Driven by her passion for baking, Paraskevi Bourdantonakis showcases her talent and skills every time she creates a cake, which has helped turn her business ‘Sweet Ilussions’ into a huge success.
While working as an apprentice chef under the great Greek Australian chef Janni Kyritsis, at his restaurant ‘MG Garage’ in Surry Hills, Sydney, Paraskevi started making desserts, “Through his mentorship, I discovered the world of desserts and I immediately loved the food science behind baking. It doesn’t behave like food; 1 teaspoon too much, or cooked 5 degrees too high, changes everything. It's scientific in its approach and I love that.”
Talking about her first apprenticeship, Paraskevi remembers being blown away by Janni Kyritsis' encouragement. “He would regularly ask us questions, seek our input and critique on food. This just wasn’t a norm in the hospitality industry back then, so it was quite a shock. Janni really encouraged me as a novice chef to speak up, ask questions, challenge when appropriate.
He encouraged me to read as much as I could about food, about baking, about any subject that would help me become better. Through his mentorship, he saw I had a good eye for desserts and provided me with the belief and encouragement to follow this through and through this, my passion for desserts and baking kicked off."
After being taught by the best, Paraskevi was inspired to open her own dessert shop. “I still pinch myself sometimes, that I have actually opened my own business. I love what I do and seeing my customers faces when they see the finished product. Shock, joy, glee, happiness, confusion! You name it; my cakes can cause quite a stir,” she says.
Proud of her background, she loves making Greek-inspired cakes. "It’s my culture, my heritage and I absolutely love that I am able to represent my heritage through my baking. I am very proud to be Greek and if this is how I can contribute to my Greek heritage, then I will for years to come. I have made Medusa, Hercules, Parthenon, Acropolis of Athens and of course lots of soccer cakes with the national Greek team colours.
"My personal favourite cake though has to be the Parthenon – it’s such an iconic structure. Though the cake looked so real and anyone that saw it could relate – whether as a tourist who visited or as someone who has lived in Greece or even someone who watched a movie with it being a famous backdrop.”
Paraskevi's favourite cake flavour is the Hummingbird, “It’s a refreshing combination of pineapple, banana, and passionfruit with a coconut truffle icing. I love it, as it’s different, picture drinking a cocktail in the Bahamas. And of course chocolate you have got to love a great chocolate cake.”
As for the future, Paraskevi says it’s easy. “I want to be known for making my cakes do something they shouldn’t, that’s where my name ‘Sweet Illusions’ comes from. Depending on how you look at it, is it a cake? Is it something else? How can it fly? What is it suspended from? Did that just talk? I love creating that illusion, where people question, is this really a cake?”