Local pastry chef shares his love of baking

What do apple and raisin pies, chocolate croissants and oryx and rosemary focaccia have in common?

These are just a few of the delicious baked goods made by Westdene resident Marc Vogels.

Originally from Belgium, Vogels grew up watching food being prepared at his parents’ restaurant. So making food part of his makeup.

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“At the age of 14 I started as an apprentice in a Hotel Restaurant with some friends of my family, so I learned all the tricks of the trade without school. Then I moved to various restaurants and when I was 17 I worked for eight months in a bakery.”

At 21 he worked in a restaurant that specialized in fish and then at 29 he opened his own French style fish restaurant located in the center of Antwerp.

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“In November 1986, due to city policy, the area where we had our fish restaurant became extremely degraded and in 1994, most of the businesses had to close due to lack of customers. So I switched from the fish restaurant to a South African restaurant.” This, he said, was the best choice he ever made.

In the early 2000s, a chef from Pretoria spent six weeks abroad at his restaurant teaching him all about our local cuisine. In 2005, he and his wife welcomed their first child and stopped work at the restaurant, renting it out to people who later turned it into a pizzeria.

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Months later he moved to Port Alfred and opened a bakery within a township together with Port Alfred Social Development, the Rotary Club and Stenden University.

“This bakery motivated me to specialize more in baking and in June 2012 we moved from the Eastern Cape to Melville, to help with baking and breakfast at Agterplaas in Melville.”

Due to covid-19, Agterplaas had fewer customers, “so I started baking products for friends and neighbors. Today I only chef to order and bake for friends and neighbors and also for our booth at the Melville Food and Farmers Market.”

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Vogels said he was very happy to be able to bring all these delights to South Africa and sell them at a normal price, so everyone can enjoy these great products.

“I am very happy here in South Africa and I don’t even think about going back to Belgium. Here most people are still very happy with what they have, in my opinion this is a long lost value in Belgium.”

The Westdene resident can be found at home with his family. Living happily on the street, he sees a beautiful green and quiet area that is situated near the Westdene Dam. “We have a really strong relationship with most of our neighbors, they all look out for each other,” Vogels said.

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