Just What The Doctor Ordered

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - January 31, 2007
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Chris Miura at Mauna Kea Baking Co.
Chris Miura at Mauna Kea Baking

Before you even go there, Chris Miura has heard them all. You don’t spend half your time as an obstetrician/gynecologist and the other half as a baker without hearing a lot of really bad puns.

“Yeah, I’ve heard them all - the yeast ones, the crummy ones - people like to make jokes, I guess,” he says with a huge smile and a slight air of resignation.

But while the puns are endless and hard to avoid, baking the best bread in Hawaii is anything but a joke to this self-confessed perfectionist.

The story of how Chris began his quest for the perfect loaf is well-documented. His wife was pregnant with their first child, and had a severe case of morning sickness.

“She couldn’t eat anything at all,” he explains. “Then someone told me that they heard that freshly baked bread helped morning sickness, so I went off to Times and bought a packet of Fleischman’s yeast, read the instructions on the back and made some bread.”

It seemed to work, and before long, Chris was baking bread every day.

“I hated it!” he says. “I baked every day for seven months straight.”

Pretty soon, baby No. 2 was on the way and Chris saw no way out of stopping the daily grind.

“By then, I’d been doing it for two years already, so I decided to really get into it,” he says.

The moment loathing turned into love was around about the time Chris discovered the science factor.

“Baking bread is precise to the gram,” he says, “and I really enjoyed that part of the process.”

It took him three years to perfect the crust (a gorgeous, crunchy, crisp outer coating that protects the fresh, yeasty, soft interior of this amazing bread), and then another few years of baking bread in his own brick oven to finally create something near perfection.

At the same time, master sommelier Chuck Furuya, an old friend, suggested that he bring samples of the bread to Furuya’s restaurant, Vino, to see what the customers thought. Flavors included kalamata olive, potato and Maui onion foccacia with white truffle oil.

“It was really obvious that Chris was making bread unlike anything else in Hawaii,” says Furuya. “As soon as we let our customers taste his bread and paired them with some wines, people went crazy and those tastings always sold out.”

And the tasters’ comments were enough to convince Miura to open his bakery.

“Between the encouragement I was getting from people like Chuck and the comments from the people tasting our bread, I felt it would be a positive move,” says Miura.

The Mauna Kea Baking Co. has been in business since last November, when Chris moved operations from his backyard wood-burning oven to a state-ofthe-art bakery in Kalihi. He has nine employees and is currently supplying Foodland stores with sourdough breads that include walnut raisin, black pepper and Parmesan, and roasted garlic.

The bread is unbelievably good. The first time I brought some home, my family devoured it. We had black pepper and Parmesan sandwiches with Hauula tomatoes until we ran out. My son Max now turns his nose up at anything else he’s offered. “I don’t want it unless it’s the good bread, Mom,” he told me the other morning.

The “good bread” is now also being served at Neiman Marcus, so if you notice that your lunchtime sandwich there tastes better than usual, now you know why.

And for Chris, the baking that began as a chore has become a life passion. All because of a bun in the oven.

Happy eating!

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