She’s a chef who likes to go by the name of ‘sweet creator’, she believes pastry is a place full of funky beats and is pretty adamant about pastry rules being there to be broken! Welcome to the crazy and colourful world of Australian Cypriot Anna Polyviou, renowned for transforming the pastry team at Sydney’s Shangri – La Hotel, while also wowing crowds with her famous dessert degustation in her pastry kitchen, with plenty of TV appearances to boot.
Add to that her cool DJing skills, wicked fun drive, and her trademark Mohawk, and it’s clear that this is one pastry chef that stands out from the rest! And she is mighty proud of her Cypriot roots, born and raised in Melbourne, and inspired by her Cypriot mum with whom she has spent endless hours in the kitchen, learning the tricks of the trade. Now working on a cookbook to be published this summer – with a chapter dedicated to Cypriot desserts – Anna has also graced TV screens around Australia as a judge on Family Food Fight.
As My Cyprus Insider sheds lights on Cypriots doing something different abroad, we ask her ten questions about her Cyprus connection, what makes her tick, and the secrets she keeps up her sleeve!
1. When was the last time you visited Cyprus & where do you love most on the island?
It was 12 years ago and I loved Ayia Napa – the crystal-clear waters and all the bars. I also had a great time eating souvlaki and kleftiko (slow cooked lamb)!
2. Would you say your Cypriot heritage inspired your passion for food?
Oh yes! My mum has taught me about values, family, and sitting around a table to eat a meal. Every single day we would be in the kitchen cooking, and dad would wash the dishes. From souvla (barbequed meat), to louvi (black eyed beans) and loukanika (traditional sausages)….mum would also bake bread every Sunday. She taught me how to make ‘bombes’ the other day – I’ve dedicated a chapter in my new book to them!
3. When did you know you wanted to become a pastry chef?
I was always creative in the kitchen, like my mum, and when I was about 16 – 17 years old I just knew I wanted to be a chef.
4. Favourite Cypriot dessert?
Galaktopoureko (custard in filo pastry)! I remember mum taking it out of the oven and will never forget those aromas as she poured the syrup over it.
5. You always add a modern take on tradition – which Cypriot dessert recipe would you like to transform?
I’ve actually already transformed loukoumades (honey balls)- I toss in caramel popcorn and then Nutella chocolate sauce.
6. After 4 years as pastry chef at the Shangri-La Hotel and the enormous sell out dessert degustation, what would you say are the secrets behind an amazing dessert experience?
Think outside the box, think about the wow factor, think about the reaction! Create a talking point! Everyone can make dessert, but what more?
7. What’s the biggest challenge you face as an award-winning pastry chef?
Time management. Having time for loved ones, not having days off; you need to have a balance.
8. You also love street art and DJing, does this creativity feed into your work in the kitchen?
Absolutely, I DJ everywhere I go. If I do a cooking demonstration, I want people to have fun. I call it ‘sweet treats with funky beats’…it’s all about self-expression.
9. ‘Family Food Fight’ features the Cypriot Panayides family from Melbourne as contestants. How was it to be in the kitchen with them?
I got emotional and felt so proud. We should all be in the kitchen more, learning about our Cypriot heritage. They made loukoumades, galaktoboureko, moussaka…arguing all the time!
10. And lastly, if there was just one ingredient from a Cypriot kitchen that you would pack in your bag if you were to head to a desert island, what would it be?
Cinnamon bark. I also love koupes (made of bulgar wheat filled with ground meat). If I could take them to the island with lemon of course!