Traditional Pastries, Bread And Pizza, Too

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - October 05, 2011
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Niel Koep, chef/owner of Fendu Boulangerie. Jo McGarry photo

Forgive me for getting an early jump on the holidays, but as soon as the Christmas decorations went up in Macy’s I made a mental note to think about yule logs, stollen and the kind of holiday-inspired, traditional pastry treats that always run out just as I decide I need them.

I’m sure if you start calling Niel Koep, the chef/owner of Fendu Boulangerie in Manoa Marketplace, to place your orders, he’ll understand.

“We started early last year, and the year before,” says the soft-spoken New Jersey native, “but we still ran out.”

Koep has been in Hawaii for more than 20 years most of them spent at The Lodge at Koele and then Manele Bay on Lanai. And while he enjoyed his time cooking at two of the world’s luxury branded hotels, he was constantly bothered by a little voice nagging him to build his own bakery.

“I’d always wanted to have my own place,” he says.

Koep is one of that breed of bakers who is completely driven by his desire to bake. Maybe it’s the aroma of yeast, the beauty of a perfectly formed croissant or the crisp of a well-turned-out crust, but there’s something about bakers that goes beyond passion and almost enters obsession. For Koep, it’s what gets him out of bed at 4 a.m. and keeps him in the kitchen until late at night.

“We’re a small bakery where everything is hands on,” he says. “It is a lot of work.”

And while the breads, pastries, desserts, cookies, brownies and pizza are outrageously addictive, they have no additives, chemicals or preservatives.

“We only use flour, yeast, salt, butter, vegetable oil or olive oil,” says Koep.

For a taste of classic European inspired baking, try Koep’s hearth-baked whole wheat bread, French sourdough, multigrain or a selection of baguettes and daily specials that include Kalamata olive bread, walnut raisin cheese bread, brownies, tiramisu, pear mascarpone, chocolate mousse and fruit tarts. Holiday baked goods should be available soon. You can’t say I didn’t warn you ...

When Bravo Channel’s “Top Chef” Marcel Vigneron flew into Honolulu last week to take part in the inaugural Hawaii Food and Wine Festival, he expressed what many chefs of the invited celebrity chefs were thinking,

“I am so excited to be in Hawaii and to be using your incredible local produce,” he said. “It’s such an honor to be here.”

Vigneron, you might remember, was one of the finalists on the highly rated TV show who came to Hawaii and was dropped into the middle of Waimea Valley with Alan Wong (and a substantial camera crew) and left to make a “local” dish within 30 minutes.

“His lomi lomi salmon was so good that I still remember it,” says Wong.

For Vigneron, being invited back to Hawaii was a dream. “The experience of being in Hawaii and cooking with local food will stay with me forever,” he said.

The three-day event drew thousands to venues including The Modern, Hilton Hawaiian Village and Halekulani, and the success of the weekend has undoubtedly set the path for an annual world-class event.

Happy eating!

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