Somewhere inside S Maison in Conrad Manila is a spot that opens as early as 7 a.m., serves the softest, most addictive breads, and is beside pretty much the only thing that reminds those of us who live in Metro Manila that the Philippines is actually an archipelago — the ocean. The new establishment, which prefers to be called a bakery, is Baker & Cook, and to be able to get in for an early breakfast, you will have to go through Plank Sourdough Pizza, which has an entrance along Seaside Boulevard. Consider it a speakeasy of sorts, except instead of liquor, it serves carbs, which are just as illicit.
Baker & Cook is owned by Kiwi baker, celebrity foodpreneur, TV host and author Dean Brettschneider, who has worked with one of the culinary world’s most notorious chefs, Marco Pierre White (said to have once made Gordon Ramsay cry). But it’s not from him that he got his passion for baking — we owe that to his grandmother, who, he says, used to bake tins upon tins of cookies and cakes every Sunday at their farm in New Zealand.
He started to take baking seriously at age 16, which was also the year he caught his first sourdough. “Sourdough is not a recipe, it’s an wild yeast. A kind of bacteria,” he says. Ever since then, Dean’s sourdough has been alive and has traveled with him to many different countries. “You only need to bring a jar of it — I bring a jam jar. And you feed it. So the DNA is very old.” It’s the sourdough that they use to make the pizzas at Plank, so think about that as you bite into a slice. Every pizza has a piece of history in it, and an ingredient that’s probably as old as your child. It’s delicious.
He started Baker & Cook in Singapore and it quickly became a favorite hangout because it’s “everyday affordable.” You get something here twice a day, thrice if you’re not particularly concerned about carbs. “If I made it unaffordable, it be almost like a treat,” he says. We think it’s still a treat, irregardless.
The bakery is stocked with freshly made breads, it can be overwhelming. For starters, Dean recommends their cakes, particularly carrot, their lemon tart, and quiche. “We understand baking, so if you have a quiche, you get a nice quiche. You don’t get something that’s been engineered to a cost. If you go to a coffee house, their product is made to a cost, whereas we make product that’s yummy,” he says.
As for coffee, they get their blend from UCC, as a collaboration with The Bistro Group, which brought the two brands to the Philippines. “The coffee is only as good as a barista, so I spend more energy on training baristas than I do on getting the best beans in the world.” Dean adds, “My biggest learning in life is that other people can do things if you give them the opportunity, if you treat them right, if you take the time to help them. Anyone can do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re Chinese or Filipino, you don’t even have to be French — because some French bakers are the worst bakers in the world.” He was joking, we think.”
* * *
Check out Baker & Cook, which opens on Wednesday, January 11. It is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Plank Sourdough Pizza is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Both are located at the G/F S Maison Conrad. Follow them on FB and IG.