When we think of Greek desserts, the first delicacies that come to mind are the Baklava, Portokalopita, or the Galaktoboureko, and some other traditional specialities. But the world of pastry has evolved; technology, talent, and good taste have meant that Hellenic confectionery is now experiencing a sweet moment.
One of its greatest exponents is Dimitris Economides, leading his elegant establishment located at 340 Kifissias Street, in Athens, a place where technology meets knowledge and every detail counts, from the beginning of the process of a cake to the box in which the customer takes it home.
We have had the opportunity to chat with this chef known as the architect pastry chef (#pastritect) and he has surprised us both with some of his reflections and with his more than interesting creations.
How did Athens influence you to become a professional pastry chef?
I grew up in Athens and at the age of nine I was already helping my mother in the pastry-bakery where she worked, right after school. It immediately became a passion that accompanies me to this day. I am very sensitive to aesthetics and beauty, and the city of Athens, with its magnificent Acropolis, has influenced me and pushed me to create this shop that pays homage to it.
How do you feel about your training?
I feel very fortunate to have been able to work at L’Ecole de Valrhona and learn alongside the best pastry chefs in the world. There I understood the true complexity, but also the fascination and beauty of the world of pastry. L’Ecole corresponds to my mentality and my vision of the pastry world. Then, of course, my long stint at my mother’s side at her boulangerie-patisserie was incredibly formative and necessary for my current boutique.
“I wanted to create a boutique that incorporated a sophisticated and modern air, with a touch of nostalgia for the Athens of decades past”
Tell us about DE. What inspired you?
I have been inspired by old Athens, where the houses were tall, picturesque, and charming. With this in mind, I wanted to create a boutique that incorporated a sophisticated and modern feel, with a touch of nostalgia for the Athens of decades past. I chose to put my initials, because since I associate my boutique with my home, I want my clients to feel emotionally attached to the person who creates the sweets.
What do you think differentiates you from your competition?
Since the beginning, my pastry has been strongly linked to the importance of quality in all its forms, always seeking perfection. My difference from other boutiques stems not only from the use of the best products in the world (Nicolas Berger and Valrhona chocolate, organic French flour, AOP butter), but also from the infrastructure, my spacious workshop with the best equipment, the distribution of the products, the temperature-controlled room for chocolate…
“I think that when criticism is constructive, a negative comment can be beneficial”
How would you react if a customer negatively criticized one of your pastry creations?
I believe that when criticism is constructive, a negative comment can be beneficial. I take all opinions very seriously and will always respect them. Listening to others is very important and it is what makes you improve. However, I am very grateful that almost everyone who comes to my shop is satisfied with my creations and the overall experience.
What is the world of pastry like in your country?
Many efforts are made to modernize pastry in Athens, but it is still quite confusing. Before, it was almost impossible to buy good pastry or a well-made ice cream. Nowadays, Greece and especially Athens are seeing the opening of more and more French-oriented pastry shops. However, just as the diversity of patisseries in France is of a high standard, Greece is lagging behind and will need a long time to reach French standards.
“First I think of the ingredients I want, and then I draw it in my head and on paper like an architectural project… But having an idea is only the beginning of a creation…”
How hard do you have to work to achieve success?
I have always prioritized work more than anything in my life. Therefore, all aspects of work are essential. Efficiency, good communication, seriousness, and, most importantly, passion, helped me create what Dimitris Economides is today. However, I don’t think ‘successful’ is the word, there is always room for improvement.
Do you remember any particular experience that helped you become a better pastry chef?
There was a combination of experiences that marked me, but they all had the same characteristics. It has to do with meeting other chefs, passionate and talented people. This is how it was when I met Julien Álvarez many years ago at L’Ecóle de Valrhona, but also in September, when on my trip to Paris I met highly talented pastry chefs. Talking to the restaurant team at the Bristol and their new pastry chef, Pascal Hainigue, or visiting the newly opened Cheval Blanc in Paris, or being at the Limbar with Maxime Frederic and his team, these are moments of pure emotion that keep me going for more.
“I try to think about which cakes or dishes moved me on my trip to Paris, to create a personal interpretation”
When you create something new for your bakery, what is the process?
First I think of the ingredients I want, and then I draw it in my head and on paper like an architectural project. I also try to think about what cakes or dishes excited me on my trip to Paris, to create a personal interpretation. However, coming up with an idea is just the beginning of a creation as it takes a lot of hands-on testing to take an idea and turn it into a cake.
How would you define your style?
I think my cakes are generous, well-rounded, and well-traveled. Generous because I always taste my cakes to give them a sense of delicate richness and sophistication. Well-rounded because they are balanced and carefully dosed, and well-traveled because I have not only traveled to find this perfect combination of flavors, but also because my patisserie is capable of taking you on a Parisian journey on the first bite.
How do you define yourself as a pastry chef?
Extremely hardworking, a perfectionist, and most importantly, in love with my work. I do everything with passion and I am very meticulous.
“My goal is to create cakes thanks to the incredible products that the world has to offer me. One of them is chocolate, whose quality is essential to create a good pastry”
Have you thought about not using commercial brands and creating your own brand of chocolate?
My goal is to create cakes thanks to the incredible products that the world has to offer me. One of them is chocolate, whose quality is essential to create a good pastry. I have a lot of respect for the artisans behind the creation of products such as butter, chocolate, or flour. That’s why I don’t think it’s my job to create my own chocolate because other artisans excel at it and put 100% of their effort into it. Valrhona, with whom I have worked since 2003, is an example of this. Even more representative of my respect for artisans and their phenomenal work is Nicolas Berger, whose chocolate is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. His laboratory, the machines that he uses, combined with the sensational knowledge that he has, shows me explicitly that chocolate must be in the hands of commercial brands.