Kostas & Anna, the bakers
Kostas is an internationally recognized Master Baker who combines his deep love for intuitive baking with a natural are for technical perfection. He is regularly featured on podcasts, in TV and internet documentaries, in print media, and is often asked to teach Master classes.
But the real, solid passion he holds for baking and providing sustenance to his village was not something he was born with. Rather, it was cultivated over many years and at first his work in the bakery was a product of strict necessity. It took time, but eventually he started to feel the magic of the dough and understood subconsciously the opportunity it gave him to simultaneously express both his creative and mechanical sides. It also connected him even more profoundly with Zitsa, and he appreciates how the bakery gives him the ability to literally nourish his village.
Kostas was 16 ½ when his father opened The Bakery of the Village. Prior to the bakery, the family (Kostas, his brother, sister, and parents) relied solely on their 200-sheep farm and garden for income and food. Mornings before school and evenings before bed were spent in the flower-covered pastures and wood barns, tending to the sheep, and helping his parents.
On March 7, 1992, the old bakery in Zitsa closed its doors. Kostas’ father, a visionary entrepreneur, saw an opportunity to set up a business for his first-born son and decided to open a new bakery. He started preparations and opened the doors for the first time on Monday, March 9, 1992, which happened to be Clean Monday. On this day, the only bread baked in Greece is an oval-shaped flatbread covered in sesame seeds called a “lagana” (λαγάνα).
In the beginning, Kostas helped his mom and dad, doing deliveries, carrying supplies, and sometimes waiting on customers. He didn’t yet feel the pull to create and express himself in dough.
In July 1994, a year after graduating high school, Kostas left for his then-required 18-month army service. All prospective soldiers are asked if they have experience in certain trades, such as baking. Kostas answered “no” as he did not want to do baking in the army since he would return to it when he went home. He wanted to try other things. So he went into communications, which included postal delivery, his favorite activity during his time there.
When he returned in January 1996, he did indeed go back to working in the bakery. He was not sure what he wanted to do so he did not pursue a university education, but he grew into a hobby of photography and videography and was able to travel a little, such as going to Italy in 1997 and Spain in 1998 to film the Zitsa dance team competitions.
In 2000 he expanded his hobby into computers and started a course in the nearby city of Ioannina. He ended up being the first person in his village to buy a computer and the first to have internet!
In September 2001, a bakery school started in Zitsa, so Kostas attended, working from about 4:30-9:00 every morning in the bakery and then going to the school from 9:00-14:00, Monday through Friday. This was a new chapter for him as his interest in baking was finally piqued. A constantly curious learner, he decided to go to Montpelier, France in March of 2002 for 3 ½ weeks and work in a local bakery. He was introduced to baguettes, which he had never seen before in his life, amongst other things. He also learned techniques and recipes which he brought back to the Zitsa bakery, such as how to make sandwich breads, enticing ways to set up the displays, the concept of long-fermentation (which he would store in his brain and eventually experiment with years down the road), and finally, sourdough, which would become his trademark product many years later.
Around 2003 his father became less involved in the bakery, so Kostas and his mom became the main bakers. Slowly, Kostas started to take over, and his artistry began to shine. Ideas would pop into his brain in the middle of the night, and he could not wait to get up at 4:30 in the morning to try out a new recipe or flavor combination that had seemingly come out of nowhere. Often his ideas led to wonderful and flavorful new products. Sometimes they did not. Never one to let a mistake derail him, he took every “failure” as a gift, a lesson, and he learned from them all. And even when something new came out well, he would think about how he could improve it. To this day, his panettone, which he worked on for 8 years and which is one of the most delicious, softest, amazing panettones one can find anywhere in the world, is still considered to be a “work in progress” for him. Even though everyone who tries it says it is perfection itself!
Sadly, in 2006 Kostas’ father passed away. This was an understandably difficult time for him and his family, but he and his mom only closed the bakery for two days. Their village needed them and the bread they supplied. Kostas works six days a week, with Sundays off. He has 2 two-day weekends a year (around Christmas and New Years) and one 3-day break (Easter). To say he is hardworking would be an understatement. His work ethic is perhaps only matched by his passion for creating and learning, as well as his deep love for his family and village, and his desire to share his way of life with the world. He and his wife Anna have two little girls (4 and 7 ½) and are continuously hosting international travelers (over 1,200 to date!), as well as regularly offering Bakery Experiences to those who want to learn first-hand how to make some of the bakery’s most-loved products and building their first week-long Culinary and Cultural Retreat in Zitsa.
Kostas has been baking for over 30 years and still loves it, still has new ideas, and still dreams of sharing his work and his life with the world. He would love to meet you in the Bakery of the Village!!
Artisanal bakery products handmade by Kostas
The bakery of the village
Welcome to our cozy bakery in Zitsa, Greece! Kostas and Anna, a passionate couple, run the show with the help of Kostas’ mother who brings in her traditional baking expertise.
We offer hands-on lessons for both adults and children, so you can learn how to make authentic Greek pies and sweets like gingerbread. Come taste our homemade creations and experience the warmth of our family-run business.
Zitsa - Our Village
Zitsa truly is a magical place and while we work we can share stories about our different cultures, and life in the village in general (there is a lot to learn about this place and we are more than happy to tell you what makes Zitsa so special and why there is nowhere else we’d rather be!).
We can give you some basic Greek lessons as well if you want!