Editor Jackie Burger suggested I pop into De Oude Bank Bakkerij in Stellenbosch and what Jackie says – I know, goes. Let me tell you, this place gives you a special kind of feeling. It is magical or rather spiritual. I arrived at De Oude Bank Bakkerij (which is as the name suggests, housed in what used to be a bank) and instantly felt at home. The artisan bakery is cosy, warm and packed with people – a good sign. The bread making happens right in front of you. It is bread heaven and the words ‘pain de vie’ are used a lot in this bakery, meaning bread of life. There’s something about the space that will make you dream, it’s a complete visual overload. The space is real, it’s rustic and at the heart of it is bread. I sat in front a tree which grows inside the building, with a cup of artisan coffee, a Croque Madame, in one of the most beautiful towns in the world and thought ‘wow, this is special.’
Owners and husband and wife duo Fritz and Chanelle Schoon are lovely too. They are totally hands on with Chanelle chatting and serving customers, when she is not in the kitchen as head chef and Fritz doing what he does best, creating bread you can only dream of tasting. It’s a no-brainer why this spot is such a success. The magical space is growing too – by July; De Companje (a collaboration of artisans) will be open.
We chat to Fritz to find out more:
Where was the De Oude Bank Bakkerij dream born?
I was working in Knysna under Markus Farbinger of Ile de Pain. He was and is and forever will be a very inspiring man. He made me realise what authenticity is but I was dreaming of my own small bakery. My sisters had studied in Stellenbosch and Stellenbosch was where I wanted to establish myself. I cannot believe that I get to live here so early in my life. Things lead me to this small, hidden, empty space in this old bank. So here I am, baking off naturally fermented doughs in a big black wood-fired oven.
Do you remember the moment you knew baking was your passion?
I started a bakery when I was still working in construction and read up about the industry to understand what the guys were up to. Something led me to an article about the artisan bakers of France and that’s when the seed was planted.
After two hours of taking in all that De Oude Bank Bakkerij has to offer, Fritz led us through the building and into what is now a work in progress. De Companje is going to be beautiful. High ceilings, old tiled floors, stained-glass windows and furniture are brought from India – think old world cinema chairs, grandness and character. This space will sell fresh fruit and veg, fresh flowers, a winery up the carved wooden staircase, a butcher (Nice to Meat You), coffee roaster and ice-cream parlour (Fanny Chanel Artisan Ice-cream).
I am so excited about this project. It is actually more of collaboration. My wife, Chanelle, had dreamt of opening a small ice-cream shop since she was exposed to real ice cream during the practical part of her chef’s course at Umami Restaurant. She has been diligent about the quality of her ingredients. I have only tasted something similar twice in my life, once in Italy and once in Croatia.
‘My sister has just finished her Masters in Animal Science, specialising in Meat Science, and spent some time with Caroline at Braeside Butchery. Now she has decided to open a small butchery supporting only free-range and pasture=rearing farmers who take humane slaughtering very seriously.
I suggested that they – Fanny Chanel Artisan Ice cream and Nice to Meet You Boutique Butchery – and I join forces. We got our coffee roaster involved, the local fruit and veg farmers, the local cheesemakers, winemakers and beer brewers all got on board. De Companje was good to go.’
What’s the secret to your perfect bread?
Time. Making Schoon’s Sourdough is a three-day process. There are no shortcuts. You can mix a dough fast and hard and you will build up the gluten so much that you get a great looking loaf with body, or you can gently fold dough for a much longer and get body and taste.
Then the ingredients. Stoneground healthy flour, filtered water, Khoisan Sea Salt. That’s it. If that is good you can leave all the olives, seeds, sundried this and that.
Treat dough like a person, stern but with love. A baker’s hands are described as ‘an Iron fist in a velvet glove’.
Need to know: The décor adds to the ambience. This is very much a family affair and Fritz’s mum, Jenny, created the space: ‘She will have things made, that you as a customer will perhaps never notice over many years, but she will and it will make her happy. We do a lot of the sanding, stripping, painting and sealing ourselves.’
What makes this spot different: So many things. What stands out the most is the team. They are humble and committed and their attention to detail is amazing.
Try: Everything. But if you try only three things, make it the olive sticks, hot chocolate Chili Decadence and Schoon’s Sourdough, the bakery’s signature loaf.
We love: Take home a warm, freshly baked loaf and choose from their selection of condiments, charcuterie and cheeses. Oh, and their newest additions are pastries and sweet treats.
Look forward to: De Comanje opening! Watch this space – we’ll be among the first to visit.
Visit De Oude Bank Bakkerij at Oude Bank Building, 7 Church Street, Stellenbosch; call 021 883 2187.
Like them on Facebook here or follow them on Twitter @oudebankbakery
For information on De Companje, click here.
Photographs: Cindy Taylor