About four years ago, George Coundouriotis was ready to make a permanent change in his life.
While he followed a low-carb lifestyle on and off since the early 1990s, he had experienced significant weight fluctuations over the years and wanted to keep the weight off for good.
The sabotage, he determined, was a love of eating out and indulging in his favorite fare: dessert. From Europe, where he grew up in several places including Greece, to Atlanta, where he’s lived for more than two decades, the self-proclaimed foodie loves to explore different cuisines. “Even though I had sworn that I would be loyal to the low-carb lifestyle, I invariably would cheat with a decadent dessert,” Coundouriotis says.
His realization about how his eating habits affected him led him on an unexpected journey as the founder, president and general manager of Sandy Springs’ Zambawango Desserts & Coffee, a low-carb bakery and specialty coffee shop. Established in January of 2018 and opened in the Serrano Condominium building off of Abernathy Road in October of the same year, the bakery has made desserts accessible to people who are looking for delectable low-carb, sugar-free and gluten-free choices.
Coundouriotis works with partner and executive pastry chef Kathleen McDaniel, who uses almond and coconut flours and natural sweetener Swerve in the baking process. He has managed to offer a unique spin on some of the most in-demand sweet treats. The bakery offers the gamut of cakes, brownies, cookies, breads and bagels.
How did you make Zambawango a reality?
I interviewed many chefs, and when I said that we were going to be a low-carb, sugar-free, gluten-free bakery, they rolled their eyes. Kathleen followed the Keto diet, and she said she would love the challenge. We both thrive on challenges, so we did a lot of R&D [research and development]. I had photographs of what I considered to be benchmark desserts from places where I was privileged to live and travel, and she immediately understood what I meant with those benchmarks. We brought her ideas and my ideas together.
Where did the name “Zambawango” come from?
As with many other brands, Zambawango started off as a made-up word that we could register nationally. Our goal is for the name to one day be associated with low-carb deliciousness.
What has been the most rewarding part of opening the bakery?
We have taken a food group that has been forever classified as a guilty indulgence and turned it upside down. We use wholesome ingredients, and everything is fresh. And we’re not just for the low-carb lifestyle. If you’re suffering from diabetes or other health conditions, you may have to avoid sweets. So you have this huge underserved group. What we offer is sugar-free and lowcarb, but it also has a lot of protein, fiber, magnesium and minerals that are found in the almond and coconut flours. We’re not in the health business; we’re in the bakery business, but our products potentially provide many benefits.
How has it affected your own low-carb lifestyle?
When I got serious with Zambawango, I became very serious about adapting to the low-carb lifestyle for good. Since then, I’ve lost over 60 pounds.
What are your favorite menu items?
I love dark chocolate and white chocolate. Our chocolate mousse is really decadent, and it has a big dollop of heavy whipped cream on top. We also have a lemon cookie dipped in white chocolate. It’s so good.
ZAMBAWANGO DESSERTS & COFFEE
15 Minutes With columnist at Simply Buckhead. Freelance feature writer, children’s book author and President of Green Meadows Communications, LLC.