Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sam's Cakes on The New Paper

Sam's on The New Paper

More young men are putting on the apron and hopping on the gravy train

By Esther Au Yong
October 20, 2007

THEY whip up delicious hotel-standard cakes, cook for private dinner parties and even make their own chocolate truffles.

They are not your typical housewife, but young, hot-blooded men.

All are under 25, with the youngest only 16.

Whlie others their age may be spending their weekends playing computer games or soccer, these guys are getting busy in the kitchen.

Many have turned their hobby into a lucrative business - either online or through word-of-mouth.

Such as Mr Mike Lau, who runs Creme Confections online.

He specialises in cheesecakes and chocolate cakes.


Mr Lau said: 'For me, cooking runs in the family. My mum used to run a food stall and now, she's semi-retired.

'So it was quite natural for me to go into a food-related business - baking.'

Mr Lau, 22, has a diploma in culinary skills from The Singapore International Hotel and Tourism College (Shatec) and has apprenticed at Justin Quek's La Petit Village and Emmanuel Stroobant's Saint Pierre.

'I started cooking and baking for friends and family when I was 15.

'It went on from there and early this year, my friends suggested that I start a small online business.'

Now, Mr Lau bakes about 20 cakes a week - each costs between $35 and $50.

He declined to reveal his profits, but said that he is confident that 'if I set up shop and sell cakes full time, I will have the orders to sustain it'.

His family has offered to help him financially and a cousin even volunteered to help with deliveries.

While Mr Lau is lucky to have support from his family, Mr JuliusChen, who sells chocolate truffles under the brand Julius Truffles, had a harder time convincing his.

The 22-year-old NUS sociology student said: 'I think they were worried that it would affect my studies or that I wasn't going to gain anything from this hobby.

'But they're okay with it now, especially since orders have been coming in.'

Now, he earns about $800 on good months, and $200 on slower months.

The bulk of his business comes from friends and family.

But is baking befitting of a man?

Of course, they say.

Mr Samuel Chan of Sam's Cakes and Bakes said: 'Look at celebrity chefs like Emmanuel Stroobant and Jamie Oliver. Actually, people believe that guys who can cook are more romantic.'

Besides baking carrot cupcakes, fruit cakes and cheesecakes, the 22-year-old Singapore Poly food technology student also conducts workshops to teach creative bread-making techniques.

The guys say satisfaction comes from watching their friends enjoy their masterpieces.

Said Mr Lau: 'A lot of the time, people don't believe I made the cakes that I bring to parties. they say I bought them.

'But when they eat a slice, they keep quiet and just keep eating.'

And often, it's also about networking and getting a headstart in the business world.

Said Mr Chen: 'Through this experience, I've come to know a lot of people, from students to professionals, and even, some high-society people. Chocolate, in a way, brought us together.

'And now, even if I stop selling chocolates and start selling something else, I'm confident my friends and customers will still support me because of the relationship that we have. They also know the quality and standard of my products.'

He has also formed a network with fellow male bakers.

He said: 'When I first started my online catalogue last year, I didn't know many of them. But now, I know at least 20 other young men who cook or bake.'

Mr Chen has even collaborated with some of them and added them to his website, forming an online community.

But not all have made a business out of their hobby.

For some, food remains just a passion.

For teenagers Jonathan and Sean Gwee, dabbling in cooking is an enjoyment that has helped them bond.

Said Jonathan, 18, a first-year medical student at NUS: 'I do other things like play games and all that too, but cooking is my passion.

'I enjoy experimenting with flavours and watching them interact.'

His brother Sean believes much can be improved in the local dining scene.

Said the 16-year-old who is sitting for his O-Levels this year: 'I would like to change the misconception that fine dining is all about being high class or that it's only for the rich, but really, it's an exciting alternative that's worth it.

'I hope more people will be more adventurous.'

Singaporeans who have tried these young men's creations say they are surprised at these homegrown talents.

Said Ms Amelia Koh, 35, a sales manager who has tried Mr Chan's cakes: 'I was very surprised when I found out that he's so young!

'But I enjoyed his cakes and most importantly, the good service from him. I'm glad more young men like him are following their dream.'