd. I see a lot of families coming in as well. Also, the FreakShakes themselves are all very balanced and absolutely yummy all round. There are a few people in town who’ve done similar things, but I’ve been told they are nothing like the originals,” she said.
The Malaysian store has four FreakShakes on the menu, all priced at RM23. The most popular one has got to be the decadent Pretzella, which features lots of Nutella, whipped cream, crushed salty pretzels and vanilla mousse. This is the Cadillac of milkshakes, a voluptuous, seductive drink destined to send you to gastronomic nirvana.
The Muddy Pat is another towering creation, layered with house-made chocolate fudge, whipped vanilla mousse, chocolate fudge brownie and torched marshmallows. The brownie boasts an opulent chocolate flavour that blends spectacularly well with the torched marshmallows, giving off an intensity that you best be prepared for.
Fans of mint will adore the Mint Condition, featuring a gigantic mint chocolate semi-freddo and chocolate cookie sandwich that is the spotlight-stealer in this multi-layered concoction. The cookie sandwich has lovely buttery undertones that meld beautifully with the perky mint ice-cream.
Finally, there is the Like A Velvet, which pays homage to the red velvet cake, with lots of cream cheese, homemade raspberry gel and red velvet cake discs. This FreakShake shows off a nice contrast between the tart raspberry gel and the rich cake wedges.
Most of the elements in the FreakShakes, like the brownies, red velvet cake and raspberry gel are made in-house, ensuring you’re getting flavours that are close as possible to the Aussie originals, as well as elements that are fresh and made from scratch.
But perhaps the more pertinent question to ask when the FreakShake first appears before you is just how do you tackle the befuddling cakes/ cookies/ pretzels in your drink? Dig in with a spoon? Dunk some of them into the shake? It’s quite a conundrum, especially as you don’t want to come off looking like the idiot who doesn’t know how to drink/ eat their milkshake.
According to Petridis, there are no hard and fast rules to consuming a FreakShake. “Don’t be afraid to get dirty and dive right in! There’s no ‘right way’ – maximum enjoyment is the only requirement!” she says.
Lee adds that the FreakShakes’ huge size isn’t an issue, as she’s noticed that some people are even capable of drinking two milkshakes in one sitting!
Petridis is constantly hard at work creating new FreakShake flavours, and says her creative process involves thinking of a theme and designing a milkshake around it.
When Pâtissez first launched in Malaysia, Petridis (an avowed durian lover) even put together a durian milkshake! That FreakShake was only available while durians were in season, and she is already hard at work on her next major creations: Cendol and Onde-Onde FreakShakes.
While the FreakShakes are the undisputed spotlight-hoggers at Pâtissez, Petridis is very clear about her goals: the business isn’t just a one-hit wonder built around FreakShakes... the food is integral too.
“My passion is for creativity and quality in our whole concept – desserts, wicked celebration cakes, amazing Australian style café food and coffee.”
“I spend a lot of time marketing all aspects of the business because I don’t want to be known for one thing – Pâtissez is a place where everyone can enjoy something, FreakShakes or not!” she says.
You’ll find this to be true if you try a couple of things on the menu, like the Cheeky Beef (RM35), slow-cooked beef with a centre of baked egg, with kale pesto and slices of house-made sourdough. The beef is a thing of beauty, pull-apart tender and brimming with flavour. And that sourdough bread is pretty spectacular too!
The same can be said of the Salmon Burger (RM36), a sublime offering with a perfectly-cooked, sesame-crusted salmon fillet.
Pancakes also make an appearance in the shape of the Hot Cakes (RM23), which feature light, fluffy buttermilk pancakes with delicious chunks of house-made honeycomb, caramelised mango, a saffron mango reduction and vanilla ice-cream.
Clearly, Pâtissez is on to something, with a menu that not only boasts the now-famous FreakShakes, but a selection of hot meals to boot.
Petridis certainly feels this way, as she is now busy widening her empire, initiating discussions for store openings in the United States and planning up to five stores throughout Singapore, more in KL and in Penang, and a new store in Bangkok in October. Next year, her brand’s reach will widen as she opens stores in China, Dubai and Qatar.
Although she has accomplished so much and come so far, Petridis still gets a kick out of people’s reactions to her FreakShakes.
What’s the secret to the FreakShakes’ appeal?“They look so cool and have the taste to match! We hand-make everything from start to finish and it’s something people haven’t seen before – it’s created a whole new class of milkshakes, that has almost become the standard now.”
“But for me, personally, I would never stand in a line for hours for food, I’m one of those ‘give it 6 months then I’ll come have it’ kind of people,” she says.
“I honestly don’t get it... but it’s pretty cool when people go that mad for something you’ve created.”
Pâtissez, 42 Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-2202 2999
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