A Filipino American transplant from the West Coast has his sights set on filling a void in metro Detroit in the form of Filipino baked goods. JP Makes and Bakes is the passion project of Jonathan Peregrino, who after a 15-year career in corporate sales and marketing, decided to attend pastry school in the Philippines as a means of recapturing the flavors of his upbringing.
Peregrino currently splits his time between working as the pastry chef at Oak and Reel in the city’s Milwaukee Junction area and showcasing his culturally-relevant cooking via pop-up events in Detroit and Ann Arbor, including two sold-out dinners inspired by his family’s home-cooked meals May 23 and 24 in partnership with Folk in Corktown. The three-course meal (which sold out within hours) includes ukoy — a fried shrimp and veggie ball chicken sinampalukang (tamarind chicken) — spicy beef caldereta, and Peregrino’s signature ube cassava cake — inspired by his mother and grandmother’s baking. Diners can also take the party home with them by opting for a carryout version that includes a bottle of wine or a non-alcoholic beverage.
“A lot of the things that I’m doing sort of bring me back to where I grew up or how I grew up,” Peregrino tells Eater. “I’m first-generation American. My parents are both from the Philippines and so growing up on the West Coast, there was always a very big Asian, and Filipino population, especially. There [were] always the stores that had the Filipino rolls, the treats, all the parties that my mom would make Filipino treats for. There was just always that food around and then coming here to Michigan especially, it’s just something that between Ann Arbor and Detroit [you] can’t really find a lot of Filipino food.”
To be clear, there are options for Filipino food scattered across southeast Michigan. One just has to know where to look for independent grocers, bespoke supper clubs, take-home meal plans, and restaurants that specialize in the cuisine. In terms of bakeries that carry Filipino pastries made with familiar ingredients, those options are even more scarce — the closest options for traditional Asian baked goods, Peregrino says, tend to be Chinese or Vietnamese-owned establishments in Madison Heights or other far-flung suburbs.
Peregrino says his approach to pastry-making is to use ingredients typical of the island nation and apply them to more familiar sweets. For example, he makes liberal use of the ube, or purple yam, for his cookies, brownies, and soft-serve ice cream — which he developed in collaboration with Huddle Soft Serve in West Village for a pair of pop-ups in previous years.
“Both times we had people driving from over an hour away, for ube soft-serve,” says Peregrino. “It’s just one of those things — there is a need and the desire in the area.”
Peregrino was a semifinalist for the most recent round of the Hatch Detroit Contest, vying against several other food-based startups, including pop-up taqueria Shell Shock’d; Detroit Ice Cream, which features boozy frozen treats; the Highland Park Community Kitchen; and Chi Fan Le, an eatery that specializes in traditional Chinese dumplings. As a semifinalist, JP Makes and Bakes is considered an alumnus of Hatch and will also receive support to launch the bakery.
Peregrino says he hopes to find a space in the city to build out his bakery by the end of the year. In the meantime, he will continue to host pop-ups throughout the region, including another ice cream social with Huddle as early as next month. He says the best way to find out where he’ll be next is to follow JP Makes and Bakes on social media.
“Ideally by this time next year, I’ll be pretty close to opening something on my own,” says Peregrino.