I stumble upon John the Bakerman’s tiny bakery shack in Placencia, Belize, while staying at Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn.
A nine-hour plane journey, an overnight stop off in our favourite South Beach, Miami for cocktails at The Delano; two hours onward flight to Belize City, followed by a half hour wobble through the sky in a tiny tin-can plane over jungle and blue seas, landing and taking off twice to drop fellow passengers off on the way… This is the journey that has transported me from my office job in London to the Creole seaside village of Placencia, Belize.
On our first bike ride into Placencia village, I spot a wooden sign at the side of the dusty road, “This way to John The Bakerman“. While my family amble ahead, I steal off the beaten track to see what this fellow John has in store. The wooden board walk leads me to a tiny shack with make-shift wooden hatch windows which I pop my head through to find an antique weighing scale and cast iron oven, yet not a whisper of life apart from the breath of rows and rows of bread gently rising in various stages of preparation.
Footsteps behind me are followed by a local accent, ‘Would you like some bread ma’am?’ I turn around to find a smiley young man who tells me that his father is John the Bakerman, but he isn’t at the bakery until tomorrow.
Intrigued by the traditional equipment, I return the next day to find John and son (I never catch his name) in the depths of their next batch of bread-making. I watch for a while as they explain the various steps and am told to return again at three-ish to taste the bread fresh out of the oven,’just follow the smell!’.
So after a late lunch on the quay side at Brenda’s jerk chicken shack, we wander back and the waft of freshly baked bread greets us as we approach. ‘Ready!’ the baker’s son greets us as we step for the third time into the tiny shack, now brimming with bread loaves and rolls.
The baker’s son grabs us a couple of rolls, burning himself on the hot crust as he goes. We pay our way and plod back along the boardwalk with bags of baguettes. John invites us back to make cinnamon rolls the following morning, but we have some sea turtles to swim with. Shame, but not a bad compromise I’d say!
Best places to eat and drink in Placencia, Belize
Best atmospheric dinner: Rumfish y Vino
Best bakery: John The Bakerman
Best coffee shop: Above Grounds
Best ice cream: Tutti Frutti
Best hotel food: The Turtle Inn
Best jerk chicken: Brenda’s Belizean Chicken
Best seafood: Omar’s Creole Grub