Local Voice: Sofia Muntrakis, Pastry Chef in Gamla Stan

Local Voice: Sofia Muntrakis, Pastry Chef in Gamla Stan

Learn what life is like as a pastry chef in one of Sweden’s best cafés in the heart of Stockholm. 

Photo Credit: Sofia Muntrakis

Meet Sofia Muntrakis, pastry chef at Grillska Huset Cafe and Restaurant in Gamla Stan, Stockholm.

The Grillska Huset café and restaurant boasts both a central location in the center square of Gamla Stan and a cozy atmosphere with classic Swedish pastries behind glass at the counter.

We spoke with pastry chef/konditor, Sofia Muntrakis, about some of her favorite aspects of her job creating Swedish treats for tourists and Swedes alike.

What inspired you to become a pastry chef?

I always knew that I wanted to work with something creative using my hands, but it took me a long time before I actually found my call. I studied ceramics, arts, and design but somehow, I always had pastry making in the back of my mind.

After trying out working with chocolate at a small chocolatier I really knew what I wanted and shortly after I applied for a pastry chef education. Now, when I found my right profession I can’t believe it took me so long!

Can you describe your formal and informal training and background?

The pastry chef/baker education was a one-year intensive program with theory and practical courses at a school here in Stockholm including many months of internships.

I was very happy when my application got accepted at Grillska Huset because of their very good ethics and values. They produce almost everything from scratch using high quality and if possible organic ingredients.

I made my internship mostly here at Grillska Huset and partly as an exchange student through the Erasmus project at “Huize van Wely” in the Netherlands. I have also done some extra praline courses in Nora. When I finished my education, I started working here as a substitute.

Walk us through a typical day for you—what time do you get to the cafe? What types of things do you do?

My closest colleague and I usually start at 7 am (the other two pastry chefs who are responsible for the cakes start one hour earlier).

The first thing we do is to go through the orders of the day and to send what has been ordered to our sister café Eugenia.

Then, I prepare our new pastry for the day. Around 8 am, we take a small breakfast break. When that is done we start producing new pastries/cookies, depending on what’s needed to be done, to fill up our stocks. What we produce varies a lot from season to season.

Around 11 am, we go for lunch and then we continue working. We also answer the phone to take pastry orders and replace what’s missing throughout the day. Sometimes we also help our colleagues if they have a lot to do. We finish with clean up before we go home around 3:30 pm.

What’s your favorite pastry to create?

I love making everything that is dipped into chocolate and I am very interested in vegan sweets. I also really like making sweets for special occasions as it can be very playful and creative. For example, we make ghosts of the chocolate balls for Halloween, heart-shaped sweets for Valentine’s day and of course, all the Christmas treats!

What classic Swedish food do you end up baking the most often?

I would say that is the specialty of Grillska Huset, it is a sweet called “mumma” that tastes almond and cardamom, which I make twice a week. It is not a Swedish classic since I believe it is unique of Grillska Huset but I would say that it tastes very Swedish!

It is very delicious and is one of my favorites! The most popular cake that we have is definitely the very classic Swedish princess cake (with homemade vanilla cream and home cooked raspberry jam covered in green marzipan together with cream.)

Mumma pastry
Photo Credit: Sofia Muntrakis

We know that there is semlor season and kanelbullensdag, which results in a higher demand for certain pastries. How does the seasonal approach to pastries affect your work?

In the summer, we use a lot of different kinds of fruits and berry, like strawberry, since they are in season. In the autumn and winter when it is cooler and not as many fruits in season we use chocolate a lot more.

During December there are many special for example lussekatter, saffransbullar, mandelmusslor and gingerbread (pepparkakor) of course. This period is really busy and we work very hard to manage everything!

What’s your favorite non-pastry dish to eat at home?

I have so many favorites, but I really like a vegetarian variant of Khoresht Karafs that my boyfriend makes at home. It is a Persian celery stew with saffron!

Stockholms Stadsmission is all about the community. Do they have a food waste reduction policy or approach that reduces waste?

Yes, we are working with food waste reduction in many ways.

First of all, we try not to produce more food than needed by estimating how much we expect to sell from day to day. We keep track to be able to compare from one day to another and take consideration of other things, for example, the weather and holidays. It can be very difficult however and we do get food left over anyway. Some buns go to social communities.

Recently we started selling food and sweets through the Karma app where people can save food that is fully edible, but can’t be sold for its original price. What can´t be eaten for different reasons get recycled in a food waste disposer.

Photo Credit: Sofia Muntrakis

What’s the most surprising part of your job?

Not sure if it is surprising but most things we do are very fun, there are some tasks that are monotone and less fun but many times I get surprised because it feels like I am having too much fun.

Many people watch baking programs on TV where they only get to see the decorating parts and do not understand that before you get to this point, you have to do a lot of quite physical work.

Anything else you’d like to mention?

Grillska Huset is a part of Stockholms Stadsmission that is a non-profit organization working with different social projects. Grillska Huset involves a lot of people who for different reasons need to do work training to be able to take the next step to get a real job. We have people in the training program Grillska Huset.

It feels special to work in a building from the 17th century!

Photo Credit: Sofia Muntrakis

Visit Grillska Huset to taste their delicious food for yourself the next time you’re in Gamla Stan.

Address:

Stortorget 3
111 29 Stockholm

Website: https://www.stadsmissionen.se/vad-vi-gor/grillska-huset/cafe-och-restaurang-i-grillska-huset-gamla-stan

Related Posts

The History of the Cinnamon Bun
Stockholm’s Cafe Culture: The Best Places to Fika
Swedish Fika 101
Local Voice: Joakim Haglund, Head Chef at Himlen
Local Voice: Kenny Sung, Restaurateur

Author: Lisa Ferland

Lisa Ferland is the Assistant Editor of Slow Travel Stockholm. She lives just outside Stockholm with two of her own Lego-loving, modern-day Pippi Longstocking fans, husband, and dog. She writes at https://lisaferland.com.

Share This Post On