Thanks to Pandesal, Pinoy Pastry Chef Meets Nicole Kidman


LA-Based Filipino Pastry Chef Recounts Encounter With Nicole Kidman Over Ube-Cheese Pandesal

Remember how ube-cheese pandesal commanded our social media feed amid the lockdown? It’s not hard to understand the craze: the sweet kick of the purple yam contrasts the salty undertones of the cheese, rendering an interesting twist to an already beloved bread and breakfast staple in the Philippines. While the trend may have subdued, one Filipino baker based in Los Angeles, California is bringing this pandemic-born invention to the next level: Hollywood.

Nicole Kidman ube pandesal

In an exclusive interview with The Beat Asia, restaurateur and pastry chef Justyn Mallo Reyes shared how Nicole Kidman got her hands on the reinvented Pinoy breakfast staple. It began when a friend of Justyn’s contacted him for a batch of fresh pandesal for no less than the "Moulin Rouge" actress herself. Justyn was an obvious choice given his reputation in the F&B space back home and the growing buzz over his creations he imported to LA.

Meeting NK

Justyn received the precious order from a friend early this year and after going back and forth, he finally made the personal delivery in March. With him were his much-talked about creations: regular pandesal with butter, ube-cheese pandesal, and 24K artisan ensaymada, which was not part of the order, but he added anyway as a complimentary gift. What he thought would be a normal delivery took a surprise turn when he provided the bread and pastries to Kidman and her team.

Nicole Kidman ube pandesal

“I did not expect that I would see her in person. I thought I’d just hand over the pandesal to the one who ordered and then leave. I did not expect that I would meet her,” Justyn recalled in mixed English and Filipino.

“I felt like melting when I saw her. All I could say to her was, ‘you’re so pretty,'" Justyn added.

“I was just talking to my friend and didn’t notice she was walking behind me. Everyone went quiet,” he said, reminiscing the exact moment he visited Kidman’s shoot location to deliver his products. The actress, impressed by the pandesal and ensaymada, even shared the goodies to her team, Justyn said.

Justyn didn’t waste time to hear what the Hollywood actress would say about his bread. And her verdict?

“It’s good, it’s amazing,” Justyn said, quoting the celebrity.

“It felt unbelievable to cater to one of the well-known Hollywood actresses in the world. It's such an honor for me to be a Filipino. I’m bringing our products here in the U.S.”

Manila-Singapore-Los Angeles

This is not Justyn and his creations’ first encounter with a celebrity. A quick browse through Justyn Café’s Instagram page reveals a flurry of Filipino celebrities such as KC Concepcion, Ellen Adarna, and Kerwin King throwing their support behind the Filipino pastry maker.

In the Philippines, Justyn helms a slew of food labels consolidated under one commissary based in Las Piñas. He developed his own recipes of staple Filipino fares and translated them into his own brand that would soon find space in the local palate.

“I split my time between Singapore, Manila, and LA,” he told The Beat Asia.

Justyn began his food business in college, selling various products to friends and colleagues. He eventually concocted his own recipe of chorizo de Cebu, which then became his first official label with stores in Quezon City. From there, he launched more labels such as Mamang’s Barbeque, Justyn Kitchen, and Justyn Café.

Nicole Kidman ube pandesal

He expanded his business to Singapore but that was cut short by the pandemic. After months of dilly-dallying with quarantine protocols and lockdowns in Singapore and Manila, Justyn and his team decided to consolidate the Manila stores under a single commissary, temporarily shutter Singapore operations, and move to LA.

He now whips and bakes in a fully equipped kitchen housed in his LA home, slowly creating a name among the Filipino and American communities there and brandishing his personal spin on beloved Pinoy goodies.

Nicole Kidman ube pandesal

Aside from the ube-cheese pandesal, Justyn Café is famous for its 24-karat crème brûlée cake, a single-tier chiffon cake topped with torched custard and flecked with gold flakes. The fluffiness of the chiffon pairs well with the sweet-burnt taste of the crème brûlée, while the gold flakes add a glam touch to this beloved dessert and enhances its beautiful golden-brown color.

Justyn sets his sights on further expanding his brand’s presence in the U.S. by reaching out to the influential foodie crowd in LA.

“We want to make our brand international. We want to reach more of the creative and tastemaker community and use that influence to introduce our unique Filipino flavors to people all around the world – but maybe we can start with Hollywood first.”

To order Justyn Cafe's bread and pastries, follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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