In this edition of the Site Spotlight, we interview Karen Yang, owner of Chez Karine Bakery.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you started Chez Karine Bakery.
The bulk of my professional career has been in technology. After graduating from Stanford with a Computer Science degree, I worked as a software engineer for a number of startups in Silicon Valley. Every couple of years I would take some time off to spend time doing pastry.
I got my Patisserie Diploma from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. My first “stage” or internship was a short, 2 week stint in the pastry kitchen of the Marriot Hotel in Champs Elysées. I was in charge of migniardises and a few plated desserts. This was probably the beginning of my love affair with patisserie.
Once I got my pastry diploma, I did a stage at Pierre Hermé patisserie. I worked in his commissary in Rue Vaugirard, working with the “macaroniers”, making macarons for 7 hours a day. I also worked in his boutique in Rue Bonaparte, and was in charge of making the “Ispahan”, which is one of his signature desserts — 2 large macarons filled with rose buttercream, lychees, and raspberries. My colleagues joked that my stage was the “macaron stage” because that was what I was stuck doing for most of my stage.
Unsurprisingly, Pierre Hermé has been my greatest influence, and macarons are one of my signature products. Working in his kitchen opened my eyes and honed my palate. This was where I learned to never compromise on raw materials — always start with good ingredients, then follow it up with good technique, and you will come out with an exceptional product.
I lived in the Bay Area from 1995-2009, and so I’m also greatly influenced by Bay Area cuisine, which you can say is more rustic and down-to-earth — greatly inspired by local and seasonal produce. I shied away from haute patisserie for a few years, and learned to appreciate the simplicity of seasonal desserts. Am a big fan of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. Although Chez Karine is largely a French patisserie, I hope to incorporate some of the simplicity and approachability of Bay area desserts into our product offering at some point in time.
Chez Karine started as an online-based home business in San Francisco in 2004. I contracted some developers in Romania through elance.com, who built me a nice web site wherein people could see photos of my products and order them for pick up. I did this for about 6 months; after which I grew quite burned out doing everything myself and decided to go back to being a software engineer.
By 2011 I had moved back to Manila and quit my software job and was contemplating another shot at entrepreneurship. That’s when I decided to make the move and open Chez Karine Bakery here in Manila in 2012.
2. Your macarons look great! What makes your macarons unique?
What sets ours apart is the unique texture of our shells and the quality and taste of our fillings. We really want you to recognize the flavor that you’re eating. We go through this arduous process to make our macarons, and spend a significant amount of time doing product development before we release a new flavor. Each macaron is made by hand with a lot of thoughtfulness and passion.
3. What do you enjoy most about running your bakery?
I like the constant learning that comes with the job — discovering new tastes, techniques, and ideas. I also enjoy seeing the fruits of our labor in the happy faces that walk out of our store.
4. What are your favorite items on the menu?
I’ve always loved our Vanilla Royal Pudding and our dark chocolate macaron. I also love our Iced Matcha Latte.
5. You have a fantastic looking website! How was your website designed?
We recently launched our new web site. Glad you like it. We collaborated with iGen Technologies, a local engineering firm here in Manila, to design the site.
6. Any final comments?
Thanks for featuring us and hosting our site all these years!