Sweet Creator: Anna Polyviou
To be a successful pastry chef, it pays to follow the rules. Except if you’re Anna Polyviou. Then you take the rules, stick them in a blender and dye them pink.
Vanilla is not a word you’d associate with Anna Polyviou. Far from ordinary, Sydney’s punk of pastry with her pink mohawk and facial piercings is a self-dubbed ‘sweet creator’ making a colourful impression.
In actual fact, vanilla is her favourite ingredient and while it might not be an in-your-face element, it’s fundamental to so many classic desserts. And that’s where it all begins when you become a pastry chef. You have to learn the classics to be able to build on them.
For Anna, the classics are those of her Greek heritage. One of her favourites is Loukoumades, Greek donuts, which, Anna describes, were a staple of her childhood church, where they were served fresh to the hungry congregation.
“The old ladies would be pushing them through their hand and flipping them over and frying them and they were always perfectly round,” she recalls. “I used to go there just to eat, Mum would be like ‘Where is she? Why isn’t she in church?’ and I’m out there eating!”
While Anna always had a sweet tooth, the fact that she became a pastry chef was, she says, “a mistake.” She started out as an apprentice kitchen chef, but, she describes, “I was a bit of a wild child, all those nerdy chefs were sitting there really paying attention and I was out partying and having a great time.”
On the verge of losing her apprenticeship, Anna was thrown a lifeline by way of the chance to participate in a cooking competition with a team of four apprentices. Her role: pastry.
“I had no idea about pastry, so I went in every single day to learn,” she says.
When the big day arrived, though, her hard work went unrecognised.
“I lost that competition,” she recalls, “but I had given so much of my time and energy and I remember crying in the corner and saying to Mum, ‘I don’t understand, I did so well and my dessert was honestly better than everyone else’s.’ That’s how I saw it.”
But like most sensible mums, Anna’s saw the valuable lesson in the loss.
“She was like, ‘My daughter really needs to know how to lose before she learns to win.’”
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