86 year old Giorgos Hatziparaschos, is the last traditional phyllo master who is well-renowned for making ultra-thin phyllo pastry. If you are planning on a trip to Rethymno in Crete, you should definitely pop into the Old Town, on 30, Vernardou Street, where a Venetian mansion is home to the workshop of Mr Hatziparaschos. It’s definitely worth visiting this amazingly talented gentleman, who still rides his bike to work and makes ultra-thin phyllo pastry and kataifi by hand every day.
Phyllo is used in many Greek dishes and is a part of the Hellenic cuisine. Pita, bougatsa, galaktoboureko, baklava, ekmek, and other sweet and savoury Greek recipes consist of several sheets of phyllo.
Mr Hatziparaschos began his trade in 1946 and opened his workshop in 1958. It was 60 years ago when he first stepped through the mansion’s doors to set up his workshop, which has become legendary. Countless generations from near and a far have come here over the last six decades to buy the famous hand-made phyllo.
The workshop of Giorgos has remained pretty much the same throughout the years and the authentic environment gives it an extra special touch. The area where the thin phyllo pastry is made occupies the greatest part of the workshop, as phyllo needs to be left to dry over two 3x4m gigantic tables.
The kataifi workshop is much smaller. Here Giorgos empties five kilos of a liquid mixture inside a container equipped with a tap. When he opens the tap, the dough is poured through the container’s 23 tiny holes onto a large, circle-spinning disc of a 1,40m diameter. Once the dough is dried, the kataifi pastry is ready.
Both processes are an art in itself to witness and not to mention pure entertainment to watch, as Giorgos is known to give a dance performance as he rolls it out.
Mr. Hatziparaschos tosses the dough ball in the air and spins it with high speed. In the end, a giant bubble is formed, then rolled out very finely before it is stretched like a bed-sheet over the giant tables where it is left to dry.
His lovely wife of 50 years, Katerina takes on from there. Her task is to cover the phyllo with burlap for the next phyllo layer to be placed on top.
During the last years, their son Paraskevas has been helping, so that Giorgos gets to rest a bit and his grandson Giorgos looks to be following in his Pappou’s footsteps as he is learning the techniques quickly, however it is natural that Mr Hatziparaschos also has concerns for the future of his shop.
Meanwhile, this special place has plenty of stories to tell and is filled with so much history, culture and passion, which is evident as soon as you walk through the doors- so definitely pop in and say hi if you are about!
Tourists keep him going
Hatziparaskos says he could have quit the job, but he continues to engage in Phyllo due to tourism. He has made good cash out of tourist attractions since the start of this business. They keep on coming to take pictures as they learn the process.
Outside of working with Phyllo, he likes traveling to various countries. He has many pictures in various countries like Morocco, Hungary, Austria, France, and Spain. He always works hard to attract more tourists making good money. At one point, he will take a single week to be a tourist and a foreign country. But over the Corona period, the number of tourists has reduced. In 2020, only groups of 20 people visited him inside his building.
In November 2007, the Municipality of Rethymno had a big ceremony to celebrate him. He was the warrior of the community as the best tourist attraction for 10 years. He got various rewards, thanks to his family and tour guides.
Paraskevas continues with the tradition. He says he is happy when his parents are happy too. His father has always been his role model in this field. And he hopes his son will also take care of this tradition.
A: 30 Manouil Vernardou Street, Rethymno, Crete
P: + 302 831029488