For a long time, I have always been confused by the spelling of the dainty French pastry, macaron, with the Italian pastry, macaroon.
Well, I’m a writer, not a pastry chef.
As I learned later from a macaron baker, the macaron is meringue-based which is like a sweet, dessert-like version of a scone, in my opinion, made of egg whites and sugar; while the macaroon is coconut-based and looks kind of like a cross between a kueh bahulu and coconut tart.
Besides learning about the difference between these pastries from this macaron baker, I also found out that he wasn’t a confectionery chef prior to starting his business, The-M-Plot, and that they came up with the intriguing Salted Egg X Curry macaron flavour.
Despite his lack of experience, he went on to construct a business out of his passion anyway
Bake It Till You Make It
Ryan Yong (33) has a Masters degree in project management and was previously a senior Quantity Surveyor in the construction industry, and had been there for 10 years until he quit in August last year.
He’s a self-taught baker and picked up baking skills four years ago.
He did plenty of research learning how to make macarons, and spent three years to perfect his macarons’ shape and texture; crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
“I was taking a long break from my former job and travelling around, and immediately fell in love with French desserts when I was in Paris visiting my sister.”
“The flavour layering, textures, [appearance] of the desserts were eye-catching; everything was so beautiful and delicious! Ever since then, I decided to put all my efforts into making macarons,” he exclaimed.
Ryan went on to say that while being a “Quantity Surveyor was a challenging job”, he had “loved it” and he gained a lot of experience in the project management field, which is now useful in his current job as an entrepreneur too.
Family and friends of the affable baker were supportive of him when he decided to leave his former job.
Before making their debut at Artbox 2017, Ryan and his friend were working on the business part-time for six months and made macarons for private events only.
He told me that after receiving many positive feedback and encouragement from customers, they “finally” took that leap of faith to do this full-time and started accepting public orders.
Since then, they have participated in events like Winter Wonderland at Gardens By The Bay, and participated in a pop-up at department store TANGS.
The Plot’s Twists And Turns
Ryan explained that the ‘M’ in the brand’s name, The-M-Plot, stands for ‘macaron’. They envisioned a plot of land full of fruits, flowers, and plants – ingredients they use to make their macarons.
The macarons they make use natural extracts like fruit purée to get the flavours and colouring, so they can only produce limited quantities a day. Both Ryan and his business partner are insistent on making them 100% handmade.
He shared that their creative flavours are inspired from the blend of food cultures we have in Asia.
Like, the Salted Egg X Curry flavour, Chinese tea Tie Guan Yin flavour, and the Virgin Mojito flavour that’s based on the Solero ice cream we liked eating when we were kids.
It took them three months to “achieve the right ratio and flavour layering” for their salted egg-flavoured macaron.
They were not afraid to experiment and innovate with bold flavours, taking a few months to create new ones “to make sure it is right”, and that turned out surprisingly well for them.
But starting up a business is difficult, Ryan revealed, as he is involved in everything from production to marketing.
“Timing and scheduling are [common problems] when it comes to arranging [back-to-back] events,” he shared.
“Based on my former working experience, where [I had worked] under stressful environment and tight schedules and deadlines, [I was able to better] handle my current working environment.”
He said that the business was funded out of their own savings and they have yet to break even.
Since launching at Artbox 2017, they see more return customers on their website and are starting to take on more events.
“This is my first time running an e-commerce store. We engaged a designer to do our product packaging as well as our webpage.”
“Online store is easy (to set up) nowadays as you can find a website provider easily online,” he quipped.
Bake Or Break
According to Ryan, much of their brand awareness comes from word-of-mouth.
“We produce premium products with [ingredients of] premium quality. We got a lot of new customers from our current customers.”
“Besides, our macaron flavours are seasonal. We make up to 12 unique flavours about every four months so we change our menu to keep it interesting!”
The-M-Plot also sells bottled Thai milk tea they brewed themselves on their website.
Ryan noted that the Thai beverage “is not a new thing” and is popular with everyone, so they sought to make their version stand out from the rest.
With another round of trial-and-error, they managed to find their perfect formula for their Thai milk tea product.
Ryan emphasised the use of fresh milk, resulting in a silky milk tea with strong Thai tea fragrance that is less sweet. The milk tea can last up to four days.
He said that The-M-Plot’s bottled Thai milk tea were sold out everyday at Artbox 2018.
They eventually hope to have their own dessert bar where they can serve creative desserts and other beverages on top of their specialty macarons.
On the business front, Ryan said he still has a lot to learn as he has just embarked on his entrepreneurial journey less than a year ago.
But he said, “So far, it has been good and satisfying especially when customers like our products.”
He wished he had known more before getting into the business but he thinks that while getting advice is good, the problems they face will not be exactly the same.
Ryan believes that as an entrepreneur, one should be self-reliant and gain as much experience as they can.
“Stay positive and solve those problems one by one, and do not give up. Having sufficient cash flow is key too,” he shared.
“Be prepared for longer working hours and not going on holidays. Most importantly, look on the bright side and be passionate.”
You can check out The-M-Plot here!
Featured Image Credit: The-M-Plot