Bakers turn hobby into career

Kelly+Liu%2C+the+owner+of+Oh+Honey+Bakery%2C+helps+package+the+macarons+for+a+customer

Amber Chia

Kelly Liu, the owner of Oh Honey Bakery, helps package the macarons for a customer

While scrolling through her YouTube explore page, Kelly Liu found herself clicking on a recipe tutorial for baking cream puffs. Inspired by the videos, Liu decided to attempt the recipe in her kitchen, marking the beginning of her baking career. Although baking started as a hobby, the monumental decision of clicking on the YouTube video inspired the opening of her bakery two years later, Oh Honey Bakery, located in Mountain View, California.

“I started baking in 2019 and learned through YouTube videos and cookbooks. I opened Oh Honey Bakery in September of 2021, where we primarily sell macarons and cream puffs,” Liu said.

Before the opening of Oh Honey Bakery, Liu had previously owned a bubble tea shop in Cupertino. However, she discovered that she had minimal interest in the industry.

“I had another business in Cupertino before, a boba shop, and we primarily sold bubble tea and popcorn chicken. But then I found that I really liked to bake as a hobby, and I realized that it could possibly be turned into a business. I was focused more on improving my recipe and ultimately made the decision to open a bakery,” Liu said.

Liu opened the bakery with the goal of exposing customers to various types of traditional Asian flavors. She achieves this by utilizing the flavors as inspiration for her baked goods, such as sesame, matcha, and even pork floss.

I found that I really liked to bake as a hobby, and I realized that it could possibly be turned into a business. I was focused more on improving my recipe and ultimately made the decision to open a bakery”

— Kelly Liu

“My intention in opening Oh Honey Bakery was to have the customers here try more Asian flavor desserts, such as pork floss, sea salt cream, or black sesame, which are all traditional Asian flavors. My products also focus more on Asian style desserts, like the buttercream macaron or cream puffs,” Liu said.

With Liu being the owner and only employee at Oh Honey Bakery, her day typically starts before the sun rises to prepare the products for the day. Once the bakery opens at 10:30 a.m., she then transitions to managing the storefront and cash register.

“On the weekdays, I come around 5:30 (a.m.) to start preparing and baking all the stuff. On the weekends, we are busier, so I sometimes come at 4:30 or 4:00 (a.m.) to prepare all this stuff. This way, I don’t have to worry about running out of the items throughout the day, and I can run the cash register,” Liu said.

Similarly, Jessica Milanes’ passion and interest in baking have led her to pursue a career in the baking industry. Milanes is currently the head pastry chef at Simple Delights, located in San Mateo, California.

Simple Delights has been serving the San Mateo community ice cream and frozen yogurt for the past 20 years. In October 2019, the current owners purchased the business. Shortly after, in March 2020, Milanes joined the team, adding additional baked goods products to the menu.

Milanes enjoyed baking as a hobby in her kitchen from a young age. However, her ultimate inspiration to pursue a career in the industry was working at her first job after college.

“I have always loved cooking and baking. In college, I studied Hotel Restaurant Management, and my goal was to always go to culinary school for baking and cooking. In 2018, I worked at TPumps in their office, so I learned a lot about small businesses. I then decided to go to culinary school after, and had a passion for baking,” Milanes said

According to Milanes, her original plan for using her culinary degree wasn’t for decorating cakes. Nevertheless, when the opportunities arose that allowed her to express her passions, her plans changed. Aside from working at Simple Delights, Milanes has received substantial experience in other aspects of the food industry, such as styling, counseling, and writing her own cookbook.

“To be honest, I remember thinking that I would never decorate cakes, but obviously, things change, and I am glad that it did. I’ve also got a lot of other jobs actually in the food industry. I currently also freelance, and I’ve done some styling and counseling, and that’s a lot of fun too. What I find interesting is that every job in the baking industry still gives me a different experience,” Milanes said.

Milanes and Liu turning their interest into a sustainable career is a goal that many strive to achieve. Nicholas Voong, a senior at Carlmont, believes that the apparent passion is pivotal in creating products.

“When someone is passionate about their job, it is obvious in the things they create. The care and effort found in these products are unbeatable and only attainable when they enjoy the process of the creations,” Voong said.

In 2018, I worked at TPumps in their office, so I learned a lot about small businesses. I then decided to go to culinary school after, and had a passion for baking”

— Jessica Milanes

Ultimately, Voong believes that small businesses typically exemplify this trait. Their products are also crafted with more care resulting in customer satisfaction. For Voong particularly, this has been why he regularly returns to his own neighborhood bakery.

“I think local bakeries typically have a more homemade vibe to their products. Everything is fresher, and it tastes better at local bakeries, and you are simultaneously supporting a small business. There’s definitely more care and effort that’s put into each product,” Voong said.