Young baker fol­lows his dream

Award-win­ning Stavros Evan­gelou’s Smyr­naean bread is prov­ing a big hit in Dus­sel­dorf

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY MARIA RIGOUTSOU

Twenty-four-year-old Stavros Evan­gelou thinks back fondly on his grand­fa­ther’s bak­ery, on the cor­ner of Nikis and Apol­lonos streets in cen­tral Athens, which spe­cial­ized in recipes from Smyrna. The bak­ery was later taken over by Stavros’s par­ents and un­cle, who suc­ceeded in trans­form­ing it into a ro­bust fam­ily business. Grow­ing up in the bak­ery and the cre­ativ­ity that this par­tic­u­lar craft of­fers prompted the young man to head to Ger­many – as there are no bak­ery schools in Greece – and con­tinue the fam­ily tradition.

He first spent some time in Frank­furt per­fect­ing his Ger­man and then went hunt­ing for a school, helped by his ex­pert fa­ther.

“The level in Ger­many is very high. Mun­ster, for ex­am­ple, has a school with a state-of-the-art bak­ery and ex­cep­tional pro­fes­sors with a wealth of knowl­edge,” says Stavros.

For the prac­ti­cal side of his ed­u­ca­tion, he looked for a bak­ery where he could learn from the best; one that was nei­ther too small nor too big, which was com­mit­ted to qual­ity. He worked hard, did well and was soon no­ticed by his su­pe­ri­ors, go­ing on to win com­pe­ti­tion af­ter com­pe­ti­tion, un­til this year he and a col­league rep­re­sented Ger­many at an an­nual Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion for best young baker. Stavros ranked top in four cat­e­gories, among which was bread, in no small de­gree thanks to his use of mas­tic and mahlep – trade se­crets passed on by his Smyr­naean grand­fa­ther.

To­day, his Smyr­naean bread is avail­able ev­ery Fri­day and Satur­day at Hinkel, an ex­cel­lent bak­ery in Dus­sel­dorf that has been around for 125 years. In Jan­uary, the store will also start car­ry­ing his rus­tic bread and other goods.

“It’s the best bak­ery in Europe in my opin­ion. It has amaz­ing va­ri­ety,” says Stavros of the store he ran­domly dis­cov­ered seven years ago while walk­ing around the city. “It has a unique con­cept. It only sells bread, rolls and a small num­ber of baked desserts. It does not sell sand­wiches and cof­fees. Nev­er­the­less, there’s al­ways a queue and that means it must be do­ing some­thing right.”

Hinkel of­fers 120 to 150 dif­fer­ent prod­ucts on a daily ba­sis, ro­tat­ing its se­lec­tions.

“The Smyr­naean bread is from an old recipe from Stavros’s grand­fa­ther. I wanted to start mak­ing and sell­ing it as soon as I tasted it,” says a smil­ing Josef Hinkel sit­ting near the en­trance to his small bak­ery, urg­ing cus­tomers to taste it. Hinkel em­ploys 75 peo­ple even though it has just two small stores in Dus­sel­dorf’s old quar­ter.

“Ev­ery­thing is done by hand. Ev­ery­thing. His prod­ucts are ex­cep­tional and all the breads are made with old, au­then­tic recipes,” says Stavros. What makes his bread so spe­cial? “It is re­ally some­thing quite dif­fer­ent be­cause it’s not kneaded. Ba­si­cally you al­low the flour and the water to prove alone and the sour­dough is made with basil and le­mon,” says Stavros. “We have it in the store in Greece and now we’ve started mak­ing it here, and it’s sell­ing like hot cakes! I didn’t ex­pect that.”

The young Athe­nian baker has been work­ing at Hinkel since Au­gust and will stay un­til the end of the year, when he has to get back to univer­sity to pre­pare for his fi­nal ex­ams in Oc­to­ber and earn his ti­tle as master baker. His dream is to re­turn to Greece and take over the fam­ily business, mak­ing breads that are not just de­li­cious but also nu­tri­tious, with whole grains, seeds and other whole­some in­gre­di­ents, as well as a few with very lit­tle salt or with­out yeast.

“If I had stayed in Greece, I would never have re­al­ized my dreams,” he says, urg­ing chil­dren to chase their pas­sion and not get tied down by the no­tion that they have to pur­sue con­ven­tional univer­sity stud­ies.

“A good crafts­man will al­ways find work,” he says.

‘A good crafts­man will al­ways find work,’ says the young Athe­nian baker who has been work­ing at Hinkel since Au­gust and will stay un­til the end of the year.

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