Who would’ve ever thought that one way to consume a baklava would be to stick in a plastic cup and drink it up with a straw..?
Not many, that’s for sure!

But the man behind the idea and owner of Preston’s Chew Burgers, Angelos Sardelis, is a man of many risks and as he admits to Neos Kosmos, anyone who tries this new way of consuming one of Greece’s most iconic sweets, not only comes back for seconds, but even thirds.
“We’ve been selling it for over eight months now and as soon as people get a taste of it, they always come back for more,” says the restaurant owner/chef.

But what was it that initially inspired him to just shove a piece of baklava in the mixer and start slicing it up?
As he says, there’s a much deeper story behind it. He and his wife, Zoe Konomas who also works at the restaurant, wanted to dedicate the creation to his wife’s late mother, who unfortunately wasn’t able to see the restaurant open its doors.

“My mother-in-law passed away and we wanted to do something for her, so that’s her mix. Because, honestly, she made the best baklava because she used just walnut, no pistaccio or anything else and it was the way she used to do it too. So that’s my mother-in-law’s recipe and we just turned it into a thick shake. And it worked!”

Apart from the baclava-shake though, there are other reasons to visit Chew Burgers in Preston, most important of them being the burgers themselves. Sardelis is particularly proud of the way with which the patties are stored and cooked, which as he explains is French.

“It’s a cooking method like the French do it. They do it with fish, they do it everything, even eggs. Yeah, you can put eggs in there and it boils them perfectly well. So it’s not something that I came up with, it’s actually called sous vide (under vacuum).

“You can go buy those machines that I’ve got in the kitchen from even retail stores and you can do steaks, you can do vegetables, anything can be slow cooked.”

“But the slow-cooking process with the meat at certain degrees helps keep all the juices, all the fat and the proteins. If you put fresh meat on the barbeque and it’s high, like 200C degrees, it burns too quick, so it burns the proteins out. This way, it keeps all the proteins and all the good stuff.”

Sardelis goes on to explain the greater benefits of using the sous vide cooking method: “Your cooking time’s less but your quality’s better. So because I’m thinking about opening more stores, if you look at the bigger picture, I could sous-vide 2,000 patties and send them to my next store. And then all they do is cook them two minutes on the one side and two minutes on the other. And you’re keeping the quality and all the protein. That was my method behind opening the store.”

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The Chew Burgers owner has many years of experience within the hospitality industry.
He made his first steps at his father’s local taverna which as he tells us was located in Brunswick: “That was on Lygon street, so I lived around those cafes in my teenage years. Me and my four brothers worked at that taverna and my father used to make us take days off school to go to work.

“I grew up there, not a lot of Greeks back then, there were mostly Italians, but we did well and we only shut down because my father got sick. We were a little young at the time.
“Had I been a little bit older, I look back and I think I could’ve done something with the place, but then I was only 17-18, you know what I mean?
It would’ve been right to keep but my dad got sick, we didn’t know what was happening, my mum was stressing, we just said, let’s just take it and go.”

A bit later on, and after moving to Queensland to work at a pizza shop that would also sell… baklava, he returned to Melbourne and saw the opportunity arise with Chew Burgers:
“I took it over from a group of people who initially owned the place. They were doing really well but then things started to drop. I changed things up a bit, because I knew burger shops are everywhere so there was a trend. At that time Mexican was in and burgers had gone out of fashion for a bit.

“But the opportunity was good, so I thought I’d go for it but if I go in there I gotta do something different. And that’s when I came up with the sous vide method and I’ll always use 100% quality brisket”.

Right next to the Chew Burgers eatery is the Raccoon Bar, where customers can enjoy their food in a more laid-back environment, an idea that Sardelis claims he “borrowed” from many similar establishments in Europe.

If you would also like to quench your curiosity about whether you can drink a baklava or not, or if you just want to try one of Chef Sardelis’ delicious and nutritious burger patties, all you need to do is drop by Chew Burgers in Preston.

Baklava milkshake. Photo: Supplied