True to the dynamic and fearless nature of the family behind it, Just Teddy Fine Boulangerie & Pâtisserie at Johannesburg’s Hyde Park Corner continues the delivery of its fabulous fare during lockdown levels 4, 3, 2 and lift-off!
BY SUSAN REYNARD PHOTOGRAPHS BY CINDY ELLIS
A Parisienne-themed treasure trove of sweet and savoury delights – which opened a year ago with a shop front to sigh for – Just Teddy Fine Boulangerie & Pâtisserie has swept up patrons on a magic carpet ride of confectionery. Ticking all the boxes – restaurant, cakes, pastries, biscuits, breads, high tea, ice cream and imported tea in 22 variants from TWG – the venue can accommodate just under 50 patrons, with comfy seating, exceptional service and an upmarket, intimate experience to savour.
The Teddy in Just Teddy is patriarch Teddy Zaki, who set up the business with his wife, Natasha, and their grown-up children, Jeffrey “Jeff” Teddy (25) and Jordyne (22). The Zaki family is steeped in hospitality, partly due to their Lebanese and French background and partly due to their passion for food and entertaining. As Teddy jokes, “We’ve always been foodies but in 2016 we went pro.”
You may recognise Teddy as a finalist on the The Great South African Bake Off in 2015. He has been a keen baker since he was a child and his Lebanese background enriches the flavour of everything he touches. Backing up their passion, Jeff has a three-year Food and Beverage Management Diploma from the International Hotel School and is a self-taught baker specialising in a range of different kinds of bread. Jordyne completed one year in Food and Beverage Management and one year in Advanced Pastry at the International Hotel School and spends her day in the kitchen, producing and creating their signature confectionery. She knows what she wants and needs, and her team brings specialist skills to the mix. Natasha is wife, mother, best friend and excellent all-rounder.
While Hyde Park Corner is as smart as it gets in retail real estate (Teddy is in the property industry when he’s not at the restaurant), the Zakis built up their business and following at some of Joburg’s best-loved food markets, including The [email protected], Neighbourgoods Market and Rosebank Sunday Market. This coincided with side offerings like catering, special-occasion cakes, supplying restaurants and chefs with bread and baked goods, and Jeff’s beloved pop-up pizza enterprise, Pionieri Pizzeria. “The food markets were a low-cost feasibility study, where we learned our brand and what our consumers wanted in an area that wasn’t really in our favour. We were offering high-end pâtisserie in the CBD and it didn’t really amalgamate, but it worked because people saw the essence of what we were trying to offer,” Jeff recounts.
The move to Hyde Park was a natural one, close to their core clientele and with space to call their own. Jeff says there is a strong sense of community in this complex in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs. Patrons quickly became regulars and then part of the family. This is a strategic family, spread across the counter, kitchen and shop floor, ensuring they have their finger on the pulse of all aspects of the business.
Decor is as pretty as a jewellery box, consisting of gold offset by a mix of dove-grey velvet and wicker chairs, and marble and terrazzo tables, grouped within gold chrome barriers visually enclosing the space from the passers-by in the mall. Living trees reach for the skylight and provide a canopy of green leaves and lacy branches for diners below. Life-sized wrought iron “trunks” and glass vases housing cascades of silk cherry blossoms further soften the mood.
“In France, pâtisseries look almost like cosmetics stores or fashion boutiques with their design. Pâtisserie is such a classy consumable item – it is fashion, a mode with a silhouette attached to it. Hyde Park Corner is known for this too. We wanted to emulate this by showing that we’re not just a pâtisserie but also a luxury brand,” Jeff explains. Evidence of this is the large range of TWG Tea served in delicate TWG branded crockery – beautiful teapots and brewing timers, larger breakfast cups for the morning and small cups for after lunch.
The offering across Just Teddy is drawn from the family’s extensive overseas travels, when they garnered experiences such as new flavour combinations, fresh twists on confectionery and unusual styling ideas like gold leaf on pancakes. The current menu reflects their favourites from Paris, Morocco, Dubai and India, where they spent time observing the culture and tasting the delicacies of the pâtisseries and boulangeries.
There is also a lot of nostalgia in the displays and dishes, with forgotten flavours taking centre stage again and customers transported by tastes unique to their childhood or cultural background. Regular items include strawberry fraisier, Paris-Brest, Madeleines, slices of opera cake with creamy fillings and fruit glaze toppings, a selection of Lebanese ma’amoul cookies, bee sting cakes, baklava, Persian love cake and Gâteau St. Honoré to name just a few. Traditional confectionery – from cheesecakes, apple tart, lemon meringue and pecan nut pies to croissants, Danish pastries and macarons – have that Just Teddy twist. Two production facilities in the mall and a compact kitchen next to the restaurant mean everything is baked and prepared fresh on site, from oven to display to plate.
The menu was added almost immediately following opening due to popular demand. It has a selection of breakfast and egg dishes, light meals (from fattoush salad to fish and chips, fillet to salmon bagel), pâtisserie and glacé (ice cream), alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and a wide range of imported TWG teas – including the Just Teddy Signature tea, a unique blend of black tea with notes of fruits and flowers from the Bermuda Triangle, which leaves a lingering aftertaste of ripe berries, anise and caramel – and other hot and cold beverages.
Helping produce this cornucopia of items are several confectioners: pastry chefs Melissa Doubell, Monalisa Stephanie Ncube and Linda Kumwenda, and tart specialist Pathenia “Pat” Mustigwa. Head chef is Lebo Molawa, who has been associated with the brand since its early days at The [email protected] He is passionate about cooking and has a keen eye for the finer things in life.
LOCKDOWN BUT NOT OUT
Just Teddy production facilities reopened as soon as the lockdown lifted from level 5 to level 4 on 1 May 2020. The Zaki family were meticulously preparing in the background for their next move from the first week of lockdown. They purchased branded masks and stocked up on personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves and sanitiser. Says Jeff: “We sanitised our facilities, took stock and prepared ourselves and our offering to safely trade under the various restrictions. Adapting to a delivery/collection food operation wasn’t a challenge – we followed the protocols and permits to trade. We pride ourselves on the cleanliness and hygiene of our facilities, and performed a full sanitisation process from a local reputable company to ensure we were offering a safe, hygienic service in light of the current pandemic.”
They embraced the digital age and launched an online store for Just Teddy. They have their own vehicles and drivers, so don’t use third-party delivery service providers. All orders are handled in-house and there is no fee charged for delivery within regions surrounding the store. The majority of their existing pâtisserie and boulangerie (bread) may be purchased online, as well as some of their light meals.
“The ‘High Tea in a Box’ was our way of standing out at a time when normality seemed to have gone on an extended vacation. During the lockdown, memories of places visited, flavours savoured and experiences remembered led us to the idea of putting together a box of treats that would allow our customers to feel normal again and maybe allow them to pretend they were somewhere other than in their own home. The launch came at the right time with Mother’s Day and we were overwhelmed with orders, with families treating moms to a high-tea experience,” Jeff enthuses.
In addition, people unable to buy gifts for special occasions have been purchasing confectionery from Just Teddy and asking if the team could add a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates or just a message for loved ones whom they could not get to visit. The Zakis say this has been a proud addition to their services and so rewarding.
Jeff sees potential in “e-food transactions” and will further strengthen their online platform during lockdown and beyond, especially as the response has been strong, helped maintain brand awareness, and kept staff and family employed “and sane”. “It is a gigantic task to keep hospitality entrepreneurs restrained as you work in an industry that is non-stop. The online platform has allowed us to regain something of a daily routine in our frantic lives,” he shares.
The Zakis love their brand and clientele, and are excited to reopen their restaurant as soon as government regulations deem it safe to do so. Before the lockdown, a new high-tea area had been constructed and installed at the restaurant in Hyde Park Corner. There are plans for further expansion. “I know that life will be slightly different after lockdown. We have adapted our brand given the circumstances, but we will not change who we are, what we stand for, our offering and how we will engage in a highly competitive market segment,” Jeff maintains.
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SHOP LM4, HYDE PARK CORNER, CORNER WILLIAM NICOL DRIVE AND JAN SMUTS AVENUE, HYDE PARK 2196; 010-203-9038; JUSTTEDDY.CO.ZA