These two pastry chefs make life in Davao sweeter

Chefs Andrea Maranan of Dulce Desserts and Joel Rodriguez of Osvaldo Cakes prove that Metro Manila doesn’t have a monopoly of culinary talents.

The province of Davao is known for many fascinating things. It’s where the Philippines’ highest peak is, Mt. Apo, which is also home to the majestic Philippine Eagle. It has the sweetest durian and pomelos and some of the country’s best chocolates. 

It also has a burgeoning foodie scene helmed by local talents, many of whom use local and sustainable ingredients and push their creativity to the limits. 

While on assignment in Davao late last year, I had the pleasure of tasting some of the best cakes and pastries I’ve ever had. What I had were all so good I knew I had to write about the talented individuals who were responsible for such unforgettable treats. 

I’m so happy that chefs Andrea Maranan of Dulce Desserts and Joel Rodriguez of Osvaldo Cakes agreed to be interviewed by The Post. These two gifted individuals prove that Metro Manila doesn’t have a monopoly of culinary talents.

Next time you find yourselves in Davao, do yourself a favor and make a beeline for their shops. 

Andrea Maranan, Dulce Desserts

Chef Andrea Maranan of Dulce Desserts in Davao City and Tagum, Davao del Norte. All photos by Johanna L. Añes-de la Cruz

I first met chef Andrea during the Boozy Brunch event of the Davao Food and Wine Festival last year and immediately fell in love with her croissants—buttery, flaky, to die for.

“I always had a fascination with food—how it tastes, how it is made. I grew up watching shows from the Food Network. But cooking or baking was never a natural talent of mine, so I never dared to try it,” she shares.

It was during a cultural/language tour of Europe in college where she encountered the “pastry that changed her life.” 

“In Paris, we stayed at a school that would serve all sorts of pastries for breakfast. I remember biting into a warm, buttery, chocolate-y pain au chocolat and being amazed at how much craftsmanship, thought, and care the bakers must have put into something as everyday as breakfast,” she recounts. “I realized that I wanted to do that too.”

Chef Andrea enrolled in a pastry course at Enderun Colleges which is partnered with École Ducasse, meaning their training was mostly in French pastries and desserts. 

“I credit them, especially my instructor, chef Andreas, for laying a strong foundation in my pastry training. More than that, they opened my world to new flavors and desserts that weren’t so available that time. I mean, I’d never heard of geranium before, but there we were making entremets with it,” she says.

After that she slowly started buying baking equipment and ingredients to practice at home. By 2014, she had already opened her own by-order pastry shop, Dulce Desserts. 

Word spread of her heavenly creations that by 2018 she was already able to put up her café in Tagum. 

“When the pandemic hit, we tried making weekly deliveries to our customers in Davao. We realized that we had a market we could grow here, so we eventually opened our Davao branch in 2022,” she says.

Chef Andrea shares that their market is broad—from little kids craving macarons, to high school friends enjoying honeycomb lattes after school, to Titas enjoying afternoon tea. 

“We meet different people everyday. We consider ourselves lucky to be able to grow long-lasting relationships with most of our customers. We’ve had customers who’ve made us part of their engagement party, then wedding, then eventually birthday parties for their kids.” 

Among the bestsellers in Dulce Desserts are chef Andrea’s macarons, éclairs, tarts, and entremets. 

Her macarons come in assorted flavors like salted caramel, matcha, earl grey tea, whisky cocoa nib, lemon, strawberry, and peanut butter chocolate. 

She says that the most popular item is their kouign-amann, which has a crisp caramelized exterior, and a soft, buttery interior. 

“We added cakes and cookies as well, then eventually to breads and viennoiserie. Adding items to our menu doesn’t come very easy to us. We like to overthink – doing and redoing recipes until it’s perfect. But it’s never perfect. We’re always looking for ways to improve our products,” she explains. 

She and her team also try to use local ingredients when possible, but chef Andrea admits that it has been difficult to source some baking ingredients locally. 

“But the situation’s changing. Now, we can get vanilla beans from Batangas. Here in Davao, we’re lucky to have very quality chocolates, milk, coconut flour and sugar, and cheese made in the region! It’s quite exciting.”  

Truffle, honey, and brie croissant

With the growing success of Dulce Desserts, chef Andrea says she’s planning to open one more branch in Davao. 

“Eventually, we hope to open in our cities, too,” she shares. “We’re thinking Manila or Siargao. Crossing all fingers and toes!”

Dulce Desserts is located at Rabe Subdivision, Tagum, Davao del Norte and CT Drive, Tulip Drive, Juna Subd, Davao City. Follow Dulce Desserts on Instagram for more information.

Chef Joel Rodriguez, Osvaldo’s Cakes

The author with chef Joel Rodriguez of Osvaldo’s Cakes in Davao.

I met chef Joel during Davao Food and Festival’s opening night. His cheesecakes were so divine I snuck a few slices to my hotel room. To this day, I feel an ache in my heart that I could only have a taste of his cakes if I fly out to Davao. Oh well. 

One of chef Joel’s earliest memory of cooking was back in fourth grade when he was able to cook a pasta dish all by himself. “But earlier than that, I would be always interested with the things around the kitchen,” he recalls. 

“It was in fifth grade when my curiosity in baking sparked. My sister was into baking and this fueled my inquisitive mind to uncover the chemistry that is. I was intrigued by how a homogenous wet mixture would turn into something, say solid. Then the rest was history.”

Chef Joel doesn’t have a formal culinary education, nor does he want to be called a chef (I insist, though). What he had during his formative years were countless cookbooks and articles which he read “anytime, anywhere.”

“My deep passion is what drove me and still drives me to be in this industry. I have attended classes by esteemed pastry chefs, here and abroad,” chef Joel says. “I went to Wilton to further some basic knowledge on cake decorating. Classes with Jill Sandique, Dorothy Ferreria, Boo Maramba to name a few, as well as classes at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago.” 

After graduating with a physiotherapy degree, he worked right away in hotels such as the Marco Polo Davao and the Mandarin Oriental Manila. He admits, though, that baking had always been at the back of his mind until 2011.

“After coming home from abroad, my good brother and his good wife helped me out open a bakeshop. This inspired me to share my palate with the locals in the city,” he shares.  

Osvaldo’s Cakes is now in its 13th year in 2024. Despite the success chef Joel is enjoying, he wants to keep it small and artisanal so he can cater to his clients on a more personal level.

He says his carrot cake and cheesecakes are the standouts over the years. Further proof of his talent is when his Blue Cheese, Fig, and Walnut Cheesecake was included in the Inquirer’s Philippines Best Desserts Volume 1. 

Dark Caramel Cheesecake with Kaffir Macaroon Crust

But chef Joel refuses to rest on his laurels. He continues to innovate, elevating the usual flavors and injecting new flavors.

For instance, he says, he tries using lavender, thyme, kaffir, bergamot, and other herbs in his cakes. “Now that the scope in the culinary flavor/world has largely opened, there are no limits really,” the statuesque chef enthuses.

He also shares that he takes inspiration from his travels. “It is with seeing and tasting different flavor profiles, and opening up your senses that you can truly appreciate what one country/culture has to offer. I’ve been to almost 30 countries and I can say that the world has still more to offer.”

Another source of inspiration, he adds, “My imagination, too. Maybe I have a wild imaginative mind.”

Blue Cheese, Fig & Walnut Cheesecake

Chef Joel says he uses a mixture of both locally and internationally sourced goods for his ingredients. Like chef Andrea, he is glad that most goods from overseas are already here and are not as difficult to source as they were in previous years.  

Asked what’s next for him following the success of Osvaldo’s Cakes, chef Joel shares that he dreams of a small café where he can cater to locals with the dishes and desserts that are close to his heart. 

“Beyond the borders of the city is the bigger dream that I pray, one day, would come to fruition. When? That is the question I ask myself as well.” 

Osvaldo’s Cakes is located at 3JM7+6C9, Loyola St, Barrio Obrero, Davao City. Follow Osvaldo’s Cakes on Instagram for more information.

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