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The original Vovo Telo!

Vovo Telo is now a successful nation-wide slow food franchise. But it was once just a wave of inspiration in a young surfer's mind. We visited the source in Richmond Hill, Port Elizabeth.

Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape

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The bread effect

The smell of fresh bread can make your stomach growl, urge a smile and even persuade you to be kinder to strangers. No wonder it’s considered the world’s favourite smell. It’s no surprise then that Matt Repton had a moment of inspiration when he saw a truck full of fresh bread in Madagascar back in July 2006.  

After completing a Master of Science in elephants, this surfing holiday opened Matt’s eyes to a “beautiful fusion of French and African culture”. Matt returned to Port Elizabeth and started baking bread as a hobby.  He wanted to perfect the art of “honest bread from yesteryear”.  People would walk past his house, catch a whiff of the baked bread emanating from his window, and ask for some (in the friendly PE manner). That’s when he realised his hobby could become much more.

The art of baking

He decided that the only way to bake proper artisan bread was to immerse himself in the breadmaking process until his breads were perfect. He hit a snag with his ciabatta, but when Il de Pain in Knysna brought over a master baker from the United Kingdom, Matt took the opportunity to undertake a course in artisan baking.  “It was about connecting the dots” says Matt.  

While he is not a chef, Matt believes in mastering the basics.  His bread baking led him to open Vovo Telo in Richmond Hill.  Soon bread led to sandwiches and sandwiches led to coffees, then pastries and then pizza.

Being honest about bread

Honest baking to Matt, means good organic produce and as little harm to the environment as possible - his pizza oven wood is of an alien invasive species, and even the wood furniture in the restaurants are reclaimed.  Matt’s philosophy led him to source his food locally, using produce from Leo’s organic farm just outside Port Elizabeth, Eureka Mills stone ground flour and other fresh local ingredients.  

His vision soon caught the attention of Famous Brands in 2010, and today Vovo Telo has become a sought-after franchise with over ten franchises opening throughout South Africa.  Matt still enjoys perfecting his art and has opened a new restaurant, Charlies Superstar Pizza in the same area of PE as the original Vovo Telo.


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