Fendu Boulangerie: More Than Just a Bread Shop
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Hawaii’s foodies are whisked away on a European culinary venture immediately after setting foot in Fendu Boulangerie at Manoa Marketplace. Owner and chef Niel Koep is an acclaimed pastry chef, and has drawn crowds to his bread shop from near and far with his remarkable handmade breads, breakfast pastries, desserts and more.
Dining Out recently caught up with Koep in the hope that he would reveal the secrets behind his dazzling creations.
DO: You obviously have a great deal of culinary experience, Chef Koep. Where did you get your start?
Koep: I started my culinary experience while in high school in New Jersey in a small restaurant called the Fromagerie. It’s there that I started off washing pots and then worked my way to the salad station before I started getting into desserts.
DO: Was it then that you knew you wanted to devote your time to creating desserts, pastries and breads?
Koep: No. It took a few years before I knew that I really wanted to immerse myself into the culinary world. At 19, I was a pastry chef at a small restaurant called the Pear Tree and I was able to meet some famous chefs of the day. Finally, I ended up in New York City.
DO: Is that where you received your training?
Koep: I received my culinary training from The New York Restaurant School in Manhattan, and got a grand diploma from the International Pastry Arts Center in Elmsford, N.Y. I also met Didier Rosada at the National Baking Center in Minneapolis. He was one of my French mentors, and it’s from him that I learned the French method of baking. However, my most recent culinary venture took me to the French Pastry School in Chicago, where I studied with the French world champion Pierre Zimmerman, a true master when it comes to French pastries. I still consider myself a student of baking because there’s always something new to learn.
DO: So, you took the journey from New York to Hawaii to pursue your dreams. What was that experience like?
Koep: I came to the Islands in 1990 and first settled on Lanai because I wanted to do something different. I started out working at what is now The Four Seasons Lanai and worked as the assistant pastry chef, and worked my way up to executive pastry chef, and that itself was a great experience. I was planning on staying in Hawaii for two years and then go back to New Jersey. But once the plane landed, that was it; I spent 18 and a half years on Lanai before moving to Oahu.
DO: What is the concept behind your establishment?
Koep: It’s based on French pastry, and breads are the foundation of the shop, but we’ve also included things like desserts, breakfast pastries, sandwiches and pizza. To be successful nowadays, you have to be diverse, and most recently we’ve also added the chicken pot pies to the menu. We plan to add more variety to our desserts because dessert sales are one of our greatest strengths, along with the breakfast pastries, like the croissants, danishes, scones and cookies.
DO: Could you tell us more about your fabulous breakfast pastries?
Koep: Sure. The Lychee Streusel Danish ($2) is one of our best. It’s made with Danish dough, almond cream and pastry cream. The lychee is placed in the middle of the pastry and topped with streusel. It’s a light and crisp type of pastry, classically it would be made with apricot, but we substituted that with lychee — a more local flair.
Then we have our traditional plain croissant ($1.75) and we have a chocolate croissant ($2) that’s also very popular.
DO: Every single dessert on display is tempting in its own right. However, can you elaborate on the particular desserts that are flying off the shelves?
Koep: Of course! Our Pear and Almond Tarte ($2.75) features a baked almond sugar dough topped with sliced pears and filled with almond and pastry cream. We sell a lot of those. We also have two types of cheesecakes — a Lilikoi Cheesecake and a Guava Cheesecake ($4.50). The cheesecakes are a blending of marscarpone cheese and cream cheese flavored with your choice of lilikoi or guava. We also have a Milk Chocolate Mousse ($5.50) with the bottom layer consisting of a pear jelly, and a Dark Chocolate Mousse ($5.50) with a passion fruit sauce on the bottom. Both mousses are made with Valrhona chocolate from France. Finally, the Buttermilk Panna Cotta ($4.50) is another best-seller. The bottom layer of this dessert has a raspberry puree topped with a layer of ladyfinger sponge cake and a panna cotta made from buttermilk with fresh fruits to complete it.
DO: So what makes Fendu Boulangerie stand apart from other bakeries in Hawaii?
Koep: We don’t add any chemicals to our products. Our items are all natural and we don’t use any hydrogenated shortenings, or a lot of sugar or salt. Instead we use real butter, olive oil and vegetable oil. All of our items are made fresh every day. Whatever is made is sold that day. Everything that we do is in the European style and our customers can taste the freshness in our products.
DO: Where do you find your inspiration and motivation? Owning and operating your own boulangerie is certainly a lot of work!
Koep: Well, this is what I do and this is what I love. Yes, it’s a business, but to run this business you have to love what you do. It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it. If I make something and the customer likes it, then everything is a success. Here at Fendu Boulangerie, we strive for things that are fresh and that taste good — always.
- Manoa Marketplace
- 2752 Woodlawn Drive #5119
- Honolulu, HI 96822
- (808) 988-4310
- 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
- Tuesday – Saturday
- 7:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
- Closed Mondays