Some Food for Thought about Hawaii's Bakeries

By Sigall, Bob | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, December 21, 2012 | Go to article overview

Some Food for Thought about Hawaii's Bakeries


Sigall, Bob, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


Hostess Twinkies' bankruptcy in the news last week reminded me of a story Jon de Mello told me about Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, who loved Twinkies and struggled with overeating. Jon was his producer and lifelong friend.

On one occasion Israel asked de Mello to bring him some Twinkies when he came over.

"How many?" de Mello asked.

"Oh, 28," Israel replied.

"Twenty-eight!?" de Mello exclaimed.

"Yeah." Israel said.

"How about two?" de Mello would offer.

"OK," Israel said sheepishly.

"I'd bring him four," de Mello said.

Twinkies may be gone, although I hear you can buy them on eBay for a premium. If you can't afford the higher price, Hawaii is blessed with many bakeries, and they have interesting stories. Let's look at a few of them.

OK, here's a question: Which bakery's most popular item means "badly cooked" in Portuguese? Yes, it's malasadas. Leonard's Bakery was founded by Margaret and Frank Leonard Rego Sr. in 1952. His mother, Mary, suggested they sell the Portuguese doughnut. Island radio and TV personality Lucky Luck pitched them in TV commercials.

Leonard's sells more than 15,000 malasadas a day and has sold more than 160 million since 1952.

Leonard's isn't the only Hawaii company to sell thousands of its signature items a day. Liliha Bakery's Coco Puffs were featured on "Hawaii Five-0" more than once. Three two-man crews work around the clock to make 5,000-7,500 Coco Puffs a day to meet demand.

Liliha Bakery's Coco Puff was crafted in the 1960s as a shell of puff pastry with a chocolate pudding-like filling. It was a huge flop. About 1990 a new chief baker, Kame Ikemura, reformulated the Coco Puff and added a dollop of chantilly frosting to the top. This time the Coco Puff was a success.

Liliha Bakery has sold more than 27 million Coco Puffs since 1990. The bakery was founded in 1950 on Liliha Street where the H-1 freeway is today.

Next question: Which bakery on Hawaii island hired a sign-maker who misunderstood the founder's name? …

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