Artisanal baker Clarence Msowoya has risen to the occasion during lockdown, despite the hardship it has brought to many small businesses.
Clarence, 42, lives in Masiphumelele with his wife, Nomphelo Lina, 40, and son, CJ, who is 10.
His bread and pastries are lauded by customers across the far south.
He says his customer base has grown because Covid-19 changed the way he had to do business, forcing him online and away from the markets where he usually made his dough.
“Not only did the markets close but so did the shops, so I started delivering to people’s homes.”
And in a world where gluten and carbs have become the enemy, Clarence is still making a
success of his small bread business. How? He laughs, and says he specialises in sourdough recipes, which are popular among those who have problems digesting wheat-based breads.
He has also developed his own “low gluten” bread and keeps normal bread ticking over because, he says, sometimes it’s simply too expensive for people to stick to these options and some people still love the bread they grew up
Clarence has been baking since 2001 when he was taught the basics in his first job at the Noordhoek Farm Village by Kim Baxter.
He says she gave him the chance to learn, and he has never looked back.
He spent a year perfecting five recipes. And then he met a baker who had worked at the Olympia Cafe, and this was when he learned the joy of making recipes from scratch. And adapting them to create his own brand, took a little longer.
“So for your product to be unique, it must be the best quality, but it must also have something just a little different from the others, something it is known for,” he says.
What that is would be telling, and no baker worth their salt would divulge their recipe, but the breads and pastries are being snapped up again as markets re-open and shops restock.
On Facebook, Barbara van Rijsewijk posted a photograph of one of Clarence’s almond croissants, which she heaped high praise on, and Rossyln Rich called Clarence her family’s favourite baker, whom she could not recommend highly enough.
Di Conradie raved about his produce after discovering him at the Earth Fair Market in Tokai.
He can also be found at the Blue Bird Garage Market in Muizenberg and in the Food Truck Drive Through Market, on the Deep South Reptile Rescue land in Noordhoek.
“I am also at the Peach Pit farmstall,” he says. This is his local spot, closest to home.
Once you discover baking it becomes a lifestyle, says Clarence.
“This baking takes away your nightlife, your weekend fun, it takes away many things. If you go to a party, you must watch the clock, because you are up at 3am to work. But it also is such a joy,” he says. “The best way to describe it is that it becomes a good lifestyle.”
Before he branched out on his own, he baked for a charity organisation that had programmes to feed the needy. At the time, he had no work and he did this because it felt good knowing others would eat because he had volunteered. Now, he says, he donates his own bread at day’s end if it isn’t sold.
“I see people and I know many people don’t have a job or have a hard time, and if I have leftover bread, I give it to them. It’s Masi, you know.”
Clarence has a dream of opening his own coffee shop where customers can sit down, or just pick up their favourite goodies from a central point – a dream it might be right now, but with his drive and creativity it’s unlikely to be long before he takes that slice of