Oleana, a short walk from the Central Square T station, is inspired and exciting filled with delightful influences from Turkey and the Middle East. The menu features a glossary to guide the diner through a culinary adventure. The pasty team evolved old American classics like the Baked Alaska–which has become a menu staple for Oleana– profiteroles, and chocolate mousse and turned them into new creations that force you to save room after your meal. For the past year and a half Nik Malastras leads the fearless team. Nik, who has found a passion and success in the field of pastry arts, started terribly with a failed batch of chocolate chip cookies as a child. While he was struggling to bake, he volunteered as his mom’s sous chef when making family holiday dinners.
Malastras attended Johnson & Wales University to study the Pastry Arts. Then in college, he worked at RISD’s bakeshop where he learned how to be a part of a team of bakers. While at a college fair, he met his future employer. Nik was invited to do a tasting, (a tasting for a chef is like an audition for an actor, it helps them land the role) for a hotel restaurant in Martha’s Vineyard. At twenty-one years old, he could both buy a bottle of wine and lead the pastry program as the chef. Through a small chuckle, he agrees that it was a crazy experience to have such a role at such a young age, one he did not think he was ready for in hindsight. After working on the island, the born-and-raised North Easter, fled to California to continue his career.
Nik reflects on his time in California fondly, he chose to step back from being a chef to take time to learn as a pastry cook and baker. Without having to manage a team, track inventory, and make schedules, Nik was able to “produce, produce, produce” and just absorb what other chefs could teach him about “speed, time management, and quality of the product”. Nik began to work as a pastry sous chef in San Francisco at a restaurant that would earn its first Michelin Star that year! Working at a Michelin Star restaurant is a reminder of how important the quality of what he was producing was. In California, the availability of fresh, beautiful produce is exciting and inspiring, Massachusetts’s colder climate makes it harder to have farm fresh food at your fingertips. Coming from the broad cuisine of California to the refined Turkish region that Oleana tackles was a stark difference. For Nik it led to hours of research, tasting new spices and foods working to respect the culture he was taking inspiration from, under the direction of Oleana’s Executive Chef, and owner, Ana Sortun.
When Bakes for Breast Cancer reached out to him in 2019 to participate in Sugar Rush, he was eager and excited. The world of Pastry Chefs is a small community. Sugar Rush and Bakes for Breast Cancer was able to connect dozens of chefs—many of whom are friends—in the Boston area. As a man that exudes kindness and humility, it is not a surprise that he was happy to donate his time and talent to the cause. While he does not hesitate, every response was filled with compliments towards someone else, he is passionate about constantly learning and knows when he needed to step back to be able to move forward. Nik speaks about other members of the industry with pride, especially those he has developed friendships with and is inspired by them. He leads his career with the mindset of maintaining integrity and professionalism. To taste everything, even foods you think you don’t like, to constantly read and learn. And most importantly, never sacrifice flavor for aesthetics.