Questions for Wenter & Sam:
BC: What's the best advice you've been given about your career or life in general?
WS: It comes from my mom who's always filled with so many amazingly useful life tidbits, for better or for worse. One thing she taught me at an early age was to "never let other people wipe your ass"(translated from Chinese directly). Roughly meaning to always tie up lose ends and complete any task/job whole heartedly so that no one else has to go in and finish the job. I've applied this in my professional and personal life, and has helped me stay one step ahead time and time again. I've noticed that a side effect of completing a task so completely is you almost start on the next thing without even trying. And people are really impressed.
SB: One of the greatest life advices that I've had was from my business mentor Minh Tsai of Hodo Soy. He said that in life and in business there is no mistake; everything is a learning opportunity. Sounds a bit cheesy, I know, but once I took that to heart, it really changed my attitude and my outlook in everything I do. It freed me from fears of failure, empowered me to take more risks, and forced me learn from every step of the way.
BC: Greatest compliment you've ever received about Third Culture?
WS: One time, we have a family come to Catahoula and bought a dozen or so Mochi Muffins and asked if they could take pictures with the baker (Sam). Come to find out, they drove all the way from Half Moon Bay to Berkeley for our Mochi Muffins and their son was so excited to be at our kitchen and the place where Mochi Muffins were made. Very humbled to know how our products touch so deeply!
SB: The greatest compliment is whenever someone tells me that our pastries remind them of home. I once had a French lady tell me that our tarts and croissants reminded her of Paris hometown, and a Hawaiian man told me that our mochis remind him of being back in Oahu. How cool is that?! To be able to create food that evokes a happy memory is the greatest feeling!
BC: Your friend from out of town is visiting you in the Bay. Your top three spots to show them would be...
WS: Oh my god, easy. Brunch at Bartavelle in Berkeley, Boba and Nitro Tea break at Boba Guys Potrero Hill after hiking twin peaks, and then dinner at Sol Food in San Rafael. All food, all the time.
SB: Blue Willow Tea, Berkeley: Ali Roth, the owner of the tea shop sources all her own loose leaf teas. The teas are incredible, and I've haven't found a place that can rival the taste of her tea! Sol Food, San Rafael: is our favorite restaurant in the Bay Area! They serve up some mean Puerto Rican fare, and have never failed to dissapont in the 10 years we've been there! Oh, get the deep fried prawns!! UC Berkeley Campus: minus the throng of sleep-deprived students walking around, the Berkeley campus is drop dead gorgeous. The vibe, the architecture, and the history (it's the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement!) will make your jaw drop. Also, it's my alma mater, so Go Bears!
BC: Let's get this straight: in your experience, is baking an art or a science?
WS: Totally both. And one cannot live without the other in Baking. The science is crucial to back up the recipes, execution, pairing and balancing of flavors and making sure everything reacts to each other cohesively (this part Sam is a genius in and has taught me so much). The art is needed for the technique, cohesiveness, and finish. We all know humans eat with their eyes first and this is crazy true in the world of baking and pastries. So yes, both. The science for production and the art for presentation. Both have to be met for a great experience. No one's looking for a good experience, it's 'great' that makes an impression.
SB: Half art, and half science! To be a good baker and pastry chef, you need to understand and master the elements of the kitchen--what happens when heat hits sugar or what happens when yeast is added to a dough. But being able to marry different flavors or think of visually appealing finishing touches is more of an art; and that's what turns a good baker into a great one.
BC: A celebrity walks into Third Culture Bakery. Who would you be most pumped to see in the shop and what would they order?
WS: I'm torn between Hillary Clinton or RuPaul; both have succeeded in the face of adversity and broken countless, endless barriers! Both would order a Mochi Muffin for sure, but Hillary would have hers with coffee and RuPaul would definitely have a matcha latte with rice milk. Right??
SB: This actually already happened!! My biggest baking inspiration of all time, Alice Medrich, actually stopped by my pop up 3 years ago. She is known to be the one who brought and popularized chocolate truffles in the US! We still keep in touch, and she gets our Mochi Muffins all the time. "Such great texture!," she says.