The first thing you notice when you walk into 28 Derby isn’t so much the smell — the scent of fresh bread is expected of any self-respecting bakery — but just the production value of it all. There are huge ovens, neatly kept workstations, coffee machines, and rows and boxes of confectionary goodness awaiting pickup. There’s even a room specifically for making croissants, and that room is flanked by potted plants of herbs like rosemary and thyme.
The baker at the helm of the whole production is Migs Santiago, who leads me into the space wearing shorts charmingly dusted with flour and a white Uniqlo polo that is somehow impeccably clean. You might recognize Migs for the work he’s done for the mobile service Barista Box (that’s where the coffee machines come from!), so 28 Derby isn’t his first rodeo in the F&B industry, but sort of a natural extension of talents he’s always been honing.
“Baking was a hobby that I had, even in college,” says Migs, who even while he was a student was already working a load of cafe jobs, from Craft Coffee Workshop to Yardstick to Curator. “‘Cause I was making a lot of coffee, I needed something that would kind of keep me sane but at the same time not be so far away from coffee that I get distracted.”
Bread boi: Migs Santiago runs research and development center 28 Derby from the basement of his grandmother’s old house.
Naturally, what came next was to learn from the masters. Migs would go on to take baking and culinary classes at Enderun, working closely with top chefs and bakers. On top of that, he worked under Miguel Vargas of Bucky’s, and, for a little while, Richie Manapat of Panaderia Toyo.
“Moving forward,” he says, “we saw that coffee, pastries and bread — it all just kind of went together.”
The result is 28 Derby, a space less than a half a year old that serves more functions than the average bakery. What started out as Migs’ grandmother’s old house is now a space refitted and remodelled, sort of acting as an extension of the Barista Box business, where Migs and his team can test recipes. It’s a research and development center training itself to become a fully commercial venture. But it’s also still a place where you can buy fresh baked bread. Think of it as a hole in a wall sort of establishment, a chance for you to form close bonds with your local baker.
And while even Migs admits he and his team are operating at a chill space, he’ll still say, “If you’re faint of heart, don’t get into this business. It’s a lot of screaming, it’s a lot of tears. It’s a lot of burns.” He says this as he shows me the battle scars on his arms, oven burns that at first glance look like nasty dagger stabs.
“If you’re going to get into this line of work, be ready to sacrifice a lot.”
“If you’re going to get into this line of work, be ready to sacrifice a lot,” he says. “It’s a lot like advertising, in a sense? You have your set hours, you spend eight hours in the office, but there will always be a reason to stay longer.” It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that this business is so tough — you spend so much time around knives and fire, you’re bound to toughen up. On an average day, Migs and his team are spending “eight to 12, sometimes 14 hours a day” working, testing recipes, getting orders down.
What all that blood and sweat will eventually culminate into — though Migs is in no great rush — is a full-fledged commercial space, all the research and development put into practice on your plate. “In the future, we just wanna marry the coffee concept and the bakery concept—make a sandwich shop, a nice deli,” he says. “I think we can really make something amazing. Very simple, but amazing.” So take this whole production, which already has the bread game on lock, and bring in some wine, cheese, cold cuts, and of course Barista Box-level coffee. A daunting idea for some, but considering all the experience Migs has accrued even as a young twenty-something, it’s hard to imagine anyone else with the savvy to make it all work.
You can follow Migs on Instagram. If you’re interested in doing business with 28 Derby, you can check out their Instagram or Facebook.