Words by Janelle Ting
The arduous journey of a baker, a learner and an innovator
The birth of Bakes n Bites is a blessing in disguise. Christopher Lau (pictured above) only started selling confectionery products after he was retrenched at the age of 54 back in 2010. He faced challenges in seeking employment, and decided to take a leap of faith to begin his second career together with his wife, Christina Tan. They rented a hawker stall to sell factory-made confectionery products, however they soon realized that the product quality from the suppliers was inconsistent and there were instances of unfulfilled orders.
Refusing to give up, Christopher wanted to be self-sufficient and not rely on his suppliers. They knew they had to change their business operations. He enrolled for an Intensive Professional Bakery Course with Creative Culinaire The School in 2011 to acquire technical skills in advanced cakes, artisan and decorative breads, menu development, and others. Additionally, Christopher also picked up adaptative skills such as recipe costing and inventory management. He even took the opportunity to learn about various digital technologies and automation in the Bakery industry.
Upon course completion, Christopher’s instructor, Chef Judy Koh shared various recipes with him and encouraged him to innovate a new product that stands out in the market. Christopher invested 2 months to create and refine his first well-received fresh fruits muffin recipe. He experimented extensively to ensure that his muffins were able to retain their moisture and softness even after refrigeration.
Following his first success, Christopher looked into incorporating the bitter Chinese medicated drink – Litsea Cubeba into his muffins as it helps to tackle insomnia, fatigue, and stomach problem. Bakes n Bites places a great emphasis on health benefits and all their products are made using natural ingredients, healthy oil, and reduced sugar. They also supply vegan muffins that taste no different from their regular muffins.
Christopher’s latest research and development (R&D) project involves a special “Toink Toink” chiffon cake, which is dense, heavy and fragrant (we heard that the secret lies in the chlorophyll from the pandan leaves). To better assist Christopher in his future R&D projects, his wife Christina also enrolled for the Intensive Professional Bakery Course with Creative Culinaire The School last year.
While Bakes n Bites has gained an edge in the industry with its unique products, a new challenge quickly presented itself with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Circuit Breaker measures resulted in a drastic drop in sales. Bakes n Bites’ business was not spared, until the couple was introduced to the Hawkers United 2020 Facebook Page. They realised that such online platforms are the solution to tide over the pandemic as these platforms allow them to reach a new group of customers. Bearing this in mind, the couple quickly adapted and equipped themselves with the technology skills to market their products online and handle the surge of online orders.
Christopher and Christina hope that their journey with Bakes n Bites will encourage other business owners to stay resilient during tough times and inspire them to upskill and create more innovative products in the industry.