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Breadshop in Kaimuki, Hawai’i
Adventuers in the Kitchen with Chris Sy

By Sarah Hodges


As I speak with Waialae Avenue’s Breadshop owner Chris Sy, I’m reminded of a summer in the South of France when my host family would bring a fresh loaf of bread each morning from the bread shop in the center of town. The husband would leave early and make his morning walk up and down the slopes of the rustic country road. He’d arrive back thirty to forty minutes later with at least one loaf, sometimes two, and if we were all lucky, with croissants too. 

We may not have finished the previous day’s bread, but they considered it too old for regular eating. Instead, they would use it in a soup, for breadcrumbs, or in some other dish that was specially designed to make delicious use of hardening bread.

Hawai’i, with rice as the main starch in many households, hadn’t yet seen much of this kind of bread culture. In 2012, Chris began his dive into bread making wanting to provide customers with the freshest bread possible.

The inspiration for bread-making landed on Chris while he worked as a chef at the former acclaimed Town restaurant in Honolulu. Locals knew Town for not only their delicious locally-inspired menu but also for the fact that nearly everything was made in-house, with many of the ingredients coming from Hawai’i. Their bread was an exception. “At Town, we were making only about half of the bread that we served in-house,” says Chris. “I thought we could do it all, and they were willing to take the chance and have me make it.” Chris took on the bread production at Town and with his team, figured out how to make this temperamental food in a very active cooking kitchen. 

After five years of working as a Chef with Town, Chris decided it was time to set out on his own. He considered opening his own restaurant, but fortunately Oahu has no shortage of great restaurants. However, fresh bread seemed like something that could benefit the Hawai’i food landscape. “I wanted to open a bread shop since there was a better chance of making an impact,” Chirs explains. 

There were (and still are) plenty of bakeries, but few hard-crusted, made daily, fresh loaf bread shops. While supermarkets do offer ‘fresh’ bread loaves, by the time these out-of-house breads are baked, cooled, packaged, transported and shelved, then finally arrive in someone’s home, the breads are nearing the end of their lifespans. 

Though he had ample experience in the food industry having worked for many years alongside some of the greats such as Chef Mavro in Hawaii, Hank Adaniya in Chicago, and Thomas Keller in California, starting a bread-making business was outside of anything he’d done before. 

Chris began by making his breads at friends’ restaurants in the late hours of the night when the business was closed for clientele. He then sold his goods at farmers’ markets. Slowly, Chris built his way up, with the support and encouragement of his friends in the restaurant business and a growing number of happy customers. Outgrowing the farmers markets, Chris went on to sell his bread at friend’s restaurants, and then at in his own space in the Burns School of Medicine Cafeteria in Kaka’ako. Chris became very skilled at having to make do with a whole variety of kitchens and ovens, most of which were not set up for making bread. 

By 2016 Chirs’s breads and baked goods had evolved into a full-on production. It was time for him to open a brick-and-mortar. He found a small little corner shop on Waialae Ave and got to work, finally able to have a proper bread oven. In fact, he and his team built the oven inside the shop since the Italian-made bread oven was much to big to fit through the little shop doors.

“We’ve been so lucky to have fantastic people work with us,” says Chris. “It’s been the biggest surprise to see how amazing they all are, how caring they have been about not just the product but also the business and the customers.” When he started out as a new business owner, this was a completely unknown piece to Chris. Hawai’i is very far from Europe, and here they are making mainly European-style breads. He didn’t know if many people would be interested in working with him and learning to make these. And as it turns out, a brilliant and strong team has come together, making this delicate bread-making process all the more enjoyable. 

I remember hearing about Breadshop from family and friends shortly after it had opened. My mom’s good friend raved about how fresh the bread was, how it had just the right crunch and softness. How good the sourdough tasted. Since then, I’ve become a frequent customer, and maybe most of all enjoy picking up a loaf or box of pastries to take to someone who might not have yet tried Breadshop’s goods. I love taking the soft brioche to big dinner gatherings. I’ve brought boxes of pastries to grieving friends who for a moment light up upon seeing them. And when I visit my aunt she often says with a joyful smile, ‘Let’s go get some bread!’

I’m so glad Chris chose to open Breadshop to bring more diversity to our Hawai’i food culture.

                                                                                                                         Photos by Breadshop

Learn more about Breadshop at: www.breadsbybreadshop.com

3408 Waialae Ave, Honolulu, HI
Open Wednesday – Sunday  2:00 – 6:00 PM

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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)