I Owe A Lot To My Team Of 25 Bakers, Without Whom We’d Be Nowhere: Gletta Mascarenhas

Unwittingly, Gletta Mascarhenas, a young, IHM graduate, had to be at the helm of a family bakery and 26 years later, she has successfully converted it into a brand, second to none

Published On Mar 22, 2024 | Updated On Mar 22, 2024


The smiling face behind the counter daily is familiar to most locals, and tourists too take to her welcoming demeanour immediately. Gletta Mascarenhas, owner of Confeitaria 31 de Janeiro, a popular bakery and cafe in Fontainhas, Panaji Goa, is always eager to help; the bright smile never leaving her face. 

At 19, newly married, Gletta (she’s now 44) armed with a degree in hotel management from IHM Goa, found herself managing her family bakery business, which was thrust upon her, because there was no one else to take it forward. “After my father-in-law’s death, my sister-in-law, Leena, who used to manage it got married, and my husband, a footballer, wasn’t particularly interested in running it,” she admits candidly.  


Originally a small bread bakery, Saboi, started in 1930 on January 31st, and hence the name, her father-in-law, Andre Mascarhenas, a man in his 20’s, with vision and talent, bought it over from the original owner and transformed it into a full-fledged bakery, introducing cakes, pastries and other bakery items. 

Gletta didn’t want to close the business and let his efforts and perseverance go waste. “So, I decided to take up the challenge." Fascinated by cakes and bakery products from childhood, she would pick up a small cake daily on her way to school, from a tiny bakery in Siolim, which she later discovered, belonged to her father-in-law. 

Studying at IHM was a natural progression, given her love for cooking and baking. “Having done my Internship at Taj Fort Aguada, I had a lot of offers to go abroad, but I declined. Fate, obviously had something else instore for me,” she declares. 

Hard work and grit, was what she was ready to invest, and today, 26 years later, nestled in a quiet lane in Fontainhas, this place is a local favourite, as well as, one that is on every tourists’ bucket-list. On her feet all-day, she shuttles between the counter and the bakery inside, ensuring every customer is attended to and orders are smoothly executed. 

The desire to keep the family tradition alive, was so strong, that Gletta overlooked the fact that she was entering a male bastion and it wouldn’t be easy to “man the counter”. She recalls, “It was all new for me, as I had never done this before. It was so tiring and boring to sit at the counter all day, but I was patient, willing to learn and thus, managed. My father’s teachings came handy. He always told me to think good of other people, be kind and slow to anger. Keeping these lessons in mind, when I was dealing with people, I forged ahead.” 

She admits having made several mistakes, but learnt from those. “I had no clue about the quantities to be ordered. I handled wastage, lack of storage space, shortage of ingredients, as in those days many ingredients like tutti frutti, were not available in Goa, but had to be procured from Mumbai. But in the end, I figured it all out.”  


Family recipes hand-written neatly by her father-in-law and zealously guarded, are still meticulously followed and Gletta, personally supervises everything, spending 12 hours daily at the bakery. “I owe a lot to my team of 25 bakers, without whom we’d be nowhere,” she confesses with gratitude. 

Their offerings too are unique, with many firsts to their credit, including Sliced bread and Swiss rolls. “Our Swiss Rolls, introduced by my father-in-law, are unique and still hugely popular, as these are coated with a cross between a butter-cream frosting and a chocolate ganache, leading to the layers below, that consist of a sponge cake,” she reveals. What keeps them relevant even today, according to her, is that “we have kept that legacy going and still bake our breads in the forno or wood-fired oven, the old-fashioned way. Procuring coal and the time taken for the oven to heat up, maybe challenges we face daily, but I just can’t opt for an electric oven. The flavour would never be the same.” 

An avid baker, wanting to stay in touch with her skills, once in a while, she develops recipes, trying something new and after repeated trials, introduces an item on the already exhaustive menu of over 60-70 items.  
From prawns rissois to patties and a repertoire of baked goodies, including date and walnut cakes, marble cake, Doce, Bebinca and a plethora of biscuits, this place offers choicest Goan items of unmatched quality.
Not one to rest on her laurels, she upgrades her knowledge in baking with short-term courses both in India and abroad. “Wedding cakes are big, so I have forayed into those too, after learning,” she informs 

Gletta prefers to adhere to traditions and old-style techniques, but does not shy away from admitting that a contemporary touch is needed to keep up with the times. 

The circle is complete and today, her 25-year-old son, Warren, has stepped into the business. With a Hospitality degree in tow and work experience in London, he has introduced contemporary items, as per the need of the hour. “It is the perfect combination of contemporary skills and tradition, that is enabling us to come up with new and exciting offerings,” announces a proud mother. The Holy week is drawing near and Gletta gets exceptionally busy making thousands of Hot cross buns along with her team for Good Friday, following an age-old traditional recipe. “Our Hot cross buns, are immensely popular and we also receive bulk orders from Churches and thus end up baking almost 4000 pieces.” 

From a business that she inherited, Gletta has transformed it into a popular and successful brand, solely with her passion and hard-work. Her day begins early and is a long one, but Gletta will have it no other way. “The bakery is my first home anyway and I love what I do,” she says, flashing her disarming smile. 

Photo: Gletta Mascarenhas