INTERVIEW WITH BAKER JEAN ROSSOUW

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Nothing beats the smell of fresh bread. Am I right? A fantastic treat in our household is buying a fresh ciabatta or sourdough from Food Co and then smothering it in butter. Yum! They have so many wonderful products it's sometimes difficult to choose just one.

The philosophy at Food Co is uncomplicated. ‘Simplicity, health and moderation are our cornerstones’, says baker, Jean Rossouw. He and his wife, chef Lizelle, launched their bakery and restaurant at the corner of Fourth Street and Courtney Road in December 2016. It’s easy to find; follow the warm, nutty aroma of freshly baked bread!

The Food Co. duo are responsible for the birth of a new superpower in George; the Sourdough Loaf! This leavened bread found its origins in Ancient Egypt and is thought to predate many early metals. The sharp aroma, tangy open crumb, chewy texture and crisp crust are hallmarks of this superfood loaf.

Today’s interview features Jean and Lizelle from Food Co, Jean talks about their passion for their business and how it all started.

Can you share a bit of the story of how you became a baker?
It's actually a very funny story. Lizelle, my wife, is actually a qualified chef from the Institute of Culinary arts in Stellenbosch. I studied Investment Management at the University of Stellenbosch, that's where we met. After our studies we went overseas and joined the yachting scene where Lizelle was a chef and myself a chief officer on sailing yachts.

When we returned to SA in 2016 I had no idea what I wanted to do but we always knew that Lizelle would open a restaurant or cafe or something in the food industry. We were in George for 3 months and the cafe by Pick n Pay came up for sale. Lizelle immediately jumped to the opportunity to try her hand at something in George. She always wanted a bakery and I offered my services, with my financial background, to get the shop up and running and I would figure out what I was going to do along the way. 

The first step was to do a crash course in sourdough baking, as this was a massive thing in Europe, where we spent the last 10 years. Lizelle booked a workshop with Neil Jonker in Baardskeerdersbos with her mom as a companion. Unfortunately, or maybe, fortunately, her mom had to cancel in the end and I offered to tag along as I thought it would be a fun outing, exploring and drinking wine. 

During the first day we realised that there was a lot more to baking and quite a bit of math and science involved. I was immediately fascinated with this concept and dove right in. After we got back we ordered ovens and baking equipment and started baking for the George market whilst renovating the cafe. 

It was very apparent to Lizelle that the baking entaled a lot more than initially anticipated and with Lizelle's focus being on the cafe I offered to run the bakery side, just for the moment. One thing led to another and the baking process along with the urge to make every loaf better and better took control of me, up to the point where it became an obsession. The rest is history and it seemed I found my place. 

When was the first time you remember baking something?
With Neil Jonker at our workshop in Baarskeerdersbos. Below are some pictures of that workshop. The first time I ever touched dough!

Tell us a bit about Food Co?
Like explained in the first question, FOOD Co was Lizelle's brain child. It was supposed to be a little cafe with a bakery. But it's grown to be something a lot more to us. It's our life. We tend to it 7 days a week. Sometimes it can be tiresome and you just want to run away from it all and go sit on an island somewhere. But for the most part it's so cool to see how it's infolding into something we never thought possible. We're trying to reach out to our community more and more.

FOOD Co is all about simplicity. We want to keep it simple, honest and healthy. Focussed on good produce, preservative free, additive free. We believe that over time a small business like ours could change the way a community thinks and operates. We try to use only local produce, we try to stay away from plastic packaging, we support the community and aim at educating the community. 

Which kind of bread do you like best? Why?
Someone asked me that question once and I replied; which of your kids do you love the most. At the time I realise that it could've got me in a lot of trouble if I said it to the wrong person. But that's truly how I feel. I will never bake something that I don't like, just out of demand. If it's against what I believe in, healthwise or taste, I wouldn't do it. 

But I supposed the Sourdough Light Rye and Ciabatta are my favourites in the sense of the versitily. It's just something you can eat with anything; Ciabatta braaibroodjies, Light Rye with a meat platter or soup, a simple sandwich or the good 'ol fashioned olive oil and balsamic. 

Where can people buy your bread?

  • FOOD Co, Shop 3, Pick n Pay Centre, Cnr. Knysna and 4th Road, George
  • Wellington square Spar George
  • Kraaibosch Spar George
  • Van Rensburg butchery George
  • Geneva Fontein Cafe George
  • Food Lovers market Knysna

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