CULTURE

Making people happy: the fabulous, sweet destiny of Amelie in Athens

Following in the footsteps of her cinematic namesake, Amelie’s mission in Athens is to make people happy. How does she do it? With chocolate, custard and cream, among other succulent ingredients, for Amelie is a 3-week-old French patisserie situated in Kolonaki. Founded by three Parisian friends, Guy Krief, Salime Nassur and Yann De Launay (the latter being the pastry chef), Amelie is a state-of-the-art outlet ready to satisfy sweet but also style cravings. In the chocolate- and custard-colored premises, sweets and pastries are showcased with extra care, and serious word-of-mouth has already turned the newfound shop into a local favorite. «I always thought that Greeks are sensitive to quality things,» says Krief. «And Paris is saturated.» Krief, whose parents have been living in Athens for the last 20 years, was raised in Paris by his grandmother, Amelie, a pastry chef at Laduree, the celebrated Parisian tearoom and pastry institution, established in 1862. Friends from childhood, the three boys grew up and pursued their respective careers; In their mid-20s, Krief and Nassur were busy going up in the information technology ladder, in executive positions in the Internet department of giant France Telecom. Sweetly breaking their long hours was De Launay, an up-and-coming pastry chef who was working at Laduree (where, for a brief time, he had coincided with Krief’s grandmother). During a rainy Sunday afternoon in February 2001, the wild idea of establishing a patisserie in Athens no longer seemed far-fetched, but more attractive than ever. The three friends traveled to Greece, primarily so that Krief could introduce his friends to the country; following their decision to go ahead, the trio began taking the necessary steps. For De Launay, setting up a local pastry outlet required certain guarantees, such as the ability to find the quality ingredient-tools – butter and fresh cream are imported from France, for instance, while he now makes good use of local products such as nuts. If grandmother Amelie had two golden rules – that things should look good and taste good – De Launay, along with the new generation of pastry professionals, has now added another one: Between looking and eating, things should have an interesting texture. And so at Amelie, the texture is rich for pastries such as chocolate and coffee eclairs, praline custard Paris-Brest or chestnut-based Mont-Blanc; and while some pastries have a familiar air, De Launay adds his creative twist. Take the celebrated St. Honore, for instance, where a traditional pate a choux base gives way to a lighter, millefeuilles one (though the well-known chou a la creme and whipped cream are intact). Or even the lemon tart, where a sweet crust is topped by familiar custard and caramelized meringue, not to mention the millefeuilles, which are given a chocolate and lemon spin. And then there’s the Cilaos, a dough with mango and caramel mousse or even a salty-caramel tart; Rive Gauche, a dough dipped in chocolate, with a chocolate mousse; or Rivoli, featuring chocolate pastry, chocolate mousse, Caraibe caramel, nougats and nuts. The real stars, however, are the brightly colored macaroons, little crunchy and mellow cakes filled with ganache. A rarity even among French patisseries – Laduree is one of the best-known suppliers – their presence at Amelie, a daily production of 6 kilos, comes in praline, lemon, pistachio, caramel, chocolate and framboise, plain chocolate and rose flavors. Also at Amelie is a collection of rich chocolates, such as the Valentinois, a chocolate ganache with Cointreau, dipped in white chocolate; Figaros, ganache with rum, sprinkled with walnuts, with white or dark chocolate; Narbonnais, and ganache with milk chocolate and honey, not to mention popular chocolate truffles. Packaging is, of course, a very important part of the service here as well: Inspired by French designer Agnes B., Amelie’s bags match the boxes – which, in turn, were inspired by hat boxes – and are rapidly becoming items to watch. And as the satisfied clients come back for more, the friends are settling down to their new life, entirely dedicated to Amelie. «We feel like Indiana Jones spinning the lasso,» says Krief. «There is a sense of adventure that we enjoy tremendously.» Amelie, 29 Pindarou, Kolonaki.