Think of bread in the Filipino setting and you’ll probably picture the golden pan de sal, steaming as it comes out of the oven, ready to greet a slab of butter waiting on the table. You might even picture it as a loaf of white bread, sliced in even squares, best for a quick first meal of the day. But, three bakers are out to change the way you see everyday bread, with chefs Sau del Rosario and Edward David Mateo and photographer-turned-baker Aldwin Aspillera taking the early morning staple beyond the breakfast table. 

Truly homemade

Racks of just baked bread cooling at Food Garage

When it comes to bread suppliers, del Rosario’s Food Garage comes to mind as a prominent player. Having built the brand around the trust of institutions like four-star hotels, airlines, restaurants, and catering companies, it’s surprising to learn that he started the business in his own garage in Bel-Air, Makati City.

Fresh from his years cooking overseas, del Rosario returned home with seven years’ worth of experience and a lot of free time on his hands. “I was in between jobs when I returned home, so I started baking breads for neighbors and staff members in my garage to keep me busy,” he says. “When chef Emerson ‘Bong’ Barrido, a long-time friend who had just returned from London at that time, visited me, he told me, ‘Why not make a business of breads? We started with a small oven in the garage, one baker, and a small selection.”

Chef Sau del Rosario inspecting the quality of his goods

Today, Food Garage offers a wide range of breads, from sourdough to pan de sal. The option of par-baked bread is also available for clients who prefer baking them fresh themselves. “We just don’t do retailing because we prefer to customize our breads according to the clients’ specifications,” he explains. “We can accommodate whatever the client wants as long as we keep the integrity of the bread. This business isn’t about money, it’s about producing quality products for the consumer as well as the client.”

Fancy flavors

Edward Mateo

From one celebrity chef to another, Mateos Royale Patisserie is a baking studio-meets-commissary situated along bustling E. Rodriguez Sr. Ave. in Quezon City. Having carved a name for himself in the food industry with his desserts and signature cakes (one local television network even went so far as to call him “The Dessert Prince”), his range of breads put him on the radar as a someone people should look out for.

On most days, his commissary is busy producing cakes and pastries for clients like Laiya Gourmet, Chefwix Catering Service, and a number of commercial cafès. Bread production, on the other hand, begins when an order comes in. “When our clients need any kind of bread, they come to us and we make it for them. We also add our own twist because I like offering something new to the table and being innovative.”

“Bread is also starting to gain traction as something more than just breakfast fare. People are also beginning to embrace it as an integral part of the meal,” says Aldwin Aspillera

Interesting flavors take center stage in Mateo’s bread recipes, which he considers to be his patisserie’s edge. His latest selection of loaves represent this by highlighting flavors that one wouldn’t normally see in the market like green tea, oatmeal, and rose flower. This flavor philosophy stems from his understanding of the modern Filipino bread consumer and acts as his direct response to the ever-changing market. “Consumers are always on the lookout for something new and interesting,” he says. “We aren’t that fond of artisanal bread and we still prefer the softer and sweeter kinds.” His ube ensaymada is currently making the rounds as among the city’s best.

Bounteous bread

Aldwin Aspillera

Aldwin Aspillera shares the same sentiments on how the Filipino consumer is someone who’s always interested in trying fads. “I noticed that when there’s a trend, consumers become adventurous. They’re more than willing to try something new,” he says. “Bread is also starting to gain traction as something more than just breakfast fare. People are also beginning to embrace it as an integral part of the meal.”

Aspillera’s bread commissary Crust and Crumb began producing a selection of artisanal breads for institutions sometime in early 2015, a jump from the original plan to produce sweet pastries and panaderia-style bread for retail. “We’re definitely still small, a far cry from chef Sau’s Food Garage. In fact, we’re still literally a garage,” he says with a laugh. “But we’re quite happy where we are now. Maybe if we’re still around in five years, we’ll think about pursuing retail again.”

Brioche buns from Crust and Crumb

 They now produce high-quality artisanal breads for clients like Yabu, Magnum Opus, and Tipple and Slaw. Though clients come to Aspillera with their specifications, he explains that the process is a collaboration between him and the restaurant chefs. “As a photographer, I’m really involved in the creative process. It’s like that with baking, too. I like seeing the creative process of another creative person, especially since it’s in a different industry,” he says. “From there, the breads just evolve according to the market and the customers.”

For now, Aspillera is looking forward to seeing where his commissary and the bread industry will go, as are del Rosario and Mateo. Still, Filipinos have proven to be promising consumers who are finding a place for bread in their everyday lives regardless of the time of day, an insight the three bakers can all agree upon.

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