Sylvia Chan was close to opening up her own bakery when she started her food blog, A Baked Creation. Though her business plans may have changed, her writing has kept up a steady pace. You may not find her chef’ing it up at home very often, but she’s got a grip on the goings-on around Toronto’s culinary scene…
When and why did you start writing about food?
Summer of 2008. I wanted to open a bakery that only served desserts. At that time, I knew nothing about the intricacies of pastries, bread making, or even the business side of things. I thought that writing about and photographing my cupcakes would help spread the word that I was launching into this endeavor. My posts did manage to get some publicity on other websites, so I kept baking for friends and family. It wasn’t until a year later that I started reviewing cookbooks, other food and kitchen products, and participating in events. Then, I embarked on a pretty substantial bakery tour in New York City. That is when I realized that I had more fun eating and blogging than trying to set up a full-fledged business.
What do you love most about food?
How versatile it can be! Given the same ingredients, both savoury and pastry chefs can make a number of different dishes and make each ingredient shine. That’s what keeps food interesting and new to me.
What do you do when you aren’t writing about or eating food?
I’m probably at work! I feel lucky to be in publishing. I get to read what authors write and look over artwork from various illustrators. I love having a hand in the process and sharing the experience over social media. We have some great talent in Canada! Otherwise, I’m baking, watching television, at the gym (I try, really), or dreaming about travel plans. Then, I read some more!
Do you cook? If so, what’s your specialty? If not, why?
I have to admit, I’m not much of a cook! I’m so used to the precise measurements in baking that I find cooking to be too much of a freestyle art. I have enormous respect for those who know how to season on-the-go and when food reaches the proper doneness. I have a knack for over-cooking due to the fear of serving something raw by accident.
What’s your favourite type of food(s) and where do you go to get it?
I love eating desserts and would pick restaurants based on that menu alone if there was a very neat dish I wanted to try. But in all seriousness, my favourite food is sushi. My favourites are JaBistro or Yuzu No Hana. I’m also quite the fan of the Neapolitan pizzas at Pizzeria Libretto, Queen Margherita, and Famoso.
What’s your hidden gem?
It’s a popular enough restaurant, but I don’t think Starfish Oyster Bed and Grill gets as much of the limelight as other restaurants. I love their oysters, the beef rib-eye with fries is delicious, and their famous sticky toffee pudding really hits the spot. I like that the place has character and charm, and that they have a seasonal menu.
What’s your go-to restaurant?
That’s a tough one! At the moment I keep craving northern dumplings and have been frequenting dumpling houses. I’m also a fan of Momofuku. I like taking friends there; it’s just a fun place to have a meal. But I think the go-to restaurants would have to be Pho Vietnam. I find pho to be so comforting – especially in the winter!
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
My partner and I went to Las Vegas for the holidays one year, and instead of exchanging presents, we treated ourselves to dinner at Bouchon Bistro. We dressed up, we went in, we sat beside the courtyard, and were greeted by the loveliest server. She was knowledgeable at making recommendations and was attentive. From the drinks and bread to the appetizers and entrées, we were in awe of how good every bite tasted. We left so happy that Howard and I still talk about that meal!
What’s the one restaurant you have to try before you die?
One? Just one? I feel like such a newcomer when I talk about food and restaurants. I haven’t even tried a single tasting menu yet! So to pick one is such a daunting task, I don’t even know which city to narrow it down to. However, I do know that I have been forever talking about going to San Francisco and Napa to eat and the first place I would visit there would be Swan Oyster Depot. Then Tartine, Miette, Bi-Rite Creamery, Bouchon, Ad Hoc, The French Laundry, and Humphrey Slocombe.
What’s your biggest restaurant pet peeve? (play nice)
Being let down by the food. Whether it was poorly cooked or lacked flavours, it all comes down to the food. I’m usually with great company when I eat out, so it’ll take a lot to damper my mood. Bad service? Fine, we might roll our eyes. Weird or tacky decor? That’s OK with me. Spelling mistakes on the menu? I can resist the urge to mark it up with a red pen. But if I want to push my plate away, we have a big problem.