Community·OTTAWA PROFILES

'It's like a pocket of love': 4 questions with Anna Papadopoulos

CBC In The Kitchen introduces you to local chefs, at-home cooks and food lovers in our city to inspire the conversation as we ask what food and community mean to you.

New CBC Ottawa series inspires conversation about food and community

Anna Papadopoulos says she loves to "slam things together" to make creative flavour combinations, such as baklava cheesecake or apple caramel bougatsa. (Kate Tenenhouse/CBC)

Anna Papadopoulos says her mom, Christina, is the "bougatsa queen." 

Papadopoulos and her sister, Eleni, have come up with new flavour combinations for the bougatsa, a Greek pastry traditionally made of buttered filo and vanilla custard, but it's her mom who makes it at their family business, the Nutty Greek Bake Shop. 

Papadopoulos is the co-owner of the store along with her mother, father, sister and brother.

Can it be chaos? Yes. Do we get into fights? Yes. Do pots go across the store? Yes, but we wake up the next day and we're family.- Anna Papadopoulos

Growing up, the Papadopoulos siblings were constantly in the kitchen, learning the techniques and discipline of baking, and now they're all in business together sharing their desserts and dishes with the community. Although working with family comes with its challenges, Papadopoulos says it has brought them closer together. 

As part of the new summer series CBC In The Kitchen, we met up with Papadopoulos at her shop in Little Italy to talk about family, creativity and her unique spin on traditional Greek flavours. 

Her answers have been edited for length and clarity. 

New CBC Ottawa series inspires conversation about food and community 2:20

What is it like to work so closely with your family? 

Working with my family is fantastic. It has its positives and it has its negatives. I find that our last seven years have drawn us very close as a family. We're all at the age now where we want to take care of everybody. We're all in our 40s. So, we want to take care of our parents and spend time with our parents. 

Can it be chaos? Yes. Do we get into fights? Yes. Do pots go across the store? Yes. But we wake up the next day and we're family. We love each other. 

Papadopoulos says her mom, left, is the "bougatsa queen." (Kate Tenenhouse/CBC)

When did you first fall in love with food? 

Oh my god. I think when I was born. Being part of a Greek household, food was always on the table. It was always big and it was all about sharing. 

You didn't get your [own portions of] pork chop, potato and vegetables. It was like a platter of pork chops, the potatoes, the salad, the drinks...Everything was on the table and everybody just shared in their meals. So, my love of food started from a very young age. I wouldn't be able to tell you when.

Bougatsa is traditionally prepared with vanilla custard, cinnamon and icing sugar, but Papadopoulos puts her own spin on the pastry. (Kate Tenenhouse/CBC)

How does food inspire you?

Illustration of Anna Papadopoulos by Ginar Ogbit
The creativity. The imagination. Being able to slam things together. The ingenuity. I'll give you an example. We're a scratch bakery. So, when it came time for me to do a chocolate cupcake, I was not satisfied with a typical recipe. I had to rip recipes apart and put them back together again. Did explosions happen in the oven? Yes. There was lots of failure, but then you come out with that product, which you call yours. 

How do you want people to feel when they eat your food? 

I want them to feel that sense of family. I always tell people if they ask me about a specific dessert, I'll say 'it's hugs and kisses' or 'it's like a pocket of love.' I think we need to put a little bit of that emotion in our foods.

CBC In The Kitchen will introduce you to local chefs, at-home cooks and food lovers in our city to inspire the conversation as we ask what food and community mean to you. 

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