Naturally purple brownies, cookies, and swirled rolls come steaming out of the bread oven at Oak and Reel, where head pastry chef Jonathan Peregrino uses the kitchen for his own food business, JP Makes and Bakes.
The purple color comes from the ingredient ube, a yam from the Philippines. The ube-flavored baked goods are among the many Filipino-inspired pastries Peregrino offers at JP Makes and Bakes. And soon, savory food, starting with his first savory food event on May 23 at Corktown market and cafe, Folk.
First generation Filipino, Peregrino said he makes what he knows from spending time with his family in the kitchen growing up.
“Filipino households, just like other households, revolve around food,” he told BridgeDetroit.
He also makes and sells traditional Filipino pandesal (bread rolls), chocolates, and pandesal stuffed with cinnamon and chocolate ganache, or with cream cheese and topped with everything seasoning.
“It’s Filipino flavors in familiar formats,” he said, like mixing ube, which he grew up eating, with brownies. “Those are ways I’m able to help build the knowledge of my culture and my heritage in a non-threatening way.”
Around the age of 16 he started selling the baked goods he learned to make from his family, and ever since knew he wanted to open his own bakery one day. In 2018, Peregrino professionally trained as a pastry chef at a school in the Philippines, giving him the opportunity to immerse himself in his Filipino heritage.
Presently, JP Makes and Bakes operates as a catering business and a pop-up at different markets and events around metro Detroit, like at The Congregation’s weekly summer farmers market.
But Peregrino hopes to soon open a physical location.
He entered this year’s Hatch Detroit competition, which awards $100,000 each year to a local entrepreneur to help them open a brick and mortar. He made it to the top 10, but did not move on as a finalist. Although he didn’t win, he said the competition solidified his drive to open his own shop.
“This has been a dream 25 years in the making,” he said. “Hatch would have made it a lot easier and a lot quicker, but coming out of it I know that there’s a need, I know that there’s a want,” said Peregrino.
“The things that I’m doing are things that are missing in the market right now,” he said, referring to a lack of Asian bakeries in Detroit proper.
He said he hopes to have his own location within the next year. Until then, he’s perfecting his savory dishes.
The savory food pop-up at Folk, which will feature homestyle Filipino food and a new dessert of Peregrino’s own creation, was originally planned for a single night for 24 guests. But the dinner sold out within a few hours, so they added a second day, which also has sold out. The response was unexpected, Peregrino said.
“We had no idea how it was gonna go. I’m not known as a savory chef,” he said. Nevertheless, “We sold out that first day within two hours,” he said.
Peregrino said most people are only familiar with Filipino party foods like lumpia, a fried spring roll, or pancit, a stir fried noodle dish, so he wanted to create a dinner featuring foods he and his family eat day to day.
The pop-up will feature a new dessert Peregrino made up himself: an ube cassava cake, with caramelized coconut milk on top. While in-person reservations are full, take-out dinners are still available for purchase. The dinner includes an appetizer, a chicken sour soup entree served with rice and pandesal, hand-selected wines from other Asian American and Pacific Islander producers, and Peregrino’s ube cassava cake. A dine-in reservation for the dinner is $65 and take-out is $50.
If you weren’t one of the lucky few to secure a seat at the dinner, Peregrino said the dinner could become a regular monthly offering at Folk.
Also, be on the lookout for his popular collaboration withHuddle Soft Serve to make its return in June for the third year: purple ube and vanilla swirled ice cream for one weekend only.
“The response is insane,” said Kyle Hunt, co-owner of Huddle, adding that he wasn’t familiar with ube before Peregrino. “The first time we did it people were driving from 45 minutes away to get the ice cream.”