Interview with pastry chef, Mr. Kriton Poulis:
“Taste is culture”
1. “Attica: Greece in a Snapshot” is the tourist slogan of the Region of Attica. What would be your typical sweet snapshot with the flavour of Attica?
Using familiar local ingredients in original and various combinations, without copying foreign cultures would be ideal for me. We have our own tradition, with unique raw materials that “build” our taste memories and excite the visitors of our country! A simple but delicious rice pudding, for example, could be a typical sweet snapshot that tastes like Attica.
2. What are the influences of Greek pastry and how much do you think Attica’s pastry scene has changed in recent years? Is there a variety of choices in Attica and how do you imagine pastry creations in the future?
Our profession in itself and taste itself is culture. The more knowledge we have the more “armed” we are and those of us who have studied the art of pastry have greater and faster progress. This is why I tell all young pastry chefs to never be satisfied and never stay stagnant in what they learn only at school but constantly seek more knowledge and experiences. This is because you learn one part at school, another part at work and another part as you develop yourself. By experimenting, researching, getting to know and studying not only the raw materials but also their origin, their history and the history of the profession itself, recording the knowledge and respecting the people who created and promoted the art of pastry. My goal is to respectfully collect and give prominence to Greek raw materials and flavours, simply using the French technique and skill that I studied. It would be extremely important, however, for all pastry professionals to gather together – as a team – representing the culinary tradition of our country, in order to highlight the modern identity of Greek gastronomy. Based on the unique raw materials and aromas of our country, and offering our own personal spin – always through collective effort – we should promote the modern, authentic Greek flavours.
3. To what extent do you think the modern international trend for healthy diet has been integrated in the pastry scene of Attica? What possibilities are there today for a visitor to enjoy a dessert adapted to their special dietary needs?
It is very important to adapt to society’s needs. In my opinion, we are ready to meet all nutritional requirements of the public with gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free pastries, etc. These will be the next creations of Bon Bon Fait Maison this year; after all, since 2017 we have started with a variety of ice creams – in our first store in Kythera.
4. Are the preferences of Greek and foreign visitors different in terms of the sweet flavours they choose? From your experience, which traditional sweet delicacies do foreign visitors prefer and what would be your suggestion to… sweeten up a foreign visitor?
They generally know and prefer the traditional desserts (baklava, galaktoboureko, kataif) that are now famous around the world. To a foreign visitor I would offer my dessert called “From Aegina to Ceylon” which is a tempting blend of Aegina pistachio, cinnamon and fresh apple. From the ice creams I have created, I would offer them the mandarin sorbet from fragrant mandarins and mastic from Chios island.
5. Traditionally, holiday seasons such as Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, etc. are intertwined with the consumption of desserts. How would you characterise the pastry experiences offered in the market, the restaurants and hotels of Attica during holiday periods?
There is a great variety of holiday desserts, and it is important that we add our Greek… twist there as well! Pastry chefs should express themselves in their own way, their own inspiration, technique and experience.
6. Tell us a few words about the most popular traditional holiday/wedding desserts and the unique local sweet flavours of Attica.
Vassilopita (Saint Basil’s cake), melomakarona and kourabiedes are the sweet triad for Christmas and New Year; aromatic Easter bread; amydgalota (almond cookies) of all kinds and “diples” for weddings; baklava and galaktoboureko for every moment! These, I believe, are the most popular traditional desserts.
7. Which typical flavours and aromas would you suggest a foreign visitor should take with them in their luggage, to bring a note of Attica back home?
Definitely “loukoumia”, Aegina pistachios, “pasteli”, tahini and olive oil; some of Attica’s amazing herbs such as oregano and thyme; salt flower and honey from Kythera… All these remind me of the KILIKIO – a shop I ran in the centre of Paris – where one could find everything, from every corner of Greece and only from small-scale producers. A note of Attica is, by extension, a note of Greece…
8. In what ways do you suggest a new pastry chef should use the dairy products, honey, olive oil, fresh fruits and nuts of Attica to create flavours that taste and smell like Attica?
This blessed land produces a huge variety of products of fine quality – from fruits and nuts to herbs and a lot more. It is important for young pastry chefs to look for quality goods and small-scale producers, to do their research and invest their passion to make the most of local taste treasures.
9. Having lived abroad for many years, which do you think are the competitive advantages of Attica for attracting foreign visitors all around the year? Which are your personal favourite places in Attica?
The walk around Athens historical triangle is incredible, as is the Attica Riviera all the way to Sounio – an unforgettable route for all visitors… Definitely include Attica’s nearby islands in your itinerary and of course a visit to my favourite Kythera island, which is part of Attica and is beautiful to visit even in winter!