He is a fourth generation pastry chef with infectious energy and a bright welcoming smile always on his face. Renowned for the quality of his pastries and impeccable hospitality, Greek Australian George Diakomichalis is the personification of popular. His passion for desserts saw him open Adelaide’s Kalymnos Pastries, often cited as South Australia’s best patisserie, in 1995 and his entertaining, friendly and informative presenting style has landed him guest spots on a variety of TV shows including Meraki TV, as well as his own show “It’s All Greek To Me.”
Proud of his heritage, passionate about keeping traditions alive and dedicated to inspiring everyone around him, his infectious zest for life, positivity and strong work ethic has seen him taste success after success.
From running his business to his TV appearances, conducting food workshops, demonstrations, hospitality tours to Kalymnos, as well as business ventures in Asia, his love for his craft seeps into all that he does.
GCT caught up with Diakomichalis to talk about cakes, Kalymnos and the importance of keeping tradition alive.
Where were you born and raised and where are you based now?
I was born in Adelaide, Australia and grew up going back and forth from Kalymnos, the birthplace of both my parents.
Were you interested in cooking from a young age? When did you realise you had a talent?
I grew up in and around kitchens (this business has been in my family for four generations). I used to help out at home and make desserts for some of the stores we used to supply to from the age of 15 years old. My mum’s side of the family still has patisseries in Greece, where I did my training.
Tell us about the decision to swap banking for a career in food?
I didn’t see a future in banking for me. Everyone I knew that was 10 years older than me and working in the bank was complaining and unhappy. I decided to go with my heart and passion. I was always good with my hands and loved creating beautiful flavours and making people happy.
Tell us about Kalymnos Pastries?
I had the family’s support and wanted to continue the family tradition. I created the name Kalymnos Pastries with the blessings of my parents and grandparents. It represented my proud heritage and family’s history. I opened Kalymnos Pastries in 1995 in Adelaide. Our Kalymnos stores that still run were opened in 1918 by my great-grandfather (Vouros Pastries).
What is your favourite aspect of your job?
My favourite part of the job is providing consistent, high quality, traditional Greek desserts, and the old school service to go with it. I want to keep our traditions alive.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Keeping my passion and vision alive and to keep inspiring my younger staff. They are a vital part of my business and don’t realise how talented they are. I want to make them believe in themselves.
How do you stay fit and lean when you are surrounded by sweets and delicious foods day after day?
I have always been involved in sport plus both indoor and outdoor activities. I’m highly motivated and love inspiring people. I’m at the stage in life where I want the balance. I love training but I also want to eat a little.
Tell us about It’s All Greek To Me?
It’s All Greek to me is a TV show that started because I wanted to keep migration stories alive while keeping the traditional recipes that came with migration alive as well. The opportunity came through my involvement in other TV shows. Producers saw my energy, talent, and passion and took a punt. I’m currently looking for some major sponsors to help me take this series to another level. If anyone out there is interested in helping keep our traditions alive while living as proud Australians, please get in touch.
Who has been the biggest influence on you?
My biggest influence on my cooking and my business was and is my family. Grandparents, parents, uncles, and aunties. My grandfather and uncles were my teachers in the dessert kitchen. I trained under their guidance at our family’s Kalymnos store. But the savoury side was my mum, grandmothers, and aunties. The business side, I would have to say my dad.
What inspires you?
Life inspires me. You have one life and it is our duty to inspire people and inspire yourself which in turn allows you to inspire others. I’m a player in the game of life, not someone who wants to watch from the grandstands.
As a 1st generation Greek-Australian how have you managed to stay so connected to your roots when many of our young people are losing the language and traditions?
I’m connected to our roots because without roots a tree cannot survive. We need to be just as proud of our heritage as we are if the country that has given us and the generations above us the opportunities to do what we do.
What do you think has been the secret to your success?
The secret to our success is never losing the white-hot desire of providing a consistent, top quality product that’s matched with genuine customer service. We truly love what we do.
What is your favourite meal and glyko?
I can’t choose just one. I’m a typical Greek that loves variety. Mezze as far as good goes. I love my syrup-based cakes. I love any recipes that keep our traditions alive.