International bakery opens in Escondido
Owner Alejandro Diaz says Camila’s Bakery will serve Mexican, American, Italian and French pastries and desserts
In November 2018, the Wedeking family closed its last bakery in Escondido, ending an 83-year North County tradition. But last week, a new family bakery tradition was born in the shuttered shop on East Valley Parkway.
On Monday, Feb. 10, Alejandro Diaz opened Camila’s Bakery in the large gingerbread cottage-style store on East Valley Parkway at North Elm Street. The 36-year-old Escondido resident named the bakery after his 2-year-old daughter, Camila, and he hopes that one day his business will become as cherished a part of the city’s history as its predecessor.
Born in central Mexico, Diaz learned the art of baking while working for 16 years at Chico’s restaurant and Panaderia in San Marcos. But he always longed to own his own family business. So when he found the former Wedeking’s space he decided to take the leap and open an internationally themed bakery.
Camila’s head baker is Bryan Hernandez, 24, who grew up in Escondido and has a communications degree from Cal State San Marcos. Hernandez said learning to bake and cook when he was 11 years old changed his life.
“I used to run the streets as a little kid but when I discovered my passion, being in the kitchen kept me out of trouble,” said Hernandez, who said he’s best known around Escondido as “Chef Pepper,” the nickname he uses for his Christian hip-hop DJ business.
Hernandez said he hasn’t had much time for anything but baking over the past few weeks as Hernandez got the business up and running.
Except for the new sign, the exterior of Camila’s looks the same as it did when it was Wedeking’s, but inside, the retail area has been reconfigured into two retail areas. Final construction is still under way, but there will be two entrances when the work is complete. The doors from the parking lot serve as the main entrance to the bakery, while two doors facing the street will be for a cafe area with table seating where customers can order sandwiches, smoothies and other lunch-style items.
In its opening week, the bakery cases were filled with mostly Mexican pan dulce baked goods. But in the coming weeks, there are plans to expand the selection to a broad mix of American, French and Italian baked goods and chilled desserts. Diaz’s background is in Mexican pastry, while Hernandez is cross-trained in American, Mexican and French techniques. Another chef in the kitchen, Diaz’s nephew, trained in an Italian bakery.
“We are going to have everything anybody would want,” Hernandez said. “We don’t want to give anyone a reason to go anywhere else.”
As in most Mexican bakeries, known as panaderias, customers grab a tray and pair of tongs and choose their own sweets from the display cases. And, in panaderia fashion, the prices are very low, ranging from 65 cents for a regular size concha (shell-shaped) pastry to $2.50 for a large section of frosted sheet cake.
Among the dozens of selections available this past week were jelly roll cakes known as niño envueltos, flaky, ear-shaped palmier-style cookies known as orejas, croissant-shaped breads known as cuernas, shaped breads known as pan fino, a laminated layered pastry known as banderilla and large slices of bread topped with butter and sugar known as rebanada.
There was also a variety of vegan and gluten-free muffins, doughnuts, caramel-glazed brownies, frosted cinnamon rolls, coconut macaroon cookies cream-filled eclairs and mini-loaves of banana bread. Still to come, Hernandez said, are American pies, cakes and cookies, French macaron cookies and custom-order cakes.
When asked if Camila’s would try to bring back some of the baked goods that Wedeking’s was known for, Hernandez said he didn’t have access to the Wedeking’s recipes but would work hard to fulfill whatever customers request.
“We want to be the neighborhood bakery. We hope people will tell us what they want,” he said. “We’ve been getting two hours sleep a night getting ready to open and we hope people will like what we offer.”
A bakery has stood on the site since 1974, when Bob Wedeking and his wife, Esta Mae, outgrew their shop on Grand Avenue in downtown Escondido and decided to move to a larger space on the east side of town. Bob was a second-generation baker, having learned the trade from his father, Glen Wedeking, who opened the family’s first Wedeking Bakery in downtown Oceanside in 1935. Like his father, Bob studied at the American Institute of Baking in Chicago and then worked in his father’s shop in the 1940s and ‘50s before launching his own store in Escondido in 1957. The Oceanside store closed in 1970.
Bob Wedeking passed away on June 5, 2015, and his sons — Mike, Mark and Randy — took over the business. But Mark Wedeking told the Union-Tribune in 2018 that it was hard to make a profit with competition from supermarket bakeries and Costco, so they decided to close the business and sell the building in November of that year.
Camila’s Bakery is open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily at 815 E. Valley Parkway. Opening up on the same corner in the coming weeks will be Santa Ana Fresh Mexican Food, a quick-service grilled Mexican tacqueria founded 22 years ago by Julio Posada, with locations in Vista, Palmdale and the San Diego neighborhoods of City Heights and Talmadge. It replaces The Wooden Spoon restaurant, which closed in November.