Sweet Alchemy

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The Sweet Alchemist

An interview with the famed sweet alchemist Stelios Parliaros!

Stelio grew up in a home where both his mother and father could be found in the kitchen.  His parents enjoyed cooking and Stelio was drawn to not only watching but helping out.  It was his father though who was the big sweet eater and enjoyed all kinds of desserts.  During his youth he was greatly attracted to the pastry shop windows of Athens admiring all of the various delicacies.  He admits that he ate his share of specialty jams and Galaktoboureko (a Greek custard dessert) too.

By 1979 he found himself working under a Greek Pastry Chef from Egypt in the Athens Hilton Hotel.  He learned a lot there but still wanted more.  He spent endless hours exploring and learning about the world of sweets by reading as many magazines and books that he could find.  Two years later he was ready to expand his wings and venture out on his own.

At 23 he started his own business.  This was a period of time he doesn’t easily forget as there were extremely long days, lack of sleep and an internal push to work as hard as he could. Of course there are still many days like that even today.  His sweets were thought of as a  revolution in the early 80s as he created desserts that removed the classical Greek style which were practically soaking in syrup and replaced it with more refined crusts topped with fresh fruit.  It was also his being from Constantinople that leaned him more toward the sweets with a middle eastern flavor.  The shop was very minimal with its focus on a white background and a limited number of daily sweets that were sent home in pink boxes.  It was a different look and taste, which also started to gain attention for him.    

An obvious fact about Stelios Parliaros sweets is that there is a great deal of attention to detail.  His belief is that the sweet is made up from 50% taste and 50% presentation.  He has always loved the first impression of something whether it be a book, a place or the whole environment. 

“If you aren’t visually pleased then it will affect how much your palate will be pleased!”

Sweet Alchemy

Things have surely changed since then!  Stelio now can be found on his weekly TV program, along with his two great assistants, his nephew Foti and his niece Popi, which has won him a Best Cooking Show in Greece award, his featured recipes in the weekly magazine Glykes Alchemies (Sweet Alchemy), cookbooks, his website (www.steliosparliaros.gr), and various sponsored events or at either of his shops in Kolonaki and Kifissia.

magazine glykes alchemies

It was his shop in Kifissia that won him (and a first for a Greek shop) the Travel + Leisure award for World’s Best Designed Retail Space in 2013.  As T + L said “the shop creates an atmosphere of mystery around  its many delicacies, presenting them in glass topped cases in a space that feels a bit like a sorcerer’s workshop.  Jars, bottles, bins, and trays of candy, jam, chocolate, and pastry fill the rooms, which are lit dramatically from above; abundant sunlight is refracted through a dense grid of tall metal shelves, highlighting the shop’s many unfinished-wood and concrete surfaces and the very refined sweets on display”. (moco-choco.com).  In 2014 he also received the top award in Greece for his pastry shop.

sweet shop parliaros

sweet alchemy kifissia

award travel and leisure

2014 AthensBook award

This sorcerer’s sweet room matches the name that Stelio uses for his shops, TV show and magazine, Sweet Alchemy.  The name came from one of the cookbooks he had written some time ago which is still one of his favorites!  This book had an artistic element with the photography, quoted phrases taking up whole pages and a personal touch with comments made from many journalists.  The book represents for him what he believes is the fundamental to life and for business.

Sweet Alchemy shop

Parliaros packaging

“We combine elements from our environment together with our imagination to make something. “

It is, he says, “a kind of scientific experiment coming from inspiration and imagination”.  He feels that our lives are a mixture of civilizations and this reflects in how we live and what we do.

“The correct combination of ingredients in just the right way makes the successful outcome. “

Where does his inspiration continually come from?  Stelio attends as many schools and seminars as he can.  A seminar at Valhrona or a visit to Lyon are places that have influenced him in his work.   He loves traveling and reading and this keeps his imagination running.  Everything he sees and everywhere he goes sparks his creativity to do something new.  It was this reason that he recently went to Madagascar which became the subject matter for his latest book called Vanilla Chocolate (Vanilia Sokolata).  The book is a wonderful collection of photographs, information and recipes.

vanilla chocolate book

“I will never forget the people and their beautiful smiles.  Even more impressive is how being poor doesn’t stop them from living or from having fun.  They will use what little they have and organize a party on the beach.  They sing, laugh and live.  What an amazing country and what beautiful people!”

It is experiences like Madagascar that encourage and inspire him to do this again.  Where to next?  He would love to go to the origin of vanilla and chocolate, Mexico.  He has never been to Central or South America and would love to go one day.  (Stelio we hope you do and we all await your next great cookbook!).

Parliaros Stelios

So after a long day of cooking, does he feel like going back into the kitchen and fixing himself a dinner?  Of course.  But what does he do to unwind?  He grabs a book or magazine and looks for the next idea or the next trip!  A bit of calmness, being with friends, listening to music and enjoying his surroundings is how he recharges for the next day.  And how does he stay so fit…. well Stelio believes in a balance.  Eat what you want but if one day you overdue it, then the next day be more careful.   He enjoys all kinds of sweets and doesn’t have a favorite one.  He says it depends on his mood and if ‘I feel like experimenting and eating something different I will”.   

stelios parliaros

Not all of us are talented in decorating our cakes.  What can we do to dress up that simple looking chocolate cake?  Stelio suggests, “Just get one or two sticks of vanilla and lay them on top, or a single sugar flower.  The point is to enhance what you’ve made and not overload it.  A minimal decoration goes a long way!”

chocolate cake Parliaros

Are you ready for a Stelio Parliaros cake or a chocolate mousse recipe?  Come back next week and check out our food section for a Stelio Parliaros original recipe!

Stelios presentation

4 Comments

  1. Maria P.

    March 21, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    We love Stelio in the U.S.! He has made many of my dinners better because of his dessert recipes!

    • admin

      March 22, 2015 at 4:40 am

      Glad to hear that Maria!

  2. Chris

    March 21, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    The best sweets that I tasted in Greece were from Sweet Alchemy. Can’t wait to come back this summer and go there again.

    • admin

      March 22, 2015 at 4:42 am

      Chris, we say…why wait until summer:):) !

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