My Linden Food Heroes #1, Lauren van Tonder of Oregano…

The Oregano Team with Lauren van Tonder [left], masks on sadly, a sign of the times…

This is the finest of Bakers and Coffee makers in Linden. The sort of place you might find in a small French Village. Run by a seriously talented mother daughter team Sharon and Lauren van Tonder. The staff are lovely. There are tables on the verandah and a couple inside.

I asked Lauren for some background.

Oregano Blackboard, all day breakfast

My family has always baked. Since I was very little there was always cookies or fresh bread in the house. We would stay at my grandparent’s farm and everything had to be made from scratch, sometimes in a coal stove. I can still smell their house.

A lightly toasted Brioche with bacon and a fried egg, my best lunchtime dish

Having such a rich food history my mom was an exceptional cook and baker. When Lifestyle Nursery in Randpark Ridge, Johannesburg, needed a Coffee Shop owner, my parents took over and my sister and I grew up in those kitchens. My parents renovated and built the Silver Birch Restaurant but sadly my father passed away before it was finished. Our entire world was in that space and after a few years running this incredibly busy restaurant my mom said she had had enough.

Classical Opera Cake

She had a small coffee shop in Illovo where the café started well but struggled to gain enough momentum. My industrious mom started catering out of those kitchens to all the neighbouring businesses and the catering was doing better than the café.

Fast forward a couple years later, the catering has moved into private premises and is booming. My sister and I are both working for the company and we are properly busy. I have always wanted to have a patisserie, so I decided to pursue my dream. I started at markets and sold my wares from trestle tables. I grew a following and started a Facebook page so people could find us. We got so busy, so we decided a shop in Linden would be the next step.

Featherlight Macarons

We could speak to customers about both sides of the company in one space. We’ve grown from strength to strength and Covid has been hard. We have had to stop the catering, but we are happy as we are focusing on our local clientele.

There have been a lot of tears and it’s been a lot of hard work, but we are incredibly proud of where we are and what we make. My mom always taught me if pour myself into what I do, I will always create my best.

Funny anecdote: something my cheeky mom does….Whenever someone makes something really amazing in the kitchen, like a perfectly risen cake or an exceptional cookie. My mom will say “that’s because, I made it.” Staff will get upset for like a millisecond and we’ll all laugh about it.

Lemon Bundt Cakes

Where did you train as a chef?
HTA Culinary School Randburg but most of my knowledge is from my mom’s kitchen

What do you like to eat most?
Asian food, anything Asian- I could kill for a dumpling or a Thai curry, even a proper Pho will make me giddy

Sherried Kidneys

What’s your least Favourite Food?
Offal, tripe and kidneys are my worst

Do you have a childhood, Mom or Gran food memory?
Soetkoekies at Christmas, we would get a big tub of them every December and me and my sister would fight for the iced pink ones

Sourdough Boules

What is your morning routine?
Switch on the oven, get my pans hot and start with sourdough. They’re the first ones baked because they’ve been rising overnight. Then on to getting all my dough’s prepped, rising, scaling, proofing, baking. I start and end everyday with dough

From where do you draw your inspiration?
I really just love food, and I love eating food. I will see great little spots on Instagram and then go visit them on my days off. Whenever I travel, I make a point of visiting little local bakeries and food stores, fresh food markets. The padstalle and tuisnywerheid’s in the middle of nowhere are my favourite. They always have the best rusks. Then I’ll get hooked on something particular and then I have to make it myself and get it right. Like a food memory I have to recreate

Crullers

What’s your Favourite Bake you are cooking now?
Crullers, I tasted them in Los Angeles (even though they are a New Yorker thing) and I got hooked! I had to try and make them the same as I had tasted there, bit of food nostalgia

Favourite Cooking Tools?
My offset spatula is my favourite tool, I really can’t do a day without it

What is your ideal neighbourhood eatery?
Old School Jewish deli with cold meats, great sandwiches, soups and excellent bread

Emmentaler Cheese

Always in your fridge at home [name 5 items]? Whole grain Mustard
Good Cheese, like Emmenthaler or Asiago, Marmalade, Good bottle of white wine/Craft beer, Gherkins

Name 6 food items you would take to a Desert Island.
Dark Chocolate, Great Cheese, Watermelon, Red Licorice, Chocolate chip cookies, Thundergun’s ribs 🙂

A Perfect Circle

What is your Desert-Island Disc?
3 Libras by A Perfect Circle.

Your most Underrated Wine?
Alvis Drift Viognier

Your craziest Wine or Food or Equipment Purchase?
Double walled glass espresso cups, I feel so fancy when I use them

Brisket on Rye, better than a Jewish Deli in New York

When are you open for teas, coffees and bakes?
Tuesday to Friday 08h00 until 16h00. We close early on a Saturday at 14h00.

Your key Wardrobe Item?
Great fitting black t-shirt ( I have way too many of them)

Talent you would like to have?
To be great at an instrument, Cello would be my first choice

Bees in your Bonnet?
I like getting things right, I have a small obsession about doing things properly so I will make a recipe over and over until I’m happy. Drives my poor mother crazy

Dave Grohl, American musician

Who is your Music Man?
Dave Grohl

Fresh from the Oven, 2 Quiches by Lauren

Bedside Book.
Neil Giaman: American Gods ( I have a Neil Giaman obsession at the moment)

Fictional Character with whom you identify?
Richard Mayhew from Neverwhere : Neil Giaman. He feels lost in his own life until he finds people that can see him
(literally) and finds something he cares about. He discovers himself when he finds purpose

Anthony Bourdain, sadly no longer with us

One guest for dinner – who would that be?
Anthony Bourdain – his honesty and humour about food and people and places was my favourite thing about him

Routine at the end of the day?
Fold and shape my sourdoughs at the end of the day, it’s incredibly meditative. After that I’ll sit (for the first time that day 🙂 ) with a cup of coffee and answer emails, or media comments and plan social media content for the next day.

I’m currently working on….
Chilling out, I kid you not, I am an incredibly highly strung person and my resolution this year was to take a step back and breathe

My favourite weekend getaway is….
Its a bit far for a weekend but every chance I get to go away, I will go to the coast. I always feel at home by the sea.

Oregano’s Milk Tarts

Guilty Pleasures?
Chocolate, the darker the better

One day, I will…. Go to Vietnam

Sharon van Tonder with daughters Candy Ford, left and Lauren

Lauren van Tonder
Chef and Owner of Oregano
Bakery and coffee shop

Contact details 083 259 3799

Street address
71 7th Street, Linden Johannesburg

Telephone for reservations 083 260 6582

Email info@oreganobakery.com

Website www.oreganobakery.com

GPS: -26.13722984871505, 27.994639101851444

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