Steven Cheung takes the exit at Kettleman Metropolis, a dusty city with an In-N-Out Burger and the proverbial midway level between Los Angeles and San Francisco on Interstate 5. He pulls over to relaxation right here on his weekly drive between the 2 California cities — every serves as a base for his burgeoning residence pastry enterprise. Cheung makes his common commute armed with podcasts and scheduled telephone calls, just like the one he had with Eater, to assist preserve him occupied through the typically dreary six-hour drive. This journey, whereas seeming routine, is notable: Cheung could be the one chef commuting weekly between Los Angeles and San Francisco for his well-liked bakery, Spoons Patisserie, which focuses on Asian-inspired egg tarts, cookies, and pastries all baked in residences in Westwood and the Bay Space’s Visitacion Valley.
The fantastic eating veteran has needed to adapt to this actuality previously yr after leaving his place as an govt pastry chef. As an alternative of business ovens and a staff of pastry cooks, it’s simply him, manning a single oven at every condominium. However potential dessert sellers will discover it straightforward to position an order as soon as they check out his Instagram account, the place they’ll see images Cheung takes himself of his colourful, fastidiously formed pastries. As Cheung has discovered, lovely images could be one key to unlocking a profitable on-line meals enterprise. “I like taking orders on Instagram as a result of it helps me create a bond with my clients,” says Cheung, who will typically prolong order placement to lengthy chats about work, household, life, and the rest as a manner of connecting with different pastry lovers.
Cheung hails from the Bay Space and educated on the Hong Kong Culinary Academy earlier than working at high-end resorts and even creating the pastry division at Stanford College. His father was a 15-year kitchen veteran of San Francisco’s iconic Yank Sing dim sum restaurant, and he typically introduced residence egg tarts to share with the household. The youthful Cheung named Spoons Patisserie as an homage to the spoons he’s collected from the world over throughout his travels, opening it as a home-based, cottage-industry enterprise in Might 2020 after he was furloughed from his job at a catering firm.
His expertise is seen within the detailed, intricate desserts depicted on Instagram. White paper packing containers reveal symmetrical egg tarts in deep purple, faint yellow, earthen inexperienced, and porcelain white. The product of the Portuguese colonization of Macau and British occupancy of Hong Kong, egg tarts nearly at all times are available in a standard custard taste, due to their origins in French pastry. However the delectable treats turned the non secular and gustatory property of southern China within the twentieth century, exhibiting up in Hong Kong home windows and following the Cantonese diaspora of the Pacific Rim to cities like Vancouver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
Cheung grew up loving these tarts, additionally known as dan tat, however questioned why nobody had tried experimenting with their taste. He makes the basic custard, however he additionally makes use of ube for the beautiful royal purple, Japanese matcha for the sensible inexperienced, and, surprisingly, almond jello for the ivory white. “It was a manner to make use of all the further egg whites I had,” Cheung says of the acquainted Cantonese almond jello dessert. In latest weeks, he’s even been making durian egg tarts at his San Francisco bakery, utilizing the aromatic Southeast Asian fruit that garners a robust response of both ardour or excessive aversion as a consequence of its heady aroma.
It appears miraculous that Cheung can constantly make tender tarts with crumbly, buttery crusts in a house oven, however he says all he wants is a cautious eye and an oven thermometer. Down in Westwood, the place he travels with the intention to spend the weekdays along with his accomplice (a graduate college scholar at UCLA), the oven is even much less subtle: a classic gasoline range that has only one knob that doesn’t even present the right temperature. The dimensions of the oven limits his manufacturing to only six dozen egg tarts a day, and he spends the rest of the week baking caneles, matcha chocolate cookies, ube alfajores, and hojicha financiers.
The operation culminates every week with scheduled pickups in Westwood, one thing his neighbors have definitely observed. “Typically my neighbors will surprise why there are such a lot of vehicles pulling up in the course of the afternoon. Then they’ll knock on my door to see if there are any pastries left that they’ll purchase,” Cheung says. All of the preorders occur on Instagram, with dozens of packing containers offered out for weeks prematurely. “I’ve individuals driving many hours — generally all the best way from Orange County — to get the desserts,” he says. He thinks his clients are keen to make the drive and pay not insubstantial costs ($50 for a dozen egg tarts and as much as $55 for the gold leaf-laced almond jello tarts) as a result of he’s centered on utilizing Asian elements and flavors. The desserts even have a not-too-sweet style that Asian palates are likely to desire Those that miss out on the possibility to preorder can examine Instagram for last-minute gross sales on sampler packing containers, which go for $40 and embrace a little bit of all the things he’s baked through the week.
Cheung credit his Instagram account, with simply over 9,000 followers, in addition to an early report in SF Gate for his early success. His enterprise is stronger within the Bay Space, most likely because of the metropolis’s longstanding love of egg tarts, however gross sales are nonetheless substantial right here in Los Angeles, which is why he volleys between the 2. The cash is sufficient that he’s not serious about taking a company job once more, particularly along with his most up-to-date place as a catering chef not more likely to return anytime quickly.
Cheung’s objective, nonetheless, is to fund true dessert locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco. That might contain a variety of funding and bodily areas, but when he sustains his success, it’s arduous to not see the enthusiastic following for his pastries making precise shops attainable. In his wildest goals, the open-to-the-public patisseries would serve baked items and drinks within the mornings, then convert to one thing rather more bold within the evenings. “I’d like to have a tasting menu the place individuals may come after their dinner and expertise an entire parade of desserts,” Cheung says.
Till then, one of the best guess for sugar lovers is to order a field of Cheung’s colourful egg tarts and boast about nabbing them on social media.
In the mean time, all preorders have been crammed, which implies one of the best probability to get a sampler field is to take a look at Cheung’s Instagram for flash gross sales. In any other case, Spoons Patisserie’s website has a operating waitlist.