L’ÉCLAIR, Singapore’s 1st ever Éclair pâtisserie has been making waves all over our social media feeds. With their gorgeous looking and decadent tasting éclairs, it’s impossible that their éclairs do not make you drool! Although they do not have a physical store yet (they’re still in the midst of looking for the PERFECT store), the owners are hosting a pop-up cafe at Three Years In A Balloon from Nov 8 – 30! We got in touch with the owners, Michelle Looi & Sarah Tan, who are also the ones baking in the kitchen and playing with flavours, for a little chat to share their story with you! You’d never guess that they are graduates of the internationally acclaimed Le Cordon Bleu in Paris!
Tell us a little about yourself!
Michelle: I am a total foodie and I live to eat. Cant live a day without desserts or anything sweet. I graduated from Tanjong Katong Secondary School and went on to Temasek Junior College and then graduated with a Bachelor of Accounts and Finance from SIM-UOL.
Sarah: I’ve always been a person who knows what I want and am not afraid to pursue it. I went to Raffles Girls Secondary then Raffles Junior College, and graduated from Singapore Management University with a Business Management degree. Lifestyle-wise, Mich and I are pretty similar. We both love to eat but we believe in exercising and keeping fit as well.
How did the both of you meet?
Michelle: A common friend introduced us to each other about 5 years back and also invited us to go on a grad trip together in 2011. It was a really fun trip and we grew closer after that, especially since we realized we had similar dreams of owning a bakery.
Sarah: Before the grad trip, I remember our first time meeting each other was a random day when we both went to the Science Centre with our common friend. A lot of funny things happened that day. I guess we always have a lot of fun together!
If you did not become owners of a bakery shop, what would your profession be?
Michelle: I would probably have stayed on in my accountant job or continued studying to be a tax specialist.
Sarah: I would probably still be working at SPRING Singapore.
When did you start baking and what sparked your passion?
Michelle: I started baking little cookies and biscuits since 14. I’ve always enjoyed making little pretty treats especially on special occasions that we celebrated in school, such as Teachers day, Valentines day a.k.a Friendship day and etc. Later on, I went on to bake slightly more challenging stuff like brownies, cupcakes and layered cakes. I like making things pretty and so I really enjoyed decorating my bakes in order to take nice photos. And then I found out I really liked decorating cakes with fondant. Coincidentally I made my first fondant wrapped cake – a despicable me Minion – for Sarah’s birthday!
Sarah: Yes! I remember the Minion cake that Mich made for me a couple of years back. I also remember her telling me that immediately after she finished making the cake and saw how cute the minion was, she started jumping up and down and screaming in excitement all by herself. Haha! Actually I wasn’t the one who started baking. It was Mich who was an avid baker, baking cupcakes and etc. I was the one who loved to eat cakes and pastries, but I never really baked that much. Also, I had a really lousy oven at home that was half broken so none of my cakes ever turned out well. So I just ate Mich’s cupcakes. But I’ve always had the dream of having my own bakery or cake shop. I would fantasize about the lovely aroma that I would get to smell every day as the pastries come out of the oven. During my time working at SPRING, I also frequently interacted with entrepreneurs and founders of SMEs. I guess they were the ones who inspired me to go out and make my dream come true.
Who are your guinea pigs that try your baked goods?
Michelle: My family – younger brother, dad and mom. And friends whom I meet on the day I bake. I also bring it to extended family gatherings to get more feedbacks! And of course, myself.
Sarah: Firstly, MYSELF. I’m the kind of person who would never let someone eat something without having tried it myself first. Then usually my mom and my close friends would get to try it. I wouldn’t call them guinea pigs; they are the lucky ones!
You both went to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, share with us your experience.
Michelle: Initially I wasn’t too thrilled to live in Paris as I had a really bad first experience on one of my previous trips there. Yet slowly but surely, I fell in love with the city and it was really hard to leave that place. The entire pastry course was a blast for me. Made many friends from all over the world, learnt many traditional French pastry techniques, got to feast on the best pastries around Paris and did what I love to do – bake – everyday. I would gladly do it all over again if I could.
Sarah: Mich and I rented an apartment together near our school. It was definitely the most fun time of my life – the whole living-overseas-without-parents thing. I do miss those carefree days now. Honestly the only real thing we had to worry about everyday was laundry and what time we should go to the gym that day. School was fun and we got to eat cake every day, of course! I loved the demonstration classes, where we would just sit, watch and take notes (and eat cake at the end). The practicals were slightly more stressful though, with fierce chefs yelling at us in French. We got to bring the entire cake home after practicals, so we’d always end up with two whole cakes at home everyday because we lived together. There was a day when we each finished our entire cake within the same day. It came to a point where both of us decided not to bring home the cakes because we were putting on a bit too much weight. Haha! The next best thing about our stay in Paris was the fact that there were so many good pastry shops everywhere. In fact, we were living just a minute’s walk away from a Pierre Herme shop, and we used to joke about how we had probably spent our entire families’ fortune there. For me, every Sunday was my ‘feast day’. I would go all over the city looking for pastry shops that I haven’t tried. Those were the days….
How did the name “L’ Eclair by Sarah Michelle” come about?
Sarah: We wanted a simple and elegant name, but also one that would pay tribute to our time in Paris. After all, France was the place that gave us the inspiration to start this, and also taught us so many things about the art of pastry. One day Mich said, “Why don’t we just call it ‘L’ÉCLAIR’?” It was simple and meaningful, so we stuck with that name. ‘Sarah Michelle’ came about because we saw that many pastry shops in Paris were simply named after their founding chefs, for example, Pierre Herme, Jean Paul Hevin, Christophe Adam, Arnaud Larher, Hugo & Victor, and etc. So we wanted both our names to be known and to build a brand that would be personified by us. Our common friend suggested ‘Sarah Michelle’ and we thought that it sounded really nice!
So why Eclairs?
Michelle: Before going to Paris, I’ve never thought much of eclairs since in Singapore we mostly get those messy chocolate glazed ones filled with whipped cream. To me, that isn’t very appealing as compared to the other French pastries such as mousse cakes, entremets and tarts. It was only after living in Paris that I fell in love with eclairs. During one of our pastry shopping days, we found this particular store where they only sell eclairs – really pretty looking ones, each filled with a different cream and bursting with flavour. We had our first gourmet eclair there and we got so addicted that we had to go back on a weekly basis. So we had a brainwave and we were determined to bring the ‘éclair culture’ back with us to Singapore!
Sarah: Eclairs are the rising stars in the world of pastry. Choux pastry is so versatile; you can almost do anything with it. I’m really excited to see what we can come up with in the next few months and years.
Your favourite local dessert?
Michelle: Personally Im not a huge fan of local desserts but if I have to choose it will have to be Tau Huay!
Sarah: Mango sago if I were eating at a restaurant, or Pulut Hitam if at a food court or hawker centre!
Do you plan to experiment with Asian flavours like Durian?
Michelle: Of course! We have been contemplating a Pandan or Kaya flavor, or even something like Gula Melaka. Durian might be a bit tricky, as it will definitely affect the other flavours when kept together in the fridge due to its strong smell. We will see how it goes! Do follow our Facebook and Instagram page to receive updates on our newest flavours and to find out what we’re experimenting on next.
What are your plans for the future?
Sarah: L’ÉCLAIR is our first concept store and currently we are still operating as an online business. In the next few months, we hope to be able to open a physical store. Perhaps after we have established the éclair concept, we will move on to try out other concepts under the ‘SARAH MICHELLE’ brand. We also have dreams to launch our own unique tea blends.
If you haven’t made a reservation to dînette, it’s best you head over to their facebook or instagram to find out how you can make a reservation! We heard they’re already full for the 9th and 15th of Nov!
Thanks to Sarah Michelle, we’re giving away 1 TEA SET for 2! All you have to do is SHARE this post and TAG a friend on Facebook for a chance to win! The lucky winner will be announced on Nov 2, 2014.