- FRANCESCA FRANCO
Le Cordon Bleu alumni brings Samoan-Filipino fusion to Tri-Valley area
Bay Area pastry chef Mariah Taloa is bringing Samoan and Filipino flavors and representation to Stockton and Tracy, CA, through her made-to-order online bakery, Taloa’s Bakery.
Taloa’s Bakery boasts a variety of baked goodies, including their colorful Filimoa cookies – a take on the Girl Scout Samoa cookie. Filimoas are baked to perfection, coated in purple ube and melted white Ghirardelli chocolate, and sprinkled with crispy coconut flakes. These wonderful delights are made fresh to order.
The unofficial slogan of Taloa’s Bakery, she says, is “Bringing you the best of both islands,” a nod to her Samoan-Filipino roots. An example of this fusion is the bakery’s ube pani popo, a sweet Samoan roll filled with Filipino purple yam. The pastry chef confesses she was not a fan of purple yam until her brother suggested the idea to fill a Pani Popo with Ube.
Growing up in Daly City, Taloa is proud to be from a town with a large Filipino population. Yet, she distinctly remembers the lack of a Samoan community.
“It’s interesting because a lot of people don’t know what Samoan cuisine is. When it came to Polynesians, there was no one. We were roped under [Asian American and Pacific Islander],” Taloa said. “My mission with Taloa’s Bakery is to bring awareness to Polynesian food.”
A child of working-class immigrant parents, Taloa cites her family as one of her biggest baking inspirations. She remembers her 10-year-old self baking dinner rolls in her childhood kitchen. But her earliest memory of being dazzled by the art of baking was at the age of five when her grandfather would bake “mountains” of puto, a Filipino steamed rice cake, using a make-shift steamer consisting of cupcake tins and liner.
“I remember my eyes growing so big looking at the table of puto at family parties, looking at it like gold,” Taloa recalled fondly.
Taloa knew she wanted to study Culinary Arts at an early age. While her peers focused on getting into the top universities and colleges, Taloa believed her talents were better suited for more hands-on subjects.
She proved her mettle at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in San Francisco. Focusing on the art of pastry and baking, she sailed through her practical coursework, earning A’s for most of her culinary academic career. After graduating in 2011, Taloa worked under the San Francisco restaurant group Slanted Door as the pastry lead for their Moss Room restaurant at the Academy of Sciences.
“I guess with culinary school, it’s about attention to detail, your work ethic, and how fast you gotta bang out the product,” Taloa said.
According to Taloa, line cooks and pastry chefs in the early 2010s were paid $8 to $12 at most. This financial stress compelled her to pursue a career in the corporate world. Despite this change, Taloa credits the event planning experience she learned as the reason behind the success of her nonprofit organization Kommunity Hub.
Co-founded by Taloa and Leilani Alfonso, Kommunity Hub provides workshops, educational tools, and event opportunities to small and local food businesses in Pacific Islander, Oceania, and Filipino communities throughout the Tri-Valley area.
“Taloa’s Bakery sponsors Kommunity Hub — not just the events but incubator programs and helping local businesses get on their feet,” Taloa said.
Her advice to the next generation is never to forget their dreams and to always align themselves with people, situations, and paths that speak to them.
“I’ve never felt more fulfilled in my life,” she said.