Tomoko Ueda’s passion for the art of pastry-making has made her baking school Caramel Factory, one of the loveliest places to learn a new skill in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She recalls, “In junior high I joined the cooking club and later became the club’s president!” Now Tomoko is a Japanese trained patisserie and holds certificates in coffee making in addition to various experience in tea making. She graduated from Cafe’s Kitchen, a pioneer and one of the most established cafe business schools in Tokyo, Japan. With her style and passion, Tomoko is bringing a bit of Japan right to your doorstep.
Tell us what Caramel Factory is and what’s the inspiration?
Caramel Factory is a Japanese style baking school and patisserie. I am teaching various kinds of Japanese cakes and French influenced pastries in this cozy Japanese cafe style shop. Caramel Factory is also a place to learn and feel the Japanese lifestyle through baking, dining and checking out small trinkets displayed in the shop. There are a lot of personal touches and feelings to this shop! Currently I am focusing on teaching baking, but my next step is to have a small cafe space in front of the shop where customers can enjoy spending time over cups of coffee, tea and cakes. As for the interior and color schemes, a lot of the inspiration came from my favorite cafes in Tokyo.
How did you discover your passion for baking?
I have always liked baking and cooking ever since I was young, perhaps this is influenced from my mother. She used to bake cakes and cookies for my two sisters and me, and the kitchen always smelled really nice. So I naturally started helping my mother when I was 4 or 5 years old. I cannot recall at exactly what age but I do remember I started really young. So when I joined junior high school, I immediately signed up for the baking club. There, my passion in baking grew and I ended up being the chief of baking club at my final 5th year. I watched TV baking programs and took notes of recipes, cut out newspaper columns of baking and practiced them at home. I still keep those worn out notebooks and sometimes use the recipes for my baking class for children!
So after some time working in Malaysia and when I started to question the meaning of life, I decided to make a complete change of my career and went back to Japan to study baking and the cafe business fundamentally. In 2009 I graduated from a cafe business course at Cafe’s Kitchen, a pioneer and well established cafe business school in Tokyo. I also brushed up my baking skills learning from many respectable patisseries and took some coffee and tea making courses in Tokyo. It was a very intensive and fruitful time, and I realized my true passion was there. It took us almost 2 years to bring every piece together, although the actual work was only about 6 months to actually find a location and renovate it. In January 2012, Caramel Factory was officially opened.
Share with us some of the best pastry places you have been to.
All the cakes in Japan taste very good, even the pastries in convenience shops have a distinct style. But the most memorable cakes I had was in Paris back in 2010, at the cafe called Salon de The Carette. Their cakes are definitely popular among the French, but I was especially overwhelmed by the ‘origins’ of cakes after learning about all these pastries in Japan. I was amazed by the French pastries that were displayed neatly in the show case like jewelries. I never really liked macarons until then. French macarons are so tasty and vivid with colours. But to be honest, I generally prefer Japanese pastries that are more delicate and subtle in taste. French pastries heavily influence Japanese pastries, and that is why I am also teaching such pastries in Japanese recipes.
To add to my list of favorite cake shops in Tokyo, there is the Patisserie Cacahouete Paris, drole, and kaldi coffee shop. You can see that much of my inspiration come from these shops and I wish to visit these places when I go back to Japan next time.
What’s the secret behind your success?
To make it personal and original. I try to make my shop and baking classes intimate and cozy with a small group of students. I want my class to be all hands-on and workshop style so that students get to actually experience baking, and can later bake themselves at home. Also, students can bring back all the cakes they baked themselves for their family, so I receive a lot of feedback from my students that their family loved the cakes they baked. When I see their happy faces and hear their proud voices of achievement, I feel happy that I have perhaps enabled to add some delightful moments to their daily lives. After all, I want my students to enjoy baking and spend some sweet time with me at Caramel Factory!
For more about Caramel Factory visit: http://caramelmoko.wordpress.com
- Yuni Hadi