He just wanted to bake

De Oude Bank Bakkerij in Stellenbosch shares the bread of life

Life is very simple if you want it to be. Bread should be broken and shared. That’s what this bakery is all about. Fritz Schoon shares his bread with the public for an affordable price. If you have time, sit down and enjoy the bread with your loved ones, and maybe take one home and share it with someone else. If you do so, it would be completely in the vision of the De Oude Bank Bakkerij in Stellenbosch. "I wanted to re-create an authentic rustic village bakery." says bakery owner Fritz and I think he was pretty damn successful in doing so.

My friend warned me "You will fall in love with De Oude Bank Bakkerij" – and she was right. Situated in an old bank, Fritz Schoon’s artisan bakery took the Dutch words 'De Oude Bank' and added 'Bakkerij' (bakery). What a magical venue, almost hidden in Stellenbosch’s Church Street. Opened in August 2010, Fritz and his team know what they’re doing. "All I wanted to do is bake bread" says friendly Fritz (born 1984). The bakery started off with a wood-fired oven Fritz built himself, in which all bread is baked. The second step was a coffee machine in case someone had to wait for their bread. The third step lead to De Oude Bank Bakkerij being something more like a restaurant – room extensions, tables, chairs and a menu, where you can sample the bread with meats, cheeses, jams and so on.

To be honest, the bakery doesn’t have a 'new' feel. The interior designer Jenny Schoon (Fritz’ mother) had a good think about this one. Books, old world décor, wood – very French. Also, French-sounding music is softly playing in the background. My experience starts off with a cappuccino in an adorable cup with a wooden handle. And I promise you, you will think or say out loud 'wow' a couple of times when you’re here. A woman customer once described her time at De Oude Bank Bakkerij to Fritz as 'something spiritual'. This place is all about bread and authentic food. The loaves are nicely displayed behind the counter, and over the counter hanging, you see Lucas Jamon ham. The light is soft, things are almost romantic here.

"I go through the necessary steps. Time, methods, quality, authenticity.. the taste is unbeatable." explains Fritz.

Read Fritz’s message to his customers on the back of the hand-written menu. He is a wise man, almost shy and quiet, but deep in his thoughts and taking his baking business seriously. "An over-mixed or mishandled dough cannot hide itself. I can attempt to shape this dough to look just like yesterday’s. But a lack of focus, accuracy, diligence or concentration through any of the many steps artisan bread requires, will assuredly reveal itself, once taken out of the furnace. The bake is the test of the work that has been done and it is incapable of lying. So, I guide each loaf, by hand, through the lengthy process that it requires. I do so with love and patience in my heart to produce something I am proud of and believe in!" Everything you eat at De Oude Bank Bakkerij is sourced locally. "To keep everything sustainable" says Fritz.

Let’s talk bread. You have the choice of baguette, rustique (ciabatta), sourdough or dark rye. A huge loaf of sourdough costs you R30. I taste them all – that’s what you can do when you sit down at De Oude Bank Bakkerij. You can chose breads from the portion menu (very affordable) and add farm butter, pestos, marmalade, cheeses or meats. I also share smoked bacon and scrambled eggs (super yellow, they must come from healthy chickens) on sourdough toast with slow roasted tomatoes for R40. After your coffee (you have to have one), have a glass of wine sourced from small Stellenbosch wineries or a beer from Birkenhead in Stanford. "Sit down, talk, share the food. Here you are forced to share in the way we serve the food. When you share a meal it tastes better." and I can’t agree more with Fritz’s words. You will encounter the words 'Pain de Vie' meaning 'bread of life' a couple of times in this beautiful Stellenbosch bakery. Bread of life needs to be shared.

Family guy Fritz Schoon grew up in Kempton Park in Johannesburg and studied quantity surveying. His first venture was little shops on constructions site to provide the workers with cooldrink and bread. And what was used most? Bread. This made Fritz think, he employed a baker and started reading about bread. "It was a beautiful thing to me. And I didn’t want to chase the money in Joburg." So Ile de Pain in Knysna was the place where he started working as a cleaner, and soon began baking. Ready to do his own thing, he invited the security guard Ladis Brampino he secretly taught how to bake in Knysna, to come along to Stellenbosch to open De Oude Bank Bakkerij. The team of twelve is working hard. Fritz starts at 3am in the morning with baker and best friend Ladis joining him at 6am.

Being a big fanatic of live music, every Wednesday and Saturday night Fritz hosts a pizza and live music night at the bakery. The wood-fired oven (fired in same compartment as where they bake) gets fueled the whole day, so the pizza-step came naturally.

It amazes me what young people can achieve when they are truly living their passion. Things come together for those who dream.

by Antonia Heil

De Oude Bank Bakkerij
Oude Bank Building | 7 Church Street | Stellenbosch | +27 (0)21 883 2187

Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 8am - 3pm, Saturday 9am - 3pm, Sunday 9am – 1pm; dinner and live music: Wednesday and Saturday 6pm - 10pm; closed on Mondays

Read here about the rest of our Stellenbosch roadtrip.

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