We Washingtonians know that people are attracted to our majestic state from all over the world, but particularly from the islands sprinkled throughout the Pacific Ocean.
Citizens of Taiwan and the Philippines, and residents of the islands of American states such as Alaska and Hawaii, find Washington to be a convenient port of entry to the United States.
Another one of these islands, Samoa, also finds its residents making their way to our beautiful state—and bringing their cuisine along with them. There is actually quite the Samoan community here in Pierce County—and they sure did miss their native foods.
One of these Samoans who now calls Washington home is Ed Leota, one of the owners of the Taste of Samoa Bakery in Parkland. He, along with his uncle, Ron Manning, own and operate the restaurant. Manning runs the business end, and Leota helms the kitchen.
“I started baking from home, for fundraisers and gym nights in Tacoma,” says Leota. “At gym nights you pay three dollars to play volleyball and basketball and we also sell some of our food there.”
You can say that Leota learned by doing. “Besides watching my mom cook while I was a kid, I didn’t learn anything else back then,” says Leota. “I have zero background in the restaurant industry. I learned everything off of YouTube.” Ed worked on perfecting his craft in the kitchen through research, taste tests and trying out new recipes.
Manning, originally from Louisville, Kentucky, is Leota’s uncle by marriage and was interested in becoming involved in a new opportunity. “Edward was cooking before I moved to Seattle. I was looking in to starting a business, and Edward was looking for a partner. Once I arrived, we spoke about a possibility of opening a business. I took care of the business’ admin, banking and legal aspects, such as trips to the Department of Health, opening banking business account, and so on.”
The two men put in long hours, but it has been more than worth it. They feel a certain satisfaction about being able to deliver a taste of home to the Polynesian community in Pierce County.
“The majority of our customers are Samoan,” says Leota. “In fact, we chose this location because it is close to home and there are a lot of Polynesians in the area.”
Chimes in Ron: “We didn’t have any significant restaurant experience, just the passion to start a business and share our recipes with everyone.”
Speaking of food, the most popular menu items are manapuas, which are listed as Samoan tacos on the Taste of Samoa menu. Another favorite is the musubis, which is like a Samoan version of sushi and they feature Spam heavily. Taste of Samoa’s island juices are also quite a hit.
Leota’s personal favorite is the corned beef taco. Manning enjoys Taste of Samoa’s pineapple juice, beef teriyaki and the pani popo (coconut sweet rolls).
Of course, aside from providing Polynesians with a taste of home, Leota and Manning have also been exposing newbies to Samoan cuisine, and to rave reviews.
“They are shocked; they absolutely love it,” says Manning.
Adds Leota, “That is our goal, to expand our Taste Of Samoa outside of the Samoan community.”
“We have a more diverse customer base lately,” says Manning. “Unlike when we first opened and the majority of our customers were Polynesian. We get a lot of first timers through word of mouth and social media.”
Manning and Leota invite you to come in and try Taste of Samoa’s traditional Samoan and family recipes and to taste a free sample of one of their popular island juices.
For more information about Taste of Samoa Manapua Bakery, visit their website, call them at 800-267-9367 or stop by for some tasty treats at 13817 Pacific Avenue South in Tacoma.