Ever since Oyatsupan Bakers opened their doors in 2016, Portland has been craving traditional Japanese baking and their highly-popular Shokupan and sweet roll. Owner, Hiroyuki Horie arrived on the baking scene in 1992 when he left Japan to attend AIB International’s Baking Science and Technology (BS&T) resident course. He then spent 26 years working for Pasco, starting on the English muffin line and working his way to running the company’s American wholesale operations in Los Angeles and then Portland.
“During my time at AIB, I learned critical lessons about baking theory and flour science.” Horie, a BS&T graduate said. “I specifically remember a bake sale in downtown Manhattan, Kansas where I learned a lot about the US culture of breads and sweet goods. The bake sale was a first time experience for me while studying abroad.”
At Oyatsupan Bakers, Horie still uses his AIB training to turn out loaves of Shokupan – a Japanese style of white Pullman bread. The flour science portion of BS&T is a big asset to Horie now and fundamental to his breads, cakes, and rolls. Of course, the Shokupan isn’t the only thing drawing the community’s attention. Horie is bringing back traditional curry donuts, melon pan rolls (sable cookie on top of a sweet roll), Tonkatsu sandwiches (deep fried pork with panko), and tea sandwiches, too. Oyatsupan Bakers is producing 50 varieties of traditional Japanese savory and sweet goods.
“There are very few Japanese style bakeries carrying traditional Japanese sweet rolls to savory rolls in the US.” Horie said. “I just want to bring a bit more variety breads and rolls to the US, based on popular Japanese products I am familiar with.”
His version of Japanese baking is a throwback to tradition and a lot of his inspiration comes from Japanese cuisine, the Pacific Northwest food culture, and using local farm produce. To create his take on traditional sweet rolls, Horie tested everything in his kitchen prior to starting the bakery. “In the beginning I was baking everything at the bakery. I do less now, because I’m creating the operation system for the bakery.” Horie says.
That’s the real challenge – managing left over product on the shelf, however it’s a long process. Quality of products, customer experience, and employee satisfaction are always the main principals for the bakery.
“It is always exciting to interact with customers at the bakery.” Hiro said. “I rarely experienced that in the large wholesale baking company where I used to work. It’s exciting to be creating a new food culture in the city of Portland.”
In the last few months, Horie has started selling his baked products wholesale at a local Japanese grocery store and at the re-designed Portland Japanese Garden. The bread making movement across the country is giving more opportunities for high-end gourmet to fill the gap larger corporations can’t fill. We can only hope to one day try these perfectly pillowy shokupan rolls.