From locked down beginnings, Cremorne-based Tarts Anon has taken flight.
The business was born 18 months ago out of the baking exploits of unemployed Abbotsford pastry chef Gareth Whitton and the enthusiasm and social media savvy of his partner, Catherine Way.
Having opened its shopfront only in February, the operation is now selling an average of 250 tarts a week and looks set to soon have a sister store.
More than a supplier, it is a sort of phenomenon, dropping limited batches of two tart types a week for online order to its fans, while engaging with them on Instagram.
Customers have to get in quick to secure orders. Along with the order, they are required to nominate a pickup time and, to ensure freshness, are instructed not to buy more than they can eat on the day.
Meanwhile a selection of five tarts - the flavours rotate - are available by the slice or in a mixed takeaway "briefcase" in the shop together with coffee.
With the former head pastry chef of Melbourne's Dinner by Heston at the helm, you would expect the product to be good, but feedback from customers suggests something next level.
"You guys are miracle workers, we're obsessed," says one; "They're like a drug," another.
We use a lot of techniques that aren't very commonly found in places that do a similar product. There's a lot of attention to the very small details.- Gareth Whitton
Whitton says the hype and exclusivity stem from Tarts Anon's early incarnation as a home-based business, when there were only a small number of tarts to sell.
Its momentum he puts down to Way's knack for marketing and business, and the funny, welcoming vibe she cultivates online, which reflects the dynamic of the couple's relationship.
Then of course there are the tarts.
Ironically Whitton has a guiding belief in simplicity which was inspired by his time working for celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal.
Beneath the science and novelty people associate with Heston, he says, lies very good, French-inspired classics and an understanding of cookery.
As a young chef at Heston's London restaurant, Whitton had a light bulb moment when he was tasked with making custard tarts for set menus.
After a while his disillusionment gave way to appreciation for the technical beauty of the tart, which changed the way he saw food.
Over time it became a kind of calling to pursue "the perfect version of a simple dish".
While his job at Heston's in Melbourne, from 2015 to 2020, involved executing ideas for often complicated menu items, Whitton sees the Tarts Anon project as no less challenging.
"The innovation isn't necessarily coming up with a great new whacky flavour combination or making something look like something it isn't," he says.
"It's just how to make it the best version of itself.
"We use a lot of techniques that aren't very commonly found in places that do a similar product. There's a lot of attention to the very small details."
For the record, the flavour combinations are not what you would call pedestrian.
Passionfruit and ginger, banana and brown butter, and smoked pecan and butterscotch take their turn alongside tiramisu, orange and blackberry and Whitton's personal favourite, cherry and almond.
After finding himself out in the cold on Valentine's Day 2020 when Heston's lost its lease with Crown, he considered a career change.
The "reality check" of a stint stacking supermarket shelves made him realise he needed to cook and was in a privileged position in being able to do so.
While he and Way want their business to be successful, they also hope to create a place where "you come for something good and stay because it's good fun".
"Hopefully, that's the sort of vibe people pick up on," he says.