Awarded pastry chef, tv personality, author, street food entrepreneur; Greek Nikolas Strangas fills us in on why he loves sweets, what he misses most about his home country, and why organic ingredients are the future.
Exclusive interview: Vana Antonopoulou
Born and raised in Greece, based in Denmark and trained as a professional pastry chef, Nikolas Strangas does not only create delectable desserts but, apparently, also serves savory fare at his newly-established street food booth in the heart of Copenhagen, at the Broens Gadekøkken market. Currently, he is also preparing to take his Greek comfort food concept to Toldboden Seaside, a new venture located at the port of the city and expected to open by the end of March. And although the Greek chef admits that living and cooking in Denmark is somewhat daunting, he is nevertheless not deterred by the country’s —and especially its capital’s— superior gastronomy reputation. In fact, he believes that it’s high time the Danish learned a thing or two about proper souvlaki and gyros.
So, how did you decide to get into “the sweet life” as you call it and become a pastry chef? And how did you end up in Copenhagen?
That’s actually a long story. As far as I remember I was fascinated by the… sweet world. I have, as we call it, a sweet tooth. That’s why I went to Pastry School in the Greek island of Rhodes, I graduated from there and then I started working for the Hilton hotel. After some years traveling around the globe, I came to the Hilton in Copenhagen. The rest is history.
You are an awarded pastry chef and a tv personality (both in Denmark and Greece), have already published a book and have just opened a street food place in Broens Gadekøkken in Copenhagen. How hard has it been to accomplish all this? Do you thinκ success is a matter of luck or hard work? Οr both for that matter?
Success for me is to have a plan and an intention. When you are sure what your intention and your plan is, then everything else comes naturally.
You are mainly a pastry chef and yet only a few months ago you decided to open a Greek-inspired souvlaki stand, Strangas Greek Street Food. How did you decide to get into the street food scene? What are the challenges?
I see my self as an entrepreneur. So, it kind of came easy to start my own souvlaki stand. I miss Greek food and especially souvlaki so I wanted it to start the souvlaki trend in Denmark. About the challenges, they are almost the same, whether you are opening a pastry shop or a restaurant. You need to deal with the same issues and solve the same challenges (staff, sales, marketing, etc.)
Copenhagen is one of the metropolises of gourmet cooking and food. What are the prospects of Greek street food in Copenhagen?
The level is indeed so high! At the Broens Gadekøkken Market where my stand is located, there are head chefs from 3 Michelin star restaurants, chefs with a big tv career and some of the strongest brands in Copenhagen.
It’s probably premature, but are you thinking in terms of taking your stand global?
That will be great! It’s not easy, I can tell you, but I would definitely love that!
At Strangas Greek Street Food you talk about organic gyros and organic pita bread…
We need to work with the best ingredients and be true to our flavor —this is the way to win the world. We are using organic meat (pork and chicken) and we make the pita ourselves from organic flour and sour dough. Eating a warm baked pita with organic meat is the best thing in the world!
Do you think organic food is a growing trend or a way of life, especially during this pandemic?
To me, organic food is not a trend, It is a way of life, a way to respect the environment and the animals.
Where do you source your ingredients and especially organic gyros? Do you make it yourselves?
All our ingredients are produced in Denmark. Sustainability is something that we like and take very seriously in Strangas.
You opened Opa by Strangas in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. How has this affected your business?
In Copenhagen, like everywhere else in the world, we didn’t have any tourists. However, we have had a really good season with locals.
What are your plans for the future?
I would like to open two more souvlaki places, a greek restaurant and a bakery/pastry shop. And, of course, try to do something in Greece!