Ever since watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in third grade, I longed for a similar experience—well, minus the accidents a la blueberry gum bloating, etc. My golden ticket finally came as an invitation to visit the King’s Hawaiian bakery! Being a fan of the fluffy sweet buns since I was a kid, this was monumental, epic even.
So, I donned a pair of pants per their safety rules (I only wear pants if it’s absolutely necessary, which equates to roughly once or twice and year) and made the trek down to King’s Hawaiian bakery early in the morning.
The team welcomed me with a lei and we gathered in the communal kitchen. In there, we got to meet the founding family, the Taira’s, and learn about their beginnings before starting the grand tour.
Started more than 50 years ago in Hilo, Hawaii, Robert Taira perfected the recipe for Portuguese sweet bread. Specially, to create a bun that stayed soft and airy for 2 weeks. Through his signature sweet bread recipe and the idea of “aloha spirit,” which promotes a close-knitted family work culture, the Tairas build a prosperous operation that is still family owned and ran. The sense of community was strongly evident through their interactions with each other the the way they spoke with pride when sharing their story.
One of the family member, uncle Dino, took us behind the scenes to see how the rolls were created. The factory bakery was HUGE (multiple football fields big) and smelled intensely of sweet dough and baking bread. It was hard not to smile and salivate at the same time. Or gawk with mouths open as it’s like being in an episode of Unwrapped, watching the machinery kneading dough into perfect rolls.
As entertaining as it was to see the process of break making, the best part was tasting the end-product. A few staff member plucked trays of freshly baked rolls from the monstrous oven so we can try as part of quality control. Can you imagine tasting fresh bread as part of your job?! We spread salted butter on them and went to town.
If you thought the tour stopped there, you’re gravely mistaken. We were greeted by a gang of veteran food trucks back at the office with each using King’s Hawaiian’s bread to create their signature dish. Lobsta Truck created their Lobsta roll with toasted KH hot dog buns. Ludo Truck served their chicken favorites with KH dinner rolls—the buttermilk fried chicken was ridiculously juicy! Buttermilk Truck continued the fried trend with cinnamon toast sticks made with KH bread and Kogi used the KH rolls as the buns for their short rib sliders.
For dessert, we were treated to Courtney Taira (granddaughter of Robert Taira, head of KH consumer care and resident foodie!) famous white and dark choclate bread pudding with Grand Marnier sauce and a spread of other goodies!
Many thanks to the Taira family and King’s Hawaiian team for a wonderful day and demonstrating what ohana is!
King’s Hawaiian Bakery
19161 Harborgate Way
Torrance, CA 90501
Phone: (877) 695–4227