In a home full of chefs, Patrick Choy was an outlier. He didn't like to cook regular meals, like dinner. He preferred desserts - and often tells the story of stealing his sister's Easy-Bake Oven and teaching himself the rudiments of his eventual career in doll-sized fashion.
"We had enough cooks," he said of his family, who owned a restaurant in Hawaii and whose members include older brother Sam Choy, of poke restaurant fame.
Hawaiian-born, Choy cut his baking teeth at the Marriott Hotel company, first in a single hotel, and rising up to a corporate pastry chef position created for him. Now, he presides over Patrick's Café and Bakery in White Center.
It's a place that reminds you of the bar in "Cheers!" if it dealt in sweets, not beer.
"I treat this as my home, and I want people who come in here to feel that this is their home, too," Choy said.
He greets workers and customers with the same warmth, pressing a scone, a piece of coconut cake, coffee, and a haupia cinnamon roll on me — covered in Hawaiian coconut lime pudding rather than cream cheese icing. He makes it impossible to say no, and I wasn't sorry (I did offer to pay — an offer Choy refused).
The store, a cute little house with outside seating and umbrellas to shade from sun or rain, is small, but it includes a small kitchen where the staff bakes up recipes Choy created that remind him of home. His haupia cinnamon roll, lilikoi (passion fruit), shortbread, and coconut macadamia nut cookies (Choy's personal favorite) all remind him of flavors and foods from the islands.
The café's offerings aren't confined to sweets. There are savory items, as well, including a Hawaiian-style breakfast that includes spam or Portuguese sausage as bacon alternatives and rice instead of potatoes (the bacon and spuds are available, too, though). Kahlua pork, kimchi fried rice, and lumpia are all on the menu, too. The spam musubi got thumbs up from the photographer for this story, as well.
COVID did a number on a lot of restaurants. Choy was able to offer take-out and curbside pick-up and thus weathered the worst of it.
"About 90% of my business is take out anyway," he said.
The two-week shutdown gave him the opportunity to deep clean the place, and once stores were allowed to open for take-out, he did. He opted out of delivery because the companies that do the deliveries take too big of a bite out of revenue.
Despite doing fairly well during the pandemic — albeit with shorter hours — at the end of July, Choy thought he'd have to close for lack of employees. Many of his existing workers were headed back to college after more than a year at home. Despite a couple of months advance warning, he couldn't find staff. He finally told his customers he was thinking of closing, and they came through with recommendations and referrals. When interviewed, Choy had four new people in training and was breathing easier.
Another pain from the pandemic is the supply chain issues that so many businesses are suffering through and the increased cost of goods he manages to get his hands on.
"I pay more than $300 for a case of gloves," Choy said. "I don't make money from gloves."
When Choy was little, the rule in the house was, "if you want to eat, you have to cook," he said. "But I was the youngest. I used to pester the staff [at the family restaurant] to feed me, and my mom would get mad."
He had to pick up some cooking slack while short of workers, but Choy is anxious to get back to the business of coming up with new holiday recipes and ways to "Hawaiianize" food. He does an Irish soda bread he's added fruit to and a popular pumpkin pie with haupia. He's also back to designing and baking custom wedding cakes.
There is a sometimes dream of retiring to Hawaii and selling just their chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies from a cart. But Choy is hopeful that he can successfully return to the regular opening hours of pre-COVID days and keep greeting those who walk through the little green door like ohana, which is Hawaiian for family.
Patrick's Café and Bakery is open Thursday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Disclaimer: While some products, services and/or accommodations in this post were provided without charge, all of the opinions within are those of the author and the Seattle Refined editorial board.