It all started with pandesal. “We just missed the pandesal we grew up enjoying in the Philippines, and thought we could bake it and share it with our kababayans here in Christchurch,” shares Panadero Filipino Bakery’s owner who asked not to be named.
Panadero was opened in 2017, starting really small and expecting nothing. The first few weeks were admittedly a struggle, but they eventually gained a regular set of customers who could not resist their freshly baked products. There is the pandesal, of course, and other Filipino breads including Spanish bread, pan de coco, ube cheese pandesal, and ube crumble. “We also created our donuts line, which is the main draw for the locals. But our donuts are unique in such a way that our flavors would be ube, mango, Choc Nut, and even langka (jackfruit). We also sell ube and mango-flavored cakes that are big hits even to locals.”
Yes, a lot of New Zealanders have become fond of Filipino bread. “More than half of our clients are Filipinos, but we are growing popular with the locals too. We would also see a mix of people coming in (Chinese, Koreans, Malaysians, Indonesians, Indians, Sri Lankans, and Latin Americans).” Their location proved strategic. Panadero is located in the Church Corner district, a neighborhood unofficially known as the Chinatown of Christchurch. Although three kilometers away from the Central Business District, it is normally where Asians go shopping for food.
There is only one other Filipino bakery in Christchurch, which opened years before Panadero was established. But instead of seeing them as competition, Panadero even promotes them to their customers. “The way we see it, Filipino food and products can be as prominent or popular as other cuisines. And as Filipino immigrants to other countries, it is our collective responsibility to be ambassadors of our food and products to elevate it and be at par with others.”
The real ambassadors of Panadero are its bakers. [This is also the reason the owner wishes to be unnamed and instead focus on the bakers.] “The most important people behind the bakery are our bakers.” Dandrib Valencia is the head baker, who single-handedly created and made the first menu. He was joined by Art Antonio and Joviel Baluyut, who all moved from the Philippines. Another instrumental baker is Lalith Abeysinghe, a Sri Lankan, who helped create products and give them an international taste. All bakers have extensive experience in the Philippines and the Maldives, but they eventually had to adjust their recipes to suit local ingredients, humidity levels, and temperatures. Flavors are crafted so they are not too sweet or overpowering.
Ube is one of the local flavors Panadero has been pushing. “We are slowly being known as the ambassador for ube. Whenever you mention Panadero to locals, you would often hear them say ‘where you can get that delicious purple donut and bread’.”
And soon, Panadero plans to bring ube to other cities in New Zealand and even Australia. “Right now, we are testing the market by putting up one-day pop-up shops in other cities to see the reception.” So far, the hardworking team of Panadero Filipino Bakery likes what they see and hear, especially when customers return and sing praises for Filipino bread and pastries.