Industry Insiders: Clarice Lam, Chef and Owner of The Baking Bean

Clarice Lam swapped Prada sportswear for kitchen whites when the former model-turned-baker launched The Baking Bean, an online pastry business. Everything from rosemary butter croissants and raspberry to mango peach pie is made to order and delivered to your door. Here, our September 2012 Industry Insider and sweets-expert shares what inspired her to dive into the pastry business, the challenges she’s overcome, and how sweet it is to do what you love.  

How did you first launch The Baking Bean?
I had always been doing special orders and custom desserts for friends, and through word-of-mouth on the side. At their behest, I put a name to it, and thus The Baking Bean was born.

What makes your business unique from other online pastry companies?
We don’t have a set menu. You can really order anything your heart desires AND it will be delivered to you! We also offer a monthly dessert club, which for $100/mo you can get four desserts a month, with one delivery per week!

What’s your favorite treat on the menu, and how would you describe your signature style?
I love the peanut butter and jelly smores. It’s peanut butter shortbread cookie with raspberry jam and marshmallow, all enrobed in Belgian milk chocolate and topped with peanuts and fleur de sel. So addictive! And my style is definitely elegant, whimsical, and a little bit of street.

You’ve worked as a model for years, traveled and lived in various parts of the world, and studied fashion. How has that lifestyle informed your current work as a baker?
Thanks to my travels for 10+ years, I was able to study the food from different cultures while simultaneously being influenced by the beauty of those cities. All of those flavors have made their way into my work now.

What do you love and not love about the pastry industry?
I work in pastry because it’s my passion and because I love it. What nobody loves about the industry, whether it be pastry or savory, is the pay. We work really hard for not that much, but we do it because we love what we do.

You’ve encountered and overcome great trauma as well. What would you say was the foremost thing you learned from that experience years ago, and how has that lesson affected your work?
Being in an accident that left me nearly paralyzed or dead has taught me to never give up and to always fight and work harder. It has made me even more driven than I already was. When I first started in this industry and still had problems walking, I never used it as an excuse to do a mediocre job or to catch a break, and I never will. I will always use any hardships that come my way to make me a stronger and better person.

What’s your ultimate goal with your business?
Let’sput it this way… if someone were to be shown an ink blot of something resembling a cake, I would want their response to be The Baking Bean.

For a list of all of Clarice’s favorite spots for sweets, click here

4 Out of 5: Baker on New York

Baker is a pop singer from New York. This is his take on four places he likes, and one place he doesn’t.

RECOMMENDED

Top of the Standard – "A.k.a. the Boom Boom Room. A classic. Beautiful people, beautiful space, and a great vibe."

Electric Room – "This place is beneath the Dream Downtown. It’s very different than other places because even though it’s in the super-clubby Meatpacking District, they often play alternative or punk music and make great drinks. If fist-pumping isn’t for you, this is the place to be."

Simyone Lounge – "A.k.a. SL. This club can get a little intense sometimes with security and lists, but once you’re inside, it’s a lot of fun."

The Westway – "My favorite spot. There’s always a great mix of people there, and they play the best music. I’ve never had a bad night there."

NOT SO MUCH

Cielo – "A club in the Meatpacking District. You’ll never see someone who lives in Manhattan inside those doors."