• On the menu: cruelty-free pastries. (Greek Vegan Bakery)Source: Greek Vegan Bakery
The Katsivardas family is making the world a better place – one vegan spanakopita at a time.
Lucy Rennick

5 Jun 2018 - 10:01 AM  UPDATED 4 Jun 2018 - 11:55 AM

A completely vegan bakery might appear to be a surprising move from a family whose country of origin boasts spanakopita, gyros and souvlaki as main jewels in its culinary crown.

Nevertheless, that’s exactly what Pavlos Katsivardas and his family have endeavoured to do – and (spoiler alert, for anyone who hasn’t yet visited their Greek Vegan Bakery venture) they’ve pulled it off with aplomb. So much so that they’ve found reason to expand the business. In addition to the original Revesby store that opened last year, the Greek Vegan Bakery now has a second home in Newtown, the Sydney suburb that's a veritable mecca for ethical eaters.

For city dwellers, this means more Katsivardas-family tyropita, bougatsa, moussaka, and koulourakia, made fresh or frozen to take home – and all completely vegan.

“A lot of people were driving two hours to Revesby to try our products," Katsivardas tells SBS Food. “We decided to open a shop closer to the city and closer to Sydney’s vegan community. It’s going fantastic – our next target is to reach all Australians through wholesale.”

Katsivardas and his wife Fioroula hail from the south part of Greece, an area called Peloponnesus. After migrating to Australia two years ago, the pair decided to open a pizza shop in Revesby. As Katsivardas explains, hospitality comes naturally to the couple, who’ve both built careers working in restaurants all over the world. Before the big move, Fiorula was cooking lunches for 350 children in a public school in Greece.

“A lot of people were driving two hours to Revesby to try our products."

The Katsivardas family is defined by food, but veganism is a relatively new addition – borne from unhappy circumstances, but turned into a way of life.

“We came home from the pizza shop one day and found our 10-month old puppy dead from poison,” Katsivardas says. “We were so upset, and me wife and I decided we would react. We realised in what a cruel world we are living in, and so we decided to become vegan as a way of living cruelty-free. The very next day, we closed the pizza shop and started the Green Vegan Bakery. From such a horrible event, our lives totally changed towards the good.

“We are the first Greek vegan bakery probably in the world, and we want our products to reach the world!”

We can’t totally verify Katsivardas’ claim, but we can attest to the unlikelihood of finding a Greek vegan establishment in Sydney – a quick Google shows as much.

The connection between Greek cuisine and veganism might not be so unusual, Katsivardas explains – despite the country’s apparent obsession with feta cheese and red meat. 

“A lot of people come and say 'what does Greek food have to do with veganism?' Our response is that the first vegetarian in history was the great philosopher/mathematician Pythagoras,” says Katsivardas. You may remember Pythagoras from your high-school years, when you studied Pythagorean Theorem in maths class.

“One of his quotes from 2500 years ago was: 'As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings he will never know health of peace. As long as men massacre animals they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.'"

“A lot of people come and say 'what does Greek food have to do with veganism?' Our response is that the first vegetarian in history was the great philosopher/mathematician Pythagoras.

Meat-free mantras aside, how does Greek food actually work without cheese?

“People are attracted to try our food and also curious to try the vegan version of our pastries,” Katsivardas says. “We use vegan cheese made from coconut oil produced in Greece, soy and almond milks, and vegetable butter and oil for our cooking.”

The cheese in the spanakopita is made from coconut oil, and the ‘mince’ in the moussaka is made from mushrooms. 

The results are working in Katsivardas’ favour – the Greek Vegan Bakery has 85 five-star Facebook reviews, in which customers wax lyrical about “truly authentic” flavours, desserts that melt the heart, and gracious service. The Katsivardas family is slowly changing the perception of strict rules surrounding what Greek food is and isn’t.

“Being vegan is a way of living and existing for us,” he says. “We are very happy to contribute with our lifestyle for a better health, environment and cruelty-free world.”

Who’s up for a slice of vegan spanakopita?

Greek Vegan Bakery

397 King Street, Newtown

Mon-Fri 10am – 3pm

Follow the Greek Vegan Bakery on Facebook.

Make it meat-free
Olive and tomato keftedes

An ode to flavour, these light fritters are a game changer and are worth fighting over. 

Vegetarian lentil and eggplant moussaka

This vegetarian version of Greece's famed moussaka subs out the meat with lentils. The flavours work a treat and it’s just as hearty with charred eggplant, rich tomato sauce and lashings of cheese sauce.

Baked eggplant with haloumi and kasseri (pseftomousakas)

Sometimes referred to as fake moussaka due to the omission of meat and potatoes, this recipe is a great vegetarian dish that doesn’t compromise on flavour.

Tinos fennel fritters (marathokeftedes)

The Greek word for fennel, marathon, is thought to be named after the site of the famous Greek battle against the Persians in 490BC. The Ancient Greeks believed fennel increased longevity, strength and courage. Marathokeftedes is considered the specialty of Tinos.

Pumpkin pie

In Greek cuisine, pumpkin is used in soups, dips, salads, cakes, baked in the oven with lamb or chicken and in keftedes. Most regions have their own version of pumpkin filo pie. Some make sweet pumpkin pie with cinnamon and honey, while others make savoury pies with Greek cheese. The island of Samos is renowned for its pumpkin pie and this is my version.