Greece is a country that you can visit at any time of the year, with a beautiful culture and traditions. It attracts tourists from all over the world thanks to its picturesque islands, interesting cultural monuments, architecture, and the opportunity to relax by the sea.
I had the opportunity to interview the Greek chef Giorgos Avgeros, executive pastry chef at Sani Resort, a luxurious hotel located on the magnificent Kassandra Peninsula, overlooking Mount Olympus and yet close to some of the best pristine beaches on the Sithonia Peninsula.
The resort is also close to Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece and the capital of Macedonia. It is one of the most fascinating cities in Europe and a vibrant cultural epicenter full of theaters, clubs, contemporary art museums, galleries, design and fashion shops, and a bustling activity of cafes and restaurants.
This Hellenic pastry chef was born in 1983, in Kalambaka, right next to the world-famous site of Meteora, in central Greece. Meteora is an awe-inspiring rock formation crowned by one of the largest and most precipitously built monasteries.
There, Avgeros studied and apprenticed in different arts such as sculpture, painting, ceramics, or wood carving, disciplines that have helped him in another of the great arts, pastry, “I can use their methods and techniques when working with chocolate”, he comments.
How does your upbringing relate to your career now?
My career was influenced by three factors:
1. The place where I grew up. Children growing up in the countryside come into direct contact with animals and nature. When we climbed on rocks, it was natural for me and my friends to collect wild thyme, oregano, mint, or fresh fruit and nuts, such as acorns and walnuts. The relationship we developed with the earth and its fruit was daily and immediate.
2. My mother also played a very important role. A connoisseur of Greek traditional cuisine, she always found a reason to get us all around the table. My childhood home was always filled with people and food. As a result, my siblings and I grew up associating food with spending time with our loved ones.
3. Sculpture. Having graduated from woodcarving school, when I discovered that chocolate can be sculpted just like any other material, it was a real epiphany for me! At that point, I decided to leave wood carving behind and become a chef pâtissier who creates sculptures out of chocolate.
Could you describe your pastry background?
After graduating from culinary arts school, I worked as a chef de partie at the restaurant “Yamas” in Thessaloniki. In 2008, I was awarded first place (gold medal) at the Balkan Culinary Arts Competition, in the chocolate sculpture category. I worked as a pastry consultant for several years, which allowed me to travel all over Greece. I was then employed in some of the top hotels of Northern Greece, such as Macedonia Palace, Hotel Nikopolis, and The Met. At that time, I attended a course by Ecole Lenôtre, which introduced me to the secrets of French pastry, several seminars by top pastry chefs in Paris, and—of course—chocolate and sculpture seminars in Belgium.
I have been employed as pastry chef in various pastry shops. For the last four years, I have been Complex Executive Pastry Chef of Sani Resort in Halkidiki, where I am responsible for five à la carte restaurants, a buffet restaurant and the Sani Marina Patisserie. I also provide consulting services to restaurants, pastry shops, and hotels all over Greece and abroad.
What kind of desserts do Greek people like?
Based on many years of experience, I have come to the conclusion that people belong to one of two groups: There are those who like chocolate and will choose a rich dessert with chocolate, and those who prefer vanilla and lighter desserts, possibly with fruit.
“We respect and cherish tradition but we have certainly moved on from the baklava. The younger generations follow global pastry trends on social media and, as a result, they want to experience and implement those trends”
Do you think Greek desserts have moved on from the baklava?
We respect and cherish tradition but we have certainly moved on from the baklava. The younger generations follow global pastry trends on social media and, as a result, they want to experience and implement those trends.
What is a pastry trend that is popular now in Greece?
I am not aware of any particular trends but I can confirm that there is significant progress going on. At the moment we see exceptionally high-quality work and we have excellent Greek pastry shops, which are equal to pastry shops in other countries.
As a Greek pastry chef, where do you think Greece stands compared to other EU nations in the pastry world?
The Greek pastry world is on an upward trajectory of progress and evolution. I believe that the future is very bright!
“At the moment we see exceptionally high-quality work and we have excellent Greek pastry shops, which are equal to pastry shops in other countries”
How do you manage stress at work?
During challenging times, I try to control my stress by taking five-minute breaks and staring at the sea, which I find very calming. It is all a matter of having a good daily routine. I put a lot of effort in preparation and organization, using lists and production schedules.
As a result, my daily tasks are just a matter of execution and not organization.
Name three pastry chefs you admire and why.
I would start with Pierre Hermé. He paved the way for contemporary pâtisserie and Ι walk in his footsteps by using his techniques.
Next is Amaury Guichon, whom I admire for his incredible imagination and his talent in creating chocolate sculptures.
The third pastry chef would be Dominique Ansel. First, because I love his style and second, because I can appreciate the challenge of running many businesses and succeeding at maintaining extremely high standards.
How do you come up with different pastry ideas and creativity?
I draw inspiration from almost everything: From nature, fairy tales, my childhood and the place where I grew up, and also from fantasy movies! The first school that I graduated from, the woodcarving school, has been very helpful in that regard.
My involvement with arts and crafts such as pottery, mosaics, sculpture, and painting has been a huge advantage because I can use their methods and techniques when working with chocolate.
“I cannot attach a label to my desserts… What they all have in common is elegance, balance, and the fact that they are lovingly made”
How would you describe your pastries?
I cannot attach a label to my desserts. Just like the changes, transitions, and variety in our lives, my desserts also embody many styles: They may be simple, light, and airy or rich and complex.
What they all have in common is elegance, balance, and the fact that they are lovingly made.
What motivates you to go to work every morning?
I am optimistic by character. At the beginning of each day, I feel excited to get to work. Each and every day, I strive to grow, to create, and to set new goals. I also strive to be fair and profesional both towards my employer and towards my team.
Is your work seasonal? What do you do during the winter months?
My role at the hotel is indeed seasonal. During the winter months, I work as a freelance consultant chef. I provide my services to eight companies, three of which operate over 15 pastry shops in Greece and one of which is in Russia. I also deliver masterclasses in Greece and in Russia.
Where do you want to take your career next?
After all these years of hard work for other companies, I believe that the time to create my own business is fast approaching. This will be the next step in my career.
“After all these years of hard work for other companies, I believe that the time to create my own business is fast approaching. This will be the next step in my career”