Anna Polyviou: Chocolate Fantasy

Anna Polyviou: Chocolate Fantasy

Executive pastry chef, award winner and dessert chef, Anna Polyviou discusses the kick she gets working at The Bathers’ Pavilion.

Executive pastry chef, award winner and dessert chef, Anna Polyviou discusses the kick she gets working at The Bathers’ Pavilion.

all, intricately detailed stonewalls overlook a golden beach and blue bay at north Sydney’s The Bathers’ Pavilion. Inside, talented pastry chefs create dishes of milk chocolate and passionfruit crèma, iced mango and champagne tapioca macarons and a rice bubble carrot cake with a cream cheese chiboust. For executive pastry chef Anna Polyviou, The Bathers’ Pavilion experience is like being a part of a “massive white castle”.

“(Owner) Serge Dansereau is the king of the castle and we are his working soldiers,” Anna explains to Baking Business.

“There is always something happening, never a stale moment, especially in my kitchen,” Anna says.

Located 15 minutes north of Sydney, Bathers’ offers a fine dining restaurant, café, kiosk and function space. Within the historic culinary stronghold Anna leads a highly trained team of pastry chefs as well as works with Serge on cookbooks, provides food consultations and caters for cruise ships. Having begun her culinary career in 2000 with an apprenticeship at the Sofitel Melbourne Hotel, she has since won numerous awards, earned scholarships and studied and worked overseas. From Claridges Hotel London to Pierre Herme Paris. In 2008 won the Callebaut/Cocoa Barry Chocolate Competition for Best Chocolate Dessert. The prize was a trip to Chicago to study at the Callebaut Chocolate School. When it comes to pastry design, Serge’s trust and mutual respect allows Anna to explore her craft. She has two notable distinctions to her name – she is the youngest pastry chef to start working for Serge as well as the longest serving.

“I appreciate him giving me a go. I remind him everyday how lucky he is to have me… and that’s when he pulls me into line and keeps me level headed,” she says with a laugh.

“There’s my team at Bathers’ Pavilion and without their commitment and dedication I wouldn’t be where I am. They are all unique and talented. They inspire me and push me to achieve. I look up to them, from my apprentice (upwards).”

Bathers’ makes everything in-house including breads, butters, yogurts, chocolates and desserts. The Bathers’ makes use of fresh produce from their own dedicated fruit supplier to get the best fruit and vegetable ingredients and keep up-to-date on what’s in season and coming out. There are also regular visits and educational sessions from F. Mayer’s Gary Willis educating the Bathers’ team about Cocoa Barry chocolate.

Time and money is also invested into building the up-and-coming pastry chefs of the future as well as supporting a breast cancer awareness chocolate dinner each year.

Beyond the white walls of Bathers’ Pavilion, Anna looks forward to the chocolate rush that comes with being a gateaux judge at the Hunter Valley Cocoa Barry/Callebut Chocolate Festival in August. Having already won the competition, she has been tasked to write the menu for the chocolate degustation dinner as well as judge the gateaux competition.

“I’m pleased I will get to have a weekend away with some great, talented pastry chefs and also get to see the new ones coming through,” she says.

Anna’s drive for desserts and pastry perfection has placed her at the cutting edge of Australia’s pastry scene. She recently judged the qualifying round for the Australian pastry chef cup team competing in Singapore.

“I enjoy competing more than judging. I get so jealous watching people compete, I love it. But on the other hand I get to judge some great talented up and coming pastry chefs. I learn loads from judging and at the same time it’s networking with other pastry chefs and sharing my knowledge too,” she says.

Despite everything on her plate, the issue weighing most heavily on her mind has been the recipe for a carrot cake dessert.

“(For six months) I just couldn’t get my head around it. I’ll start it then leave it aside, but just recently my team were on my case to just do it and get it out of my system. I tell you, sometimes I feel that I’m their apprentice,” she says.

The final product has transformed into a carrot cake sponge disc with apricot compote insert, then a milk chocolate and praline crème, chocolate rice bubbles for a crunch on the base of the carrot cake, apricot and carrot sorbet which is refreshing and a cream cheese chiboust. It also has a caramelised walnut crumble.

“It’s sexy and visually appealing, people were scared of it at the start as it was different. But now it’s the best seller as it is exciting and when people have it they enjoy it,” she says.

Anna admires Julie Sharp whom is her mentor, pastry chef of the year in the UK and a former Claridges hotel pastry chef. Kathryn Boyden, the UK’s Queens pastry chef worked with her at the Sofitel Melbourne during her apprenship. Both women have had a major influence in her pastry career.

“I believe people have a certain style and it grows as we grow within our skill levels and learn more from different workplaces and people. I love quenelles and hate scoops, I don’t like mess… I like clean cut,” she says.

“(There are) skills that a chef can’t do and you require being a trained pastry chef to do it, such as chocolate work and sugar. I make sure that my desserts are visually appealing, that skills and techniques are used along with flavours are balanced.

“It’s easy to have people apply but not easy to find the right person for the job. It’s about personality; willing to be able to learn and get along as a team member, show stability, respect and also passion. It’s growing as an individual but it’s about growing as a team along with the business and treating the business as your own. Most importantly, it’s about having fun and getting excited to different challenges,” she says.

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