More than “The Cake Lady of Greece”

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1.  You seem to be a very creative person!  Why cakes?  Is this where you started?

I actually studied Police Science… I dreamed of being the Super Detective, of course I was 18 and there were no CSI, NCIS NYPD shows back then……. But my easy credit course all through my school years were the creative ones… easy A’s Art, Music, Drama etc. I moved to Greece in 1990 with my Greek husband when our youngest son was a baby to keep company to my then 84 year old father-in-law. I came to Greece when few people spoke English and I spoke no Greek….. so look where we have come in 25 years !! Being a working woman my whole life, I needed to work and the obvious choice was teaching art at an American school in Greece……. I became “The Cake Lady” of Greece by accident, really. I would make birthday cakes for my son nieces and nephews and students in my art classes as gifts and a few wedding cakes for fellow teachers. Many people approached me with requests for Designer cakes…. my replies was always I’m an art teacher not a cake decorator. Then one day I said maybe I should try a opening a bakery….. and there it began 21 years ago….. The first years I worked at school during the day and in my bakery (ergastirio) at night. 

Outdoor Donna shop

Inside shop Donna

2.  What is a difference you see in cake ordering in Greece vs. U.S. (or is there a difference since you might guide the choice)? 

At the time that I opened my bakery (ergastirio) in Greece there were no such shops selling American Style decorated Cakes, Cupcakes and Sweets. The tricky part was that since there weren’t any cake decorating supply shops in Greece or most of Europe, creating beautiful cakes was not just having a great idea but also trying to figure out with what tools you would make it !!! It has taken many pain staking years to get Greek people to like and appreciate american cake style and taste, they have always preferred pastry type sweets like most of Europe.

My cake philosophy is that cake itself is always a celebration of some important feeling, love, affection, humor, nostalgia or accomplishment. It should be a reflection of the person or event it is for and also maintain the style of the cake artist. In the Cake World, true cake artist have their own distinct cake art style and it is easy for one artist to recognize the art of another.

The biggest change is that everyone now knows around the world about Specialty Cakes because of the countless USA and UK Television shows. The downfall of these shows is that the viewer never really sees the many many days and hours that go into making each cake…. TV makes it look easy!!! I predict that the Cake Artists who will be in it for the long haul will be those that are good business operators, talented and adaptable.

  Donna night cake

Donna cake tower

My suggestion is… 

a) Know Your Baker/Artist!! Is your baker licensed under government laws for food establishments? It may seem like a silly question, but you should make sure they are certified and inspected by the Board of Health. This can protect you in the case someone got sick from food that came from an unclean home kitchen. 

b) Check references…. In these days of TV Cake shows and Social Media many people feel they have the right to sell Cakes from their homes. Many of them will tell you that they can replicate any design you have from another designer.

3.  Your favorite cake of all time? 

Wow ….. That is a hard one…. There are many, but I would have to say the 

      2 meter Cake I made for President Bill Clinton is still the from runner!!!!

President Clinton Cake

 

 

4.  Event planning is one of your successful endeavors over the past years!  What is something simple a hostess could add to her table with limited resources?

Yes, I have been organizing small intimate dinner parties to large events and happenings, weddings, holidays and more for close to 13 years now. My husband owned and operated Supper Clubs and Event centers in the USA for 30 years. So it was already a major part of our lives… I guess it was a natural progression. As an artist the entire event is an empty pallet for me!! 

I suggest to anyone planning an event or party at home….  FOOD must be fabulous, MUSIC and entertainment must keep people excited, TIMING…. Do Not let things slow down and get boring!!!!!!!!!

Secret Weapon……. Exciting Invitation and with a basic set of white dishes and plain glassware you can accessorize with unique details to fit any theme !!  

For Example: Valentine’s Day Table Interestingly Folded Red Napkins, some inexpensive heart jewelry from an accessory shop to decorate the stems of your wine glasses. The set of Hearts design from a set of Playing cards !! Wa La !!!!   and always send a thank you note after to thank friends for coming to your home!!!  People will look forward to your next party!!!!

valentines napkins

Valentine's event

6.  You have businesses in both the U.S. and Greece, would you prefer to be located in one place only?

I have just recently, in the past 4 years begun focusing on having an extension of business based in Atlanta. My business there is more Decoration and Event related and a lot of Christmas Decor. Being artistically trained in the USA and working and decorating in Greece and many parts of Europe and the Middle East has given me a very different and distinct style. Americans like it because it is more European and people in Europe like it because it is more American……

No I would not like to be located in one place. I have the best of both!!!  I love Greece and there are many things I have accomplished in my life that have happened because I am in Greece. Greece is an amazingly beautiful country with a lot to offer, and I am here to help people enhance that experience in their celebrations.

7.  How many years have you been in this business?  If someone today wants to start a cupcake business (as seems to be the trend) would you tell them go for it or watch out?

I have had my business in Greece for more than 20 years. I am a Cake Artist so for me cupcakes are kind of, the left overs from a real cake…..

I would say that as you said cupcakes are a trend and trends go out of style quickly….. 

And cupcakes are also an American Sweet, because a recipe is on the Internet does not mean it is a real cupcake!!! There are many out there who can ruin the reputation of a product in the market by by quality.

I look at my business as a lifelong relationship with my customers from wedding to Baptism to 20+ Birthdays and then a wedding again!!! I am now doing wedding cakes for the children of some of my customers whom I made their Christenings!!!!

8.  What is your favorite part of your job? 

Everyday it is something new……I have so many ideas so always new favorites !!

Graduation party ice bar

9.  Have you realized your goals of when you first started out?

I have reached many many of my goals and beyond.

Gingerbread house

Donna's Christmas tree

Donna on Star

Donna and Elenora

 

10.  Any future plans you’d like to discuss?

I am in the process of completing 2 books which will be out by the summer one is about Christmas Decoration and the second is about Events of all kinds !!! Very excited!!

Summer party event

11.  Do the Greeks that you work with enjoy the American style cakes and cupcakes or do you feel you have to incorporate tastes into your recipes (ex. how is the baklava cupcake doing?)

Well it took many years but yes I think there are many American sweets they have come to like. As it is all over the world with French Macaroons Italian Tiramisu etc.

When in Greece do like the Greeks…. My Special cupcake the “Baklava Cupcake” has become quite popular!!!

Baklava cake

chocolate cupckae

12.  You also have done parties in other countries, isn’t that difficult to get a team ready for those events and work out logistics of the place that you are going?  Or do you enjoy the adventure?

Adventure Baby Adventure…. Love it !! 

Yes it can be very difficult, but I have made very good connections with local talent in many countries and islands that I work in. Your creative team is very very important in creating a successful event, it takes a lot of good talent to make dreams come true !!!

Donna's team

Donna logo

Thank you Donna for the interview!  Here’s to another 25 years of your tasty and beautiful creations!

2 Comments

  1. evanne sharp

    January 28, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    I really enjoyed this article. I have to say it is heartwarming and nostolgic because yes I knew Donna when she was making cakes as an art teacher and just starting. Actually a dear friend of mine had her wedding cake from Donna and that’s how we became friends. From there it was my kids’ Birthday cakes, when the third came along his Christening cake and my sister’s wedding cake. Apple and pumpkin pies etc etc!! Happy to see a success story in Greece! To many more great years ahead Donna!!!

    • Donna Chalas

      January 28, 2015 at 6:45 pm

      Thank You “Hellenic Lifestyle ” for a Super story !!! And Evanne we have many more years to come…. The Kid’s Weddings …. hehehe xxxx

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