Many Singaporeans flock to Bake when they visit Japan, but not many know that its signature baked cheese tarts were created in Singapore. The chain's president and chief executive Shintaro Naganuma, 30, said this when he was in town to launch the brand here, ahead of the opening of its first Singapore outlet on Friday.
The Hokkaido native says Kinotoya, an established Western confectionery in Sapporo that his family runs, was invited to take part in a week-long Hokkaido fair in Meidi-Ya supermarket at Liang Court in November 2011.
On the third day here, the booth ran out of paper boxes to store its chilled blueberry cheese tarts. That forced him to think of a quick alternative for displaying the tarts.
He decided to place them on metal baking trays, which sparked the idea of baking the tarts and serving them warm instead.
Much to his surprise, the warm cheese tarts became a hit. From 50 tarts a day, the booth started selling 1,000 a day. He says in Japanese via a translator: "I was shocked as I grew up eating my father's chilled cheese tarts that was sold at his shop and always thought that was the best way of serving it."
Upon returning to Hokkaido, he started selling the baked cheese tarts in Kinotoya's outlets. He removed the blueberries from the cheese mousse and made the tarts smaller so they could be eaten easily.
Demand was so huge that he started Bake in Tokyo in 2014 to sell the tarts. The chain now has 13 outlets - nine in Japan, two in Seoul and one each in Hong Kong and Bangkok. Singapore will be Bake's fifth overseas outlet.
To keep the quality consistent, the tarts are made in a central kitchen in Sapporo before being air-flown here every two weeks. Staff here will brush egg wash on the tarts before they are baked again. The process is similar in its other overseas outlets.
Two staff from the Japanese headquarters will be based here to train staff. About 5,000 tarts will be available here daily. There will also be seasonal flavours such as chocolate.
Mr Naganuma plans to open three outlets here in the next two to three years and wants to bring in Bake's sister brands, such as Croquant Chou Zakuzaku, which sells crunchy cream puffs. He says: "By limiting it to three outlets here, we can focus our efforts on a single product to make it the best."