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‘Food is our love language’: Chef Anna Polyviou on her influential Greek Cypriot heritage

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Anna Polyviou. She’s the award-winning chef everyone remembers by her distinctive pink mohawk, quirky urban style and contagious fun attitude.

But how did she get to where she is today?

In an interview with The Greek Herald, Anna details how she’s always been inspired by her Greek Cypriot heritage from a very young age.

“It’s funny because everyone is always like ‘how did you get into cooking?’ and it’s like as a Greek Cypriot, I’ve always been around food,” Anna says with a laugh.

“I mean it was something we always thought about when we woke up. My mum was always like ‘what do you want to eat?’

Anna has always been inspired by her mum. Photo: Delicious Magazine / Supplied.

“All I’ve ever known is about food and eating and feasting and celebrating… It’s not like I wanted to be a chef, it kind of like just ended up being like that.”

‘Never forget where I started from’:

It’s this passion for food which has led Anna to being one of Australia’s must-loved and popular celebrity chefs with an extensive career repertoire.

Anna has not only worked in the world’s best kitchens such as the Pierre Herme Patisserie in Paris, London’s Claridge’s Hotel and the Sofitel Melbourne, but she also put the ‘hotel patisserie’ on the map as the former Creative Director of Pastry at Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney.

The chef has even released two books, Sweet Street in 2018 and Kids’ Corner in 2019, and has been a guest judge on Network 10’s TV program, MasterChef, for three years running.

Amongst it all, Anna has won a raft of awards including best dessert in the UK, as well as Australia’s Hotel Chef of the Year and Pastry Chef of the Year.

When we ask the Greek Cypriot what these achievements mean to her, she’s as humble as ever and says it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of her family.

“I never forget where I started from,” Anna says with a smile.

“When I won Victorian Apprentice of the Year… I still remember the fact that my godmother Angela and my mum were in the kitchen washing my knives, one was pressing my uniform, my godsister Georgia and her husband hired a truck to put all my equipment and utensils in there. Everyone was laughing at me because I went overboard.

Anna has always been supported by her family. Photo: Delicious Magazine / Supplied.

“But I won and that got me over to the UK and then I won another competition and that got me to Paris and then I came back and I won another competition that got me to the US.

“So all these different opportunities but opportunities that I’m forever grateful for. I never take them from a grain of salt.”

Moving past disappointment:

Of course though, with every opportunity comes a number of setbacks as well and in Anna’s case, her hardest challenge to date has been letting go of her dream of opening her first-ever patisserie shop in Sydney’s inner west.

The Greek Herald first reported on the opening of Anna’s patisserie shop in the old Cornersmith building in Marrickville in February this year.

But now, Anna says, the business deal fell through.

“I mean I love Marrickville and I love the locals. The community is amazing but unfortunately, it just didn’t work out,” she says.

“I was in a bit of a dark place… It was really hard because there were a lot of people behind [the shop], working on it and then everyone was waiting for it and then it just didn’t happen. I was very depressed.”

Despite this, Anna is determined to pick herself up and look into opening another Sydney shop that will be ‘bigger’ and ‘more brand new,’ whilst also continuing to work on producing her premium cookie dough.

Anna is moving forward.

“We are looking at a new shop but it’s going to be a very different concept. Mum will be part of it in different elements. She will definitely be doing masterclasses. We will be doing workshops with Greek pastries and desserts and degustations as well,” the chef says.

With this exciting development on the agenda, we just had to ask Anna what keeps her motivated in the face of hardships and her answer is simple.

“Food is our love language,” she concludes.

“You know, we have hurdles, we have obstacles. I mean how exciting is it moving forward? It’s so cool and I think my number one fan is my mother and the Greek community has been fantastic as well.”

READ MORE: Chef Anna Polyviou shares her favourite artefacts from the ‘Open Horizons’ exhibition.

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