In our 'Patissiers of Shanghai' series, Dominic Ngai and Betty Richardson speak to some of Shanghai’s makers and bakers, digging deep into different aspects of their work. Up next is Cindy Wang, a patissier, blogger and pastry class instructor.
“Did you ever cry, in the kitchen?” we ask gingerly, aware that we must sound like a pseudo-therapist to our subject. “Yes,” Cindy Wang answers. “But never in front of the chefs or my colleagues. The last thing you want to do is show weakness,” luckily it seems our interviewee is made of sterner stuff.
Growing up in a traditional Asian family, pursuing a dream of becoming a patissier in Paris wasn’t something that Taiwan-born, Shanghai-raised Cindy Wang could have imagined would become reality. Yet here she is, having graduated from culinary school, worked in Michelin-starred kitchens and returned to Shanghai to teach boutique pastry classes.
“I gave myself a year to make it in Paris,” Wang recalls, having traveled there armed with three months of French language training and home baking experience. For her, making the jump from school to professional interning with famed boutiques like Fauchon was a matter of dedication.
Though the art of patisserie came to be the defining feature of Wang’s life in Paris, updating her food blog Sugared ‘n’ Spiced with posts on Parisian cafés, restaurants and patisserie boutiques remained a habit. One of the first English language food blogs to gain a major following in Shanghai, upon returning last year, Wang sensed an increase in local interest towards patisserie and café culture. She now updates her official WeChat only in Chinese, getting in excess of tens of thousands of page views.
“I’ve found that marketing my pastry classes is very easy thanks to my blog,” Wang tells us. With more than 70,000 followers on Weibo, most of her classes sell out within an hour. Offering just six spots for each session, Wang teaches classes on anything from tarte au citron, chocolate soufflé and choux pastry, reflecting that local interests in patisserie have grown from just passing curiosity to a desire for in-depth techniques and knowledge.
A natural teacher with a cool and collected demeanor (and a remarkable eye for aesthetics and photography) Wang has also collaborated on videos with popular food channel Yi Tiao (一条), though still has reservations about using her face to promote her lucrative brand. “I gave them strict instructions to film only my hands and not reveal my face,” she explains, having maintained unusually strict anonymity to continue her food blogging.
However with the increasing popularity of her classes and WeChat channel, Wang acknowledges that injecting some personality into her brand is inevitable for her future as a professional in the pastry industry. “I’m not in a rush to open my own café or boutique at this point in time since I want to focus on the patisserie more than operational aspects. I guess my face is ‘getting out there’ since people post pictures of my classes.” We say it’s time for Wang to embrace her potential and step into the limelight. Who knows, we could be talking to China’s patisserie answer to Julia Childs.
www.sugarednspiced.com (WeChat ID: sugarednspiced)
Read more profiles of Shanghai Patissiers here.