New branch, new pastries at French Baker | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

AT THE ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of The French Baker in Davao are Tourism regional director Art Boncato, Amylou Aarts, Matthew Aarts, Go Chui Ai and founder and CEO of The French Baker Johnlu Koa.
AT THE ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of The French Baker in Davao are Tourism regional director Art Boncato, Amylou Aarts, Matthew Aarts, Go Chui Ai and founder and CEO of The French Baker Johnlu Koa.

I can hardly pass by a French Baker store without feeling lured inside. The aroma of freshly baked bread, the cracked pan de sal, and the golden brown raisin bonnets glistening behind the glass counters; the pillows of soft rolls encasing morsels of sweet asado or savory corned beef; and the flaky, buttery croissants are all much too tempting to resist.


No visit to a mall or a supermarket seems complete without a stop at The French Baker, from which I’d often emerge with more bundles of bread than I’d intended to buy. It has gotten so, that over the years, The French Baker has become so familiar that I’ve taken it for granted.


More than a store


But with the recent opening of its Davao branch, I’m seeing this old friend with new eyes.  After all, not only is this 51st branch its biggest, it’s also probably the most enticing. More than just a store, it’s likewise a bakery-café or, more accurately, a bakery-café, boulangerie, pâtissierie and salon de thé—all in one appetizing bundle.


Its interior design, with dominant colors of brown and orange, exudes coziness and warmth, an ambiance further enhanced by brick walls, glass panes, wood panels and chairs of soft

leather upholstered with textured fabric.


An open kitchen ensures a constant supply of freshly baked bread and its accompanying fragrant aroma.

JOHNLU Koa with a tray of graceful swan puffs


In the pastry counter, slices of carrot cake, fruit tartlets, eclairs, muffins, cinnamon rolls and Parisian macarons are displayed in row upon delectable row.


On a skirted table, a large gold-plated samovar heats fresh water to the ideal temperature for infusing tea leaves that are sourced from some of the best estates in China, India, Sri Lanka and Taiwan. Green tea, peppermint leaves, chamomile flowers, as well as oolong and black teas, are served with a choice of sweeteners: brown or refined sugar, or honey.


An eclectic menu lists all-day breakfasts of pancakes, French toast and Eggs Benedict; pizza and sandwiches (Angus burger, blue cheese burger, clubhouse, veggie and tuna); pasta (primavera, chicken Parmigiana fettuccine, carbonara, puttanesca, lasagna); and hearty main courses (roast chicken, hickory spareribs, pork chops).


As to be expected, the desserts are sinfully, decadently rich. The only problem is what to choose from the mouthwatering array that includes cherry cheesecake, chocolate fudge, chocolate truffle, chocolate concorde cake (layers of chocolate meringue wafers and ganache) and the aforementioned carrot cake and Parisian macarons.


A TOWER of Parisian macarons

Located on the ground floor of SM Lanang Premier Mall,  French Baker is easily accessible from the airy outdoors and the newly opened Park Inn by Radisson Hotel. Glass windows allow an unobstructed view of the dancing fountain (said to be the longest in the Philippines) with its colorful bursts of water spouting to the rhythm of the music.


Opening soon in Manila


Justifiably proud of all this is founder and CEO Johnlu Koa.  “This is what the future will look like,” he said during the inauguration last week. Soon there will be similar French Baker bakery-cafés in Metro Manila. Some of the cakes which are available only in Davao will likewise be served in the other branches.


Koa is upbeat about the market, with more airlines flying to Davao, the boom in domestic tourism and people becoming more sophisticated in their food choices. A strong belief in the quality of his products further boosts his confidence. Having been in the business for 24 years, he knows everything about breads, baking, pastries and cakes. “I believe that my macarons and baguettes are world-class,” he said. “And they’re also less expensive.” (Macarons are at P34 each while half a baguette is P68.)


A hands-on CEO, Koa is especially passionate about the macarons, the swan puffs and the food craze of the year, cronuts.  Moreover, he’s adept at making them himself. During the launch, in the middle of a dinner that included beef burgundy and cochinillo stuffed with black truffle rice, he demonstrated the making of all three, like a proud father showing off his children.


“The swan puff is the loveliest of all creations,” he said.  And indeed, what could be more attractive than cream puff dough shaped into graceful, long-necked swans, filled with pastry cream and dusted with powdered sugar?


“You have to control the pressure of the piping bag,” Koa said as he piped dollops of dough that would become the swans’ necks and bodies.


For the macarons, he said, one has to know when to stop beating the egg whites and how to handle them so they don’t deflate. At The French Baker, he said, they don’t scrimp on the cream filling.


Different cronut


As for the cronut, he calls it an over-risen croissant. It’s made with the same dough as the one used for croissant, but shaped like a doughnut. “We let it rise for two hours (instead of the

FRUIT tartlets, swan puffs and chocolate concorde

usual one hour),” he explained. What makes French Baker’s cronuts different is the way the cream filling is added.  While others would slice the cronut lengthwise and then spread the filling on one surface before joining the two halves together, French Baker instead keeps the cronut whole, but pierces three holes into it with a pastry tip, through which the cream is then injected.


That way, when you bite into the cronut, the cream filling doesn’t spill or spread all over your face, Koa said.


Not that his customers are overly worried about ruining their makeup, but it’s probably just one way Koa innovates on his pastries and breads. It also shows a concern for his customers and their well-being (including their poise).


After the demonstration, Koa had his servers slice the cronuts into bite-size pieces and distribute them to his guests. I’ve long resisted liking this food craze on the grounds that it has more calorie content than I’m allowed in a week. Besides, I experienced a messed-up face once or twice with the other cronuts I’ve eaten. But this one was different, indeed—no ruined makeup, no spilled cream, only a taste of heavenly bliss.


The newest branch of The French Baker is at G/F SM Lanang, J.P. Laurel Ave., Lanang, Davao City.


For more tips, recipes and stories, visit author’s blog,, and Facebook fan page, Follow on Twitter @NormaChikiamco.

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