Walking inside Panaderya Toyo—whether it’s your first time ever or your third time this month—will always feel magical. In the midst of the hustle around their baking area, you will most likely spot head baker Richie Manapat. While outwardly calm and soft-spoken, indulging in a conversation with him will reveal another side of his personality: deeply passionate and obsessive about his craft.
The conception of the panaderya can be traced back to Chef Jordy Navarra’s Toyo Eatery, where he wanted to offer diners the best, most natural way of making Filipino-style breads. With Manapat as his baker, the two started getting more and more orders for their pandesal over time. So when the space beside the restaurant had opened, Navarro asked him if he wanted to do it.
“The biggest turning point for me to create ‘real bread’ was the opening of Panaderya Toyo. I had always been into real bread, but once this opened, I decided that there was this line I was going to make,” Manapat shares. Real bread to him is simple: it has to be made with the most naturally available ingredients as possible. “Here, we’re strictly 100 percent sourdough. Lots of people think that it is a type of bread, when it is actually a natural process of bread-making.”
Having said this, one might wonder what exactly the sourdough method is like. Manapat explains that it is the simplest, having only flour, water and salt as its components. “With this method, there’s no additives, improvers of stabilizers. We also don’t use bleached flour, since they may contain chemicals.” True to his words, one can expect that making their bread is no easy feat. “The usual bakery that uses instant yeast takes around 1-2 hours to finish. The shortest we have is two days. Our pandesal, for example, takes three days. Day one is feeding the starter, day two includes mixing and fermenting the dough, and finally, day three is dividing, shaping and baking the dough.”
Interestingly, Manapat compares making bread to having a child. “Think about it this way, it’s a living thing, so it’s like having a kid. Today, it might decide to cooperate, but then tomorrow, it might be a little stubborn so you’ll have to approach it differently. Our bread can also change depending on environmental factors, such as the season. Our sesame bread, for example, has loaves that vary in color,” Manapat shares. This would greatly differ from the bread you might see in the grocery, which looks standardized because of the chemicals in it.
“People don’t ask enough questions about bread,” Manapat states with a stern look in his eyes. “I feel that we should take the same approach people do now with specialty coffee—asking questions like, where are the beans from? Are they sourced and harvested ethically? How are they ground? I feel that some people just look at bread as bread. That’s the whole point of me doing what I do,” he adds.
For a closer look at what goes inside making their famous pandesal, watch the video below: