“I normally get here around 3 in the morning, I put some music on and I start making doughnuts. Doughnuts are fermented three times; it’s a long process. The first ones come out of the deep-fryer around 7 in the morning.”
Petros has been making artisanal lukumas (the Greek version of the doughnut) in Barcelona for four years now. He decided to continue his family business in the Gracia neighborhood in Barcelona instead of in Salonika. He has recently opened his second shop in Raval and dreams of having a food truck where he can sell doughnuts on the beaches of the Catalan coast.
Please tell us your story. How did you decide to set a doughnut shop in Barcelona?
When I was twenty years old, I had a vacation and I came to Barcelona. I liked it. Some time later, I was tired of my job as a graphic designer in Greece so I decided to take a break and come to spend some time in Barcelona. I didn’t want to work in advertising but I ended up finding a job in that field. After some time, I quit that job and I travelled for four months around South America. At that time, I decided I really liked Barcelona and that it was the place where I wanted to settle. I always wanted to start my own project and since my parents have a lukumas shop in Salonika I decided to continue with the family business.
Are doughnuts typical of Greece?
Doughnuts are typical in many countries. Spain is the only country I know where artisanal doughnuts are not common. I identified that opportunity because I really missed the pastries and buns that people sell on the beaches in Greece. I didn’t like the commercial ones I could find here.
Do you follow your parent’s recipe or you have developed your own?
I adapted my family recipe to the local taste. In Greece, lukumas are giants, they look like shoes and here people would get scared when they saw them. I have also developed my own ideas for the fillings and toppings. However, I use my parent’s original dough. When I opened, they came and helped me to adjust the recipe to the local ingredients. It’s interesting because even if you follow the recipe precisely, little adjustments are needed since the raw materials and conditions are different.
Do you make the doughnuts by yourself or you get someone to assist you?
I am by myself in the kitchen. When I have been sick, I was fortunate that my mother could come from Greece to cover me. Now that we have opened a second shop in Raval I need to find an apprentice to help me and to cover for me when I cannot be there. I’ll be a challenge teaching someone.
What is key to make a great doughnut?
Using top quality raw materials is very important. At the same time, it is important that the product is fresh. Doughnuts need to be consumed the same day that they are produced. That requires producing every night so that the customers can enjoy a fresh product every morning. It is the pastry profession. I try to make exactly what will be consumed so I don’t throw anything away. That’s why sometimes we run out. Many days at 6 in the afternoon there’s nothing left.
Where do the ingredients come from?
I buy some ingredients such as spices or fruit at the market. I work with organic dairy products and make my own flour blend mixing raw material from different producers I work with. I also bring some ingredients from Greece such a tree resin that I use for some of my doughnuts.
You have opened another shop in Raval. How’s the environment at each shop?
Gracia is more diverse. We get anyone coming in from young kids to older people that are regular clients and I love that. I always wanted to open a shop in Raval. Over there our customers are much younger because we are in front of a university and, because of the neighborhood itself.
Do you have a favorite lukumas?
I love sweet stuff. Unlike many people that work with sweet products, I have not grown tired of doughnuts. I still love them and I actually eat several everyday. I enjoy any that have chocolate, fruit or jam.
What do you like about Barcelona and what do you miss from Greece?
I don’t miss many things; I really like Barcelona. I’ve been here for some years now and I have many friends. I mostly miss friends and family. Luckily, my Greek friends come often to visit and whenever I can I also go spend a few days over there. I lived in Athens for some years, although I am from Salonika, and sometimes I miss my youth years partying over there. Since I started this business I do not have time for going out; I start working at three in the morning!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love getting to work walking through the empty quiet streets at three in the morning. Another moment I love is having a coffee while the doughnuts are fermenting. But without a doubt, I love seeing people trying my doughnuts and enjoying them. The worst thing is getting up early in the morning. I can’t get used to getting up so early!
What are the future plans for Lukumas?
I am now focusing my efforts on having the two shops running smoothly. At the same time, I am looking for someone to assist me so that I can experiment more and improve the product. I would love to have a food truck and sell doughnuts on the beach. That was my original idea when I started this business but at that time it wasn´t a possibility. Lately the government is becoming a little bit more flexible and I would love doing it. On the beaches in Greece there are always men selling lukumas. They carry them in a tray on their head. That’s what our logo represents!
Where do you normally go out in Barcelona?
I am normally in Gracia because I live here but I also love the city center, especially Raval, Sant Antoni and Poblesec. Some of my favorite places are La Pubilla, Les Tres a la Cuina and Caravelle. Lately I go to Chivuos a lot, a place that just opened next door. In general, I love discovering and trying new places.
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