Before she ever donned chef’s whites or a dusty apron, Clarice Lam strutted runways, and her first career eventually led her to her true passion. “I was a fashion model for over a decade,” she says. “I traveled all over the world doing that. I tasted different cuisines, and I became really interested in food.” She took cooking classes in Italy in her time off before landing in Paris for a transformative experience: “I went to the original Lauduree and had my first macaron. That’s when I decided I was going to get into pastry.”
Back Stateside, Lam took classes at the French Culinary Institute, which jumpstarted a journey through kitchens like Spice Market and Locanda Verde. She did an executive chef stint at The Chocolate Room, and that’s when she launched the Baking Bean, a made-to-order custom desserts and pastry project that delivers to any of the five boroughs in NYC.
The venture started small, and it was built mostly on referrals from friends. And as it continued to expand, Lam stepped down from The Chocolate Room for a position at Bouchon Bakery, a move that ultimately forced her to decide to kick her own business into high gear. “I was working 100 hours a week doing both,” she recalls. “It was crazy.”.
So last spring, she quit, throwing herself entirely into growing her business and refining her philosophy. “Everything I make is handmade,” she explains. “My chocolates are hand-dipped, and I use all natural ingredients.” Lam’s business model also allows for a lot of flexibility: In addition to a set menu on the website–which hawks signature treats like the pb&j s’mores and salted chai tea caramels–the baker will take personal requests. “Send us a recipe for Mom’s apple pie, and we’ll make it for you,” she says.
Lam also rolls out seasonal treats like the pumpkin pie poptart that just went on the menu for fall. And she says she most enjoys playing around with flavors from childhood, bundling them into a grownup treat.
Her delivery business now firmly established, the baker is working on growing again. She just launched at Smorgasburg on Sunday, and she’ll be at both the Saturday and Sunday market from here on out. She’s also working on retail contracts with local shops, and she hopes someday to establish her own storefront “and hopefully take over the world,” she quips.
In the meantime, you can order her treats via her website, a particularly compelling offer this Thanksgiving since Lam is running a special: Order an apple pie for $35, and you’ll get a jar of accompanying salted caramel sauce plus free delivery. The Baking Bean starts taking orders on November 1, and she’ll deliver from two days before Thanksgiving until Thanksgiving day at 5 p.m.
Or find her at Smorgasburg this weekend.
Page through for a few photos of treats.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 15, 2013