Jonathan Peregrino’s love of food started at a young age. His mom cooked a lot, including making a dessert out of ube, a Filipino purple yam.
“I grew up with the sweets and cooking and being around food,” says Peregrino, who grew up in California and moved to Michigan a few years ago before settling in Detroit about a year and a half ago. But he originally didn’t start his career in food. He worked in sales and marketing for 15 years before deciding a couple of years ago to make a career change.
He had long thought about opening a restaurant but then decided to focus on baking, which he always had a knack for, he says. Relying on his marketing background, he saw an opportunity in the Motor City not just for Asian sweet treats, “but specifically Filipino because you don't really see too many options with that. And so for me, it was just really trying to incorporate sort of some of my heritage … [and] expose a lot more people to some of those flavors.”
He went to the Philippines to enroll in a pastry course and then came back to Detroit. Since then, he competed on the Food Network’s “Holiday Baking Championship,” which also helped him build up his name. These days he can be found at Oak & Reel where he works in the pastry department.
He fuses Filipino flavors into other types of baked goods, for example, he puts cinnamon chocolate ganache into pandesal, a Filipino bread roll. Growing up he would put cream cheese into pandesal, so he has an everything pandesal with cream cheese and the seasoning blend. Like the bagel.
This weekend he’s collaborating with Huddle
, a soft-serve ice cream shop in downtown Detroit.
“We wanted to launch this in May [to coincide with] Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month,” he says. “With everything that's been going on [with the rise in attacks on Asian Americans in the past year], I was just like we should try to do this a little sooner, and give back to the community.”
He is making an ube soft serve ice cream with two topping choices (toasted coconut and ube cookies) and is also offering ube cookies and brownies.
Ube, the ingredient he knew and loved growing up, was the perfect ingredient to showcase in a sweet treat and introduce people to flavors he grew up with, he says.
“It's a very good introduction to Filipino flavors, because [it has] a very mild taste, but it’s also something a little bit unique and different.”
Peregrino doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar — yet — but he takes special orders via Instagram and his website.