Growing up in Hawai'i was an amazing experience that I didn't even know I was having! The multi-culture saturation is unique and unparalleled. I, myself, am of Native Hawaiian, Portuguese, Filipino and Caucasian descent and was raised with not only those cultures but also Japanese, Chinese, Korean and varying Polynesian ones. And from all of these cultures comes the binding factor between us...food! There wasn't a party that you would attend (birthday, luau, anniversary, work potluck, softball end of the year potluck, etc.) that you wouldn't find an array of tantalizing yummies sure to get your tastebuds to do a happy hula! The savory dishes were always amazing but the desserts were unbelievable. In Hawai'i we take things to a whole new sensory level--not only does it taste amazing but the textures are just as important and there is a visual presentation that is unique. Many of those desserts come from historic bakeries; like Leonard's malasadas which I bee-line for from the airport; Liliha Bakery and the hallowed Cocoa Puff and Chantilly Cake (which Hawaiian Chantilly is nothing like french chantilly); Pa'ala'akai Bakery and the illustrious Snow Puffy and lets not forget Napoleon's Bakery Napples and the late but great Dee-Lite Guava Chiffon Cake. Even bowling alley's have notoriety back home as Aiea Bowl makes a Lemon Crunch Cake to die for! I am not to savvy on how things work on the internet so I suppose I am taking a risk by mentioning these bakeries but they are central to my story.
I was born in Honolulu and raised in the beautiful and small town of Kane'ohe and in Kane'ohe is my all time favorite bakery--- Deluxe Pastry Shop! And in this pastry shop are the greatest custard pies and danishes sold on earth. There really is no comparison. It's been there forever and was a hop, skip and jump from my house. But it was also the kind of mom and pops establishment that when they sold out ---they sold out---and there was something kind of magical about that. It was very old, with a double screen door that opened up into a very humble bakery...but my gosh I have yet to taste it's custard equal. I am now 46 years old and moved here to Arizona 19 years ago and I still feel this way!
In 2012, I was hired by some Kane'ohe besties who owned a successful trio of Hawaiian restaurants in Utah. I was contracted to help get them ready for expansion. In our meetings we would obviously talk about things of a pertinent business matter---all the desserts we miss from back home that we couldn't get in the mainland! I suggested opening a bakery and we discussed a central kitchen concept but truly, they needed to focus on their primary business plan which proved to be successful as they partnered with the company Four Foods and are now expanding on the west coast. But I could not get this bakery concept out of my mind! I had it all mapped out in my head--the name, the simple plantation type of concept with screen doors similar to my beloved Deluxe Pastry Shop. I could see the red palaka and had visions of people carrying around red palaka shopping bags and everyone knowing they bought some choice desserts at Hawaiian Style Bakery!
Every time I met up with the Macks I would bring it up and then I would shelf the idea. No time was ever a good time--- I got a divorce---or I had kids that needed my attention after the divorce---or I had a son on a mission---or there was no capital--OR OR OR...you get the idea! This happened over a course of 7 years! And finally, my friend Kalani said at dinner one night "Michelle if you don't do it, someone else will!" and his brother Kimo said "Michelle, you don't need us---you can do this all on your own!" And thus began a process of looking for investors---which is hard to do when you are just pitching an idea---in the worst possible industry to start a business...restaurant! I mean I knew I could do it because of my professional background and baking chops and well...I just knew I could do it; but you can not just walk in to an investor meeting stating "hey invest in this because I know what I'm doing" And so, I tabled it again.
Then some investors interested in me running a business for them wanted some proposals so I drummed some up and went to a trusted mentor of mine with my three ideas: a storage facility, a wedding venue and this bakery idea. He asked me "which are you most passionate about?" of which I then recounted the extreme profit margins from the storage facility and the wedding venue---and then he asked again "no which one are you passionate about?" of which I replied "the bakery---it's what I know!" He then advised to try this on my own without investors. I took his advice and took a leap of faith and started this bakery honoring the great bakeries of Hawai'i, my mother and adding a few of my own creations.
Basically, it just came down to a local Hawaiian girl who wanted some Hawaiian Chantilly in Arizona.
So much more to share in blogs to come and I am excited to share it with you; from my great mother Ellie to why I chose the red palaka in the logo to my crazy blended family life!
Until next time, a hui hou---malama pono!