One of the crucial intriguing options of Patisserie Bluejay's web site is the “cake picker,” a sparse PNG flowchart designed to assist prospects select their superb cake from among the many bakery's three dozen choices. The diagram, which resembles a company organizational chart in pastel, begins with prospects choosing from three broad taste buckets: pure chocolate, pure fruit or pure cheesecake. The questions that observe dig deeper into style and texture preferences, permitting the cake picker to ultimately slim down the abundance of selections right down to only one excellent cake. Welcome to the fantastic left mind world of Bluejay Patisserie.
Tucked right into a dusty Arcadia strip mall, anchored by a 99-cent retailer, the store is the work of pastry chef Jay Chen and her software program engineer husband, Ivan Lo. Pasticceria Bluejay, named after Chen and an episode of U Massive Bang Principle, devotes in the future every week to analysis and improvement, constantly revises its recipes, and sells up to date variations of its muffins and pastries. Whereas the nook bakery seems fairly commonplace from the surface, with its pale yellow partitions, tile ground, and picket pastry case filled with cookies, cream puffs, and canelés, a dialog with the homeowners reveals that that is no odd dessert. operation – is the nerdiest sweet retailer in Los Angeles.
Chen and Lo opened the bakery in February 2023 after spending years refining recipes and trying to find a great location. The 2 met in Hong Kong round 2011 and married in 2019. Earlier than that, Lo divided his time between China and america, whereas Chen lived and labored in Hong Kong as a chef (beforehand as personal baker specializing in birthday muffins and later because the sous chef of a vegetarian restaurant in Wan Chai). After transferring to Los Angeles, Chen, who spoke to Eater by Lo's translations, wanted assist navigating the intricacies of beginning a small enterprise from the bottom up; Lo was glad to leap in to assist open and run the bakery along with his spouse whereas balancing a full-time software program improvement job.
Pasticceria Bluejay gleans its cake-making strategy from tech start-up tradition and likewise applies parts of design pondering to its recipes. Chen's line of understated, meticulous muffins is backed by French strategies and options mashups of Asian flavors which might be completely her personal. “We’re finally a French and Asian fusion bakery,” says Lo. “Our palates cater extra to Asian palates, however we're extra Western as compared [traditional] Chinese language bakeries”.
Bluejay Patisserie's pastries are lighter than they give the impression of being, extra like a agency English trifle than a slice of ordinary American bakery. Chen achieves the construction by interspersing layers of mousse with a Bavarian cream that imitates the mouth of sponge cake. “The mousse provides you with that melting sensation whereas the sponge cake is barely thick, in order that your tongue might be gently massaged by that micro-contrast sensation,” Lo wrote concerning the composition of the muffins in an Instagram publish .
Slightly than present pastries bought at competing bakeries to tell their menu, Chen and Lo take cues from cocktail tradition, savory dishes, dessert makers, and sometimes, YouTubers. The couple spends hours discussing attainable taste mixtures to strive, akin to marrying white sesame seeds with an Italian tiramisu or pairing darkish chocolate with the robust warmth of wasabi. Typically, these impromptu brainstorms dominate their dinner conversations and fill the drive to Arcadia from their dwelling in Glendora. Their record of potential muffins and pastries is 100 concepts lengthy, and so they've solely tried a 3rd of them thus far, Lo says.
Whereas pastry cooks are likely to promote solely perfected variations of their creations, Chen and Lo take an strategy that features baking a number of prototypes and invitations buyer collaboration alongside the way in which. Making use of an engineer's mindset to pastry making, Chen's recipes, a lot of which originated in Hong Kong, are continuously tweaked and improved. “The software program has bugs, some flaws, it's not excellent,” says Lo. “We embrace imperfections, we all know that our popping out product is not going to be excellent and topic to alter.” Lo typically shares analysis missteps – burnt and misshapen canelés or cooking experiments – on social media, a rarity among the many polished Instagram feeds of most bakeries. It’s this sincerity and dedication to high quality that has earned the bakery a legion of invested followers.
Each slight recipe adjustment, irrespective of how delicate, is documented in a pocket book or “a repository,” as Lo refers to it in programmer parlance. Chen and Lo maintain observe of the assorted iterations by releases, assigning sequential numbers to every recipe that mirror main or minor modifications. “We expect that pastry or pastry is likely one of the most scientific jobs,” says Lo. It takes about two weeks to develop an preliminary prototype and about one to 2 months to ascertain a “secure” model, Lo says.
With every recipe, Chen additionally considers how the assorted elements of the cake, akin to mousses and jellies, are single-layered, dispersed and consumed. She designs every chunk in order that completely different flavors and textures come into play at completely different moments. “We are able to strategically put extra elements within the tip of the [slice]”says Lo. “It's if you begin from nothing, your mouth is impartial and you can be extra delicate to flavors like acidity or bitterness or any fruity style.” Chen needs the primary chunk to be distinct from the 'final, so relatively than evenly layering completely different horizontal elements (“as a result of the horizontal is simply giving all the pieces collectively without delay”, says Lo), treats them like items of Tetris that may transfer and alter. vertically. “We’ve got they have an inclination to place extra lingering flavors towards the ultimate chunk, like osmanthus flower, jasmine flower, or rose,” says Lo.
The bakery not too long ago landed on a secure model of its well-known Moscato Pear Cake, impressed by a standard Cantonese drink that mixes the fruit with the osmanthus flower. The primary model, referred to internally as 1.0, was made with glowing Moscato till the couple discovered that the carbonation yielded a much less assertive wine style than they wished. (Moscato's value level additionally reduce into revenue margins.) Chen swapped out Moscato for pinot grigio for the subsequent model, however his prospects, who stay close by and usually volunteer to strive tastings, discovered the style too skinny. In model 3.0, Chen added pinot grigio to the cake frosting and added Bavarian pear cream sous vide to white wine. After months of tireless trial and error, the ratios of wine to fruit and tea had been lastly proper. “Until a buyer comes up with a superb suggestion,” says Lo. “It's fairly secure.”
The pastry chef's newest cake challenge riffs on the fragrant Thai soup tom yum goong. “We attempt to discover a steadiness between lemongrass and lime,” says Lo. “We are able to't determine whether or not to make this a spicy pie or not.” Early buyer suggestions led Lo and Chen down a extra citrusy path with the primary model, which included Granny Smith applesauce. Whereas model 2.0 left the contemporary fruit, it returned in model 3.0 as a part of the mirror glaze on the cake. After a month and a half of testing and tweaking, Chen landed on the fourth and probably closing pie. “Is it should be the secure,” says Lo.
Going in opposition to the grain is woven into Patisserie Bluejay's DNA. This daring sensibility additionally carries over into the way in which the couple approaches success. In view of the intensive analysis and improvement processes of the bakery, Lo says that they settle for that it might probably by no means be financially worthwhile. With out tying the bakery's worth and contribution to its backside line, Chen and Lo are free to outline for themselves what success seems like. An actual win for Lo could be tackling all 100 concepts on his record of attainable pie flavors. As for Chen, she needs to construct lasting reminiscences together with her purchasers.
“I feel birthdays are fairly essential and the stuff you eat on a birthday might be remembered for all times,” says Lo. “To go away this type of time limit in reminiscence, I might be glad about it.”