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Meet the inspirational 86-year-old Greek baker still hard at work

Giorgos Hatziparaskos

Business Insider Today | Facebook | Fair Use

Cerith Gardiner - published on 11/30/20

Giorgos Hatziparaskos continues to produce handmade phyllo pastry, and his efforts are incredible.

Most 86-year-olds have their feet up, appreciating their golden years. But Giorgos Hatziparaskos is still hard at work alongside his wife Katarina and their son Paraskevas in their bakery in Rethymno, Crete.

As the video below by Business Insider tells the story, the octogenarian opens up the bakery at 8 a.m. to begin a grueling day’s work. While Katarina goes about the marketing, Giorgos gets things ready in the bakery — adorably his wife is there to help him tie his apron.

As Katarina prepares lunch, Giorgos and his son make the traditional phyllo pastry. The process requires meticulous measuring and hard manual work. If you look at the video below, you’ll see the huge sheets of wafer-thin pastry that are carefully prepped.

While Giorgos shares that the hard work “keeps me alive,” it is very tiring. The senior has to stop for breaks in between preparing the layers of phyllo pastry. But he keeps on going.

And the traditional, painstaking process is a wonder to watch. Giorgos explains how there are now very few bakeries who maintain the old ways of making the thin pastry. Industrialization has meant that the phyllo can be made a lot quicker and is far more profitable in terms of man-power.

An entrepreneurial spirit

Yet, the Hatziparaskos family continues. Despite the fact their profits from making the actual pastry are minimal — 320 layers of pastry makes just 12 kilos, which are then sold at just 60 euros — the bakery remains operational. This is in part due to the entrepreneurial spirit of the family. As so many people adjust to different economic climates, so too have the Hatziparaskoses.

The process of making the handmade rolls of pastry is a work of art in itself, and the bakery has become a tourist attraction. Visitors flock to see the baker hard at work and take the opportunity to purchase some of the sweets the family also makes.

And just to add to his workload, Giorgos also makes Kataifi shredded pastry, which is even more labor intensive than the phyllo pastry, and takes three hours to produce. But as he struggles with his work, there’s an image of the Virgin Mary and Child looking on.

What is beautiful about Giorgos’ hard work is seeing how he has inspired his own son. Paraskevas is an engineer by profession, but when work dried up due to the economic crisis, he joined his aging father. From there the father-son team keep each other going.

When Paraskevas is tired, he looks to his dad’s extraordinary work ethic, and he picks himself up again. He hopes his own son will follow in their steps to keep the ancient tradition of phyllo pastry making going.

The family is incredible in so many ways and have become a central part of their community. In fact the mayor was so appreciative of their efforts that the bakers received an award for their contribution to tourism in 2007, which you can see visibly moved Giorgos in the video.

It seems only fitting that over the front door of the 17th-century building is a centuries-old inscription: “In virtue, the house shines.”


Read more:
10 Ways to care for the elderly in the winter

ElderlyGreeceInspiring stories

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