The Western Cape truly has so much to offer to citizens and tourists alike. There are many beautiful spots, places, and destinations to explore. My wife and I had the recent privilege of visiting a new restaurant on a boutique wine farm. It was here that I met up with the daughter/father duo behind Bacco. I thought that the entrepreneurial story behind Carla Jankelowitz, the daughter and chef behind Bacco, bears telling.
In chatting to Carla, she reflected that she has had different versions of herself and somehow, she had stumbled onto this current version which entails her running her own business. But that wasn’t always the case.
She is a pastry chef by trade. She studied twice, at two very prestigious culinary schools, only to find out that although education gives you a fantastic grounding, it’s certainly not the H2O that helps you grow.
She spent the next 10 years of her career in London, working relentlessly to learn and gain as much as she could. She knew if she wanted the dream she is living now she would have to put in the hard work to get here. As the quip goes, it is only in the dictionary that success comes before work!
She became a chef because she loved it. Pure and simple. She could spend hours watching the cooking channel. This was when television personalities like Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver were becoming famous.
She wanted nothing more than to show people how to create delicious food. As she got older, she realised she wasn’t cut out to be in front of a camera and that it would be best to stay behind the pass (the area in front of the cooking line where orders are placed for servers to pick up). Although she still steps out of the kitchen to schmooze with all their amazing customers and tell them all her “secrets.”
Her father, Nathan, bought the property their estate now sits on in 2007 when the land was completely bare. He knew he wanted to create his dream of planting vines and making wine. She wanted to create food, and pastry specifically at that time. Slowly their Bacco dream began growing and growing. Her father planted vines in 2016 and they had their first harvest in 2019.
They were so surprised at the quality such young vines had produced they knew they could no longer wait to grow Bacco.
And then 2020 and the Covid lockdown happened. She reflects that it was the most soul-awakening time of recognising there is only now to live your dreams.
With that their tasting room was built. They opened their doors on December 1, 2022 to the public in Paarl. They love to think of their time at Baccoōas a slow rhythm, gently flowing like the seasons. Just as the life cycle of the vine cannot be rushed, creating any rare work of art requires patience.
They believe that true well- being lies in synergy with nature, nurturing their environment and savouring its gifts. Their wines and food are made with this mindful, unhurried approach, to be generous and engage all the senses.
When I asked what makes them unique, she answered she believes it is the combination of her dad and her. She has such an incredible bond with him and working together has been everything to her. But it has also been incorporated in everything at Bacco. Bacco is a fusion of classic and modern, from their architecture to the dishes she creates. They take the beauty of tradition and reimagine it.
She thinks customers love the fact that they are a family just doing their very best to make their dreams a success. This is a story of incredibly hard graft and determination with tremendous outcomes, and she thinks this will resonate with people a lot.
The biggest lesson one can ever know is how to create the team necessary to bring all of this to life. Managing people is extremely difficult but leading them is a whole different story. She owes a lot to her colleagues and a big reason for their success is due to them and their hard work. Recognising people’s efforts is truly important to her along this journey.
She reminds herself daily of their value. “Once you have a team that supports your vision, all other lessons are just steps of growth in the right direction.”
When asked what she would say to a younger Carla, she replied, ”Don’t become a chef unless it’s your heart’s absolute passion. The work is hard, the hours are tiring, and the pressure is intense. But man, it’s adrenaline and creativity and brilliance all wrapped into one and can be the most exciting thing in the world.
“Dream big, don’t let anyone tell you no and if they do, block it out. This life is all about proving absolutely nothing to no one, and everything to yourself. Go get ‘em tiger!”