To Cyndi Reynolds and Chris Heitzman, being “Ōrwaiian” means many things, but at its core the word symbolizes the journeys they’ve made–both together and separately–through food, family, and culture. The journey for Cyndi began when she and her family moved to Oregon from Hawaii, leaving one beautiful place for a very different one. It was a big change for an 11 year old who grew up with warm sand between her toes, and when she and her siblings felt a little homesick, it was the soothing taste of the island’s complex cuisine that relieved the pain of being offshore.
Cyndi eventually began cooking her way through her family’s recipes, learning to make her Vovo’s malasadas as well as one of her favorite childhood snacks, mochi crunch.
Hawaii’s history of European and American colonialism combined with 19th century immigrant labor forces arriving from Japan, Korea, China, Puerto Rico, Portugal and the Philippines have given present-day Hawaiian food a dynamic mix of flavors, cooking styles, and ingredients. Cyndi’s own family is a proud mix of Portuguese and Native Hawaiian heritage, and whether it was snacks sent over by her Grandma or homemade malasadas (a kind of Portuguese donut) from her other grandma, called Vovo, the nostalgic flavors of this special Hawaiian gastronomy always made her feel at home. She eventually began cooking her way through her family’s recipes, learning to make her Vovo’s malasadas as well as one of her favorite childhood snacks, mochi crunch.
Chris, meanwhile, grew up right here in Oregon, the proud son of cooks and bakers who instilled in him a love for delicious food early on. Like any true PNW-er, he’s got an abiding passion for being outdoors, and his thirst for travel has taken him on many adventures. While he and Cindy were living in South Carolina, they started cooking together more seriously, exploring their shared love of scratch-made cooking. They drilled down into Cyndi's family recipes, learning how to kālua pork in an earthen oven and exploring the rich tradition of Hawaii’s baked goods, but it was the snacks that really got them. Hawaii’s snack culture is famous for its variety: crack seed, shave ice, dried cuttlefish, hurricane popcorn, and spam musubi are but a few of the islands’ many unique delicacies, but the one they kept returning to was the one that brought Cyndi so much comfort as a homesick kid: mochi crunch.
Mochi crunch is made from a simple rice flour dough that is fried and then typically flavored with soy sauce and sugar. For Cyndi and Chris, the “a ha!” moment came when they decided to season the dough with homemade furikake before frying it, a move that added extra layers of flavor to the finished product. They also decided to use tamari, a wheat-free soy sauce favored for its depth of flavor, making their mochi crunch “accidentally gluten-free.” They knew they’d found their passion (after all, every good journey needs snacks!), and after more experimenting perfected their new business’s flagship offering. Their original Sticky Mochi Crunch was soon followed by Mango Mochi Crunch, Cinnamon Mochi Crunch, and (dark horse for Wellspent staff fave) Birthday Cake Mochi Crunch. And after moving back to Portland, they decided to go all-in on Hawaiian treats, opening Ō The Bake Shop in Chris’s native Gresham where in addition to Mochi Crunch, they make mochi brownies, Hawaiian rolls, and Cyndi’s grandfather’s beloved malasadas. Seems to us like the journey’s just beginning.