The moment we stepped foot inside Croisserie's Damansara Heights flagship (two more have sprouted), we were welcomed by the aroma of freshly baked bread and sugary treats.
Through the shop's airy space, wafts of buttery goodness led us to the back where a team of bakers were working their magic, transforming simple ingredients into edible miracles.
In the bustling kitchen, Chef Ken Jay Lim, the bakery's cheery executive chef spotted us and greeted us with a warm smile.
Marubishi had the privilege of sitting down with Chef Ken Jay, where we delved into his journey and the baking philosophy that shaped him.
Chef Ken Jay's Path Into Breadmaking
Back in his youth, inspired by Hong Kong dramas, Chef Ken Jay originally aspired to be a Chinese chef. The thought of wielding a cleaver however isn't for him. "It scares me having to kill fish or chicken!” Chef Ken Jay confessed.
Fate also had different plans for him.
At 16, he was faced with the loss of his father and the weight of responsibility fell on young Ken Jay. Guided by his mom, he landed his first job at a nearby Japanese bakery.
What was meant to be just a short stint during the school holidays, turned into Chef Ken Jay's calling. He donned the baker's apron, trading cleavers for spatulas and whisks, forging a new path.
Chef Ken Jay's Philosophy on Breadmaking
Chef Ken Jay strongly believes that every detail, no matter how small, plays a vital role in crafting high-quality bakery products.
Forget fleeting Instagrammable trends, his passion lies in mastering the core of baking: the essential basics. "Nail the fundamentals, polish every tiny details, you can elevate your creations and expand your selections from there," he shares.
The Satisfactions of Being a Baker
The care he puts into his craft speaks volumes about his passion for baking. With 17 years of experience in this industry, we asked what Chef Ken Jay thought about being a baker.
"It never gets boring," he chuckled as he continues, "The routine might seem repetitive but everyday can still be very different because the results can vary for each bake."
Today's batch of croissants might rise a touch higher. The sourdough loaves might reveal a different tang, perhaps influenced by the day's humidity. Some days the baguette loaf might need a longer knead, and on other days, the oven temperature has to be adjusted a tad higher.
"Everyday feels like a new day. There's something to look forward to improving each day," he adds.
Chef Ken Jay's Top Ingredient Pick from Marubishi
We couldn't help but wonder if Chef Ken Jay has a favourite ingredient from Marubishi. He paused for a moment and declared, "All the flour."
From Taiyo Milling's Melanger, Super Melanger, Pan Syokunin down to the various Minoterie Bourseau's French flour that he is getting from Marubishi, he simply couldn't just pick one.
Chef Ken Jay shared that he has been using this array of flour for many years. "I know each flour inside and out. I really like all of them, and wouldn't want to switch brands," he said.
Chef Ken Jay's precise understanding of the characteristics of each flour allows him to tailor the perfect blend to craft the diverse range of pastry and bread at Croisserie.
Instilling Values When Nurturing New Talent
For Chef Ken Jay, the foundation of humility is the yeast that raises true bakers. "The right attitude is so important," he quipped, when asked about his top priority when training junior bakers.
"Slow learners are okay too," says Chef Ken Jay. "As long as they are humble and have the right attitude, everything can be taught."
Chef Ken Jay's leadership style is unlike the traditional rigid kitchens. Hierarchies have no place in his team. He doesn't just tell his team what to do. Rather he empowers his team and encourages them to come up with their own ideas.
Chef Ken Jay prioritizes building a team where fairness beats ranks and titles. He wants everyone to feel valued, and he believes that by giving them a chance to contribute, this practice would help his team learn, improve and grow.
Global Vision for Malaysian Bakers
Chef Ken Jay aims not only for his team members to grow, his ambitions rise way higher. He is whisking up a plan to grow Malaysia's bakery industry not just on a local level but to the world stage.
He hopes to pioneer a bakers connection association, empowering his fellow Malaysian bakers to rise to the top of the international baking scene.
Chef Ken Jay's View on the Evolution of Malaysia's Bakery Industry
Malaysia is currently experiencing a bakery boom with new cafés and bakeries appearing on every corner. For Chef Ken Jay, there's a concern amidst the excitement.
"I feel that the bakeries in Malaysia now focuses very highly on viennoiserie," he laments. "But there's a whole world of bread out there."
While viennoiserie holds undeniable allure, Chef Ken Jay believes overreliance on trends can be risky. "Consistency over hype is crucial," he asserts. Any bread, regardless of category, should be not just eye-catching, but a symphony of texture and taste.
It all boils down again to the philosophy that Chef Ken Jay so strongly believe in. "Mastering the fundamentals is key. Get the basics right and you'll stand the test of time, even when trends fade," he emphasizes.
As the Malaysian bakery scene continues to evolve, Chef Ken Jay's message resonates: true success lies not in chasing the fleeting fads, but in honoring the timeless art of breadmaking. Chef Ken Jay's dedication to quality and diversity has kept Croisserie thriving since 2012.
It is evident that this philosophy is woven into the very essence of Croisserie. Their shelves boast a vibrant tapestry of loaves, from crusty baguettes to pillowy brioche. From sweet bites to savory, Croisserie offers 75 unique creations. "There's something for every customer, and we have enough variety to keep regulars coming back for more," Chef Ken Jay concludes.
So, the next time you find yourself amidst the bakery boom, remember Chef Ken Jay's words. Take a moment to explore beyond the familiar croissants. You might just discover a new favorite.