‘Food for me is love’: Chef Anna Polyvieu

The only way to eat an Anna’s Mess is to create a mess. You’ve got to pick it up and you’re going to smash it and it goes everywhere and people just love it.
Chef Anna Polyvieu, a maestro of the kitchen.
Chef Anna Polyvieu, a maestro of the kitchen.

CHENNAI: In the world of gastronomy, certain individuals possess a rare talent that transcends the mere act of cooking; they are culinary artists who weave stories through their dishes, creating experiences that linger in the memory long after the last bite. Among these luminaries stands Chef Anna Polyvieu, a maestro of the kitchen whose culinary creations evoke emotions, provoke thought, and celebrate the essence of food in its purest form. Chef Anna talks to CE about her new found love for Indian food and music, her journey as a dessert chef and DJing. Excerpts:

What do you like about the Indian culture or Indian food in particular?

I’m tasting all these different flavours and I am loving it. I’m starting to understand the back story of each dish that’s created. I love the fact that there’s always two options on the menu — veg and non-veg. I love how the food here is entwined with religion and culture.

Any particular dish that touched your heart?

There’s one dish I am really fond of — biryani — with meat at the bottom and rice which came in a sealed clay pot. And what I loved about it is when you’ve got rid of the lid of the clay pot, the smell that came out of it. I can’t cook it, but someone else can definitely come to my house and cook it.

Tell us more about your signature dish Anna’s Mess.

Anna’s Mess featured on MasterChef Australia quite a while ago as a part of a challenge. The dish is a beautiful sphere dessert with berries, cream and meringue. First one has to place the bottom half of the sphere, in which there is strawberry coulis, crunch, then it has a sponge, then it has a mousse and then a curd where it was sprayed and then there’s berries in there, there’s meringue and then again it’s in a sphere. The only way to eat an Anna’s Mess is to create a mess. You’ve got to pick it up and you’re going to smash it and it goes everywhere and people just love it.

You are known as the pastry queen. What inspired you to become a chef?

Originally, I’m a savoury chef. But how Indian culture is based on food, the region where I come from, Greek Cypriot, is also on food. Whenever I am with my mother, we discuss what we are having for breakfast or dinner. So that really got me into cooking and then I was doing a competition and that got me to do sweets.

What will be one of your favourite desserts which you haven’t made?

My favourite dessert is Galaktoboureko, which is a Greek dessert. It is a sweet, a cake, but has a filo pastry, semolina custard, and then we put a cold syrup over the hot dessert. I really love those and it reminds me of home.

How has your journey been?

It’s really interesting. As an apprentice, you don’t think about the fame and the glory. The only thing you want to do is just develop a skill, new technique. So, I did my apprenticeship, then I went to London to do schooling and focus on the craft. Then I came back to Australia and after working in a few hotels I started my own business — cookie doughs without eggs at supermarkets. I toured with it, did cooking demonstrations, dinners, workshops and TV shows. I absolutely love TV and being in front of the camera. I love making people laugh and creating great desserts. I’m very lucky to be able to do different things.

Are you planning to come up with more cookbooks?

Yes. After coming to India I have realised the importance of one’s root and culture. So, I want to write a cookbook on my roots — Greek — where there is vegetarian, Mediterranean dishes, desserts but all with a bit of a modern twist. My mother is very famous on my Instagram. Everybody loves her and all the recipes go viral. So, I really want her to be a part of it as well, because it is about family and food and food for me is love language.

Apart from cooking what other interests do you have?

I do DJ. I love mixing music and I really want to start putting some Indian music into my tunes now. The beat’s really cool.

What’s coming up next for you?

On the professional front there is definitely a TV show and I’m going to push for my book. I’m going to look at creating more stuff for the supermarkets. Currently I am working on coming back to India, making it a regular appearance. On the personal front, I am looking forward to spending time at home with family, host dinner parties.

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