"SHE LOVES BAKING AND HOSTING PARTIES. SHE IS ALL ABOUT ETIQUETTE AND MANNERS. NATURALLY, SHE LOOKS DOWN ON PEOPLE WITH BAD MANNERS!"
The door opens and you are greeted by Madame Gâteaux, a smiling lady who dons a vintage floral dress, pearls, and red lipstick. She welcomes you to her world, one made up of pleasant pastel tints, authentic mid-century furniture, an array or aromatic teas, and homemade treats. Behind this persona is the perfect host, Le Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef Calliope Anagnosti.
Anagnosti first fell in love with the English concept of afternoon tea while working in London, and soon after began specializing in the creation of sweets and confectionery delights to accompany this time-honored tradition. Combining her culinary skills with her affection for everything vintage - especially the 50s and 60s aesthetic - and her childhood memories of the dazzling porcelain serving sets her grandmother used to host Sunday tea parties, Anagnosti created the world of Madame Gâteaux.” With delight, Madame Gâteaux eagerly awaits to share her passion for hosting with friends and guests alike, from the comfort of her tearoom in the Athenian suburb of Chalandri.
But of course, Madame Gâteaux’s tearoom would not be proper without the pastel color pallet of her vintage serving sets and accessories. “I drew my inspiration from the design colour palettes of the 1950s, but I was always drawn to these colours: lilac, mint green, baby blue, peach. They’re lovely. So feminine and soothing!” Anagnosti says.
For Madame Gâteaux, proper hosting is focused on the guest, and the atmosphere one creates for them. “It’s all about making your guests’ needs your number one priority,” she says. “Make sure that they always have food and drinks and that you have created an environment in which they are comfortable and can have fun.”
For a typical afternoon tea session, Madame Gâteaux’s guests enjoy light bites and drinks of choice from authentic vintage serving sets, cake stands and tea pots, set on a hand-knit traditional tablecloth. “I’m going to welcome you with some freshly brewed Darjeeling, the champagne of teas,” Anagnosti says. “When you’re all sitting down comfortably, I’ll bring some dainty finger sandwiches, then, my freshly baked scones served with clotted cream and forest fruit jam. Finally, pastries of your choice. I would suggest lemon meringue pie, caramel macadamia brownies, or violet-flavoured choux.”
Throughout the afternoon, Madame Gâteaux effortlessly journeys her guests through time, sharing with them the history of tea and everything from the savoir vivre of the English past time from the 18th century, to the French intelligentsia of the 1950s. The vintage serving sets used for teatime reflect Madame Gâteaux’s personal style and hand-picked selections, some of which are family heirlooms, and others sourced from her travels in Greece and beyond.
“I have been collecting vintage and antique items since I was a kid,” she says. “I was born into a collectors’ family. My parents and I were always visiting antique shops and flea markets together, in Greece or on our travels abroad. Each one of us has their interests and things they enjoy collecting, and mine grew to be teaware and crockery.”
Highly skilled in the art of homemaking, Anagnosti says that channeling her culinary and hospitality skills through Madame Gâteaux helped her find her ikigai - the Japanese concept that embodies the reason for being and making life worthwhile. “Ikigai is all about finding your true passion in life, something that makes you happy all day, every day,” Anagnosti says. It’s also about losing oneself in their work, not realizing how time flies, she says. “I feel exactly like this about pastry. Every morning, I cannot wait to get up and create. It makes me happy. I feel fulfilled.”
THE HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTESS
In creating the persona of Madame Gâteaux, Anagnosti drew her inspiration from the things she has always loved about the lifestyles of bygone eras. “I loved playing house with my dolls when I was little,” she says. “I also loved watching old movies and TV shows, especially from the 1950s and 60s. Shows like I Dream of Jeannie, I love Lucy or The Munsters, and movies with Jerry Lewis...so I developed a love for the mid-century aesthetic. Madame Gâteaux is therefore sort of my 1950s hostess alter ego.”
Like Anagnosti, Madame Gâteaux adores classic French pastry-making, but also has a sweet spot for American-style layered cakes with colorful garnishes. Her pastry-making gives preference to the flowery aromas of rose, lavender, and violet. She also designs her dishes by seasonality, selecting the fruits, vegetables and herbs that are in season, to create new recipes. Among her favorites are tarts and quiches.
Above all, Madame Gâteaux loves expressing the essence of being a proper lady with manners and style. ”Being a hostess is a big deal to her. She loves welcoming people in her tearoom and showing everybody a good time,” Anagnosti says. “She loves baking and hosting tea parties. She is all about etiquette and manners. Naturally, she looks down on people with bad manners!”
_____________________________ WORDS: Portes Magazine PHOTOS: Jovanna Stefanou | Konstantinos Tzemis | Thodoris Markou | Chrysostomos Galathris