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When you reach a certain point in your career, you’re bound to ask yourself—what’s next? You’ve worked at all these companies and gained all these professional skills, where do you go from here?

That’s what Chef Lim Yong Lu (Chef Lu) was asking himself a couple years ago.

He had worked at the world’s top hotels like Mandarin Oriental and Marina Bay Sands. Heck, he even led the pastry production team for a Michelin-starred restaurant at some point. All of these are wonderful achievements, but they were still attached to other entities. 

So he set out to make a name for himself by opening Coco Bless Patisserie, a Singaporean online bakery that’s since grown into a physical store in Johor.

Image Credit: Coco Bless Patisserie

Combining Western and Asian influences

Like many other home-baking businesses that have grown in popularity recently, it began during the pandemic.

COVID-19 cases were on the rise and people couldn’t leave their homes. Chef Lu himself was forced to take a break from work. But food deliveries were still very much active and presented him a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

You see, both he and his wife (Clarissa Lee) share a goal of starting their own venture together. Since he had the time, it was a good way to kill boredom while dipping their toes in entrepreneurship. 

Chef Lu with his wife, Clarissa Lee / Image Credit: Coco Bless Patisserie

And with Chef Lu having over a decade of experience in French pastry, it was a no-brainer as to what industry they’d get into. With a slight twist, though. 

French pastries are a dime a dozen in Singapore nowadays. So instead of focusing only on that, they combined it with Japanese influences. “We like our pastries to suit [the] Asian palate, so the mousse is light, sponge is airy, taste is well-balanced and not overly sweet,” Chef Lu explained to us.

Some of the bakes sold at the time included Swiss roll, his favourite pastry to create. This also happened to be a crowd favourite and was one of their signatures, coming in flavours like matcha, hojicha, chocolate, coffee, and sesame. 

Image Credit: Coco Bless Patisserie

Aside from that, there were also French patisseries like mille crepe cakes, mousse cakes, and specialty French cream cakes.

Bake it till you make it

Coco Bless Patisserie began as a part-time business. Even when Chef Lu was called back to work, he would run it during the nighttime with Clarissa’s help.

It was particularly challenging as they’d never run their own businesses before.  

But they didn’t let that deter them. He helmed the kitchen and baking, while Clarissa managed the orders and customer service.

Image Credit: Coco Bless Patisserie

As the business grew, so too did their desire to expand it further. 

They explored various outlets hoping to open a store in Singapore. However, the initial capital required had to be strong and rental was “extremely high”. It was during this time that the couple also found out they were pregnant with their second child, which raised another concern. 

“As foreigners, we are unable to afford the high education cost in Singapore,” Chef Lu shared. “Due to the uncertainty and risks since we have two kids now, we decided to relocate back to Johor.”

It took some time for them to plan and execute this. At some point, the couple had to temporarily cease Coco Bless Patisserie’s operations for almost a year because Chef Lu was too occupied with his day job.

Image Credit: Coco Bless Patisserie

But by 2023, they had settled down in Johor and set up the bakery’s physical store.

Adapting to new horizons

Alongside the operation’s expansion, customers can find that its menu has grown substantially.

Coco Bless Patisserie’s current signature is Hazelnut Religiuese (RM26) which is one of the art pieces he created during a pastry competition in Singapore. 

Those that aren’t keen on heavy flavours could try the Osmanthus Yuzu (RM26). There are also aesthetically pleasing petite cakes that come in various flavours on sale. The bakery whips up about 80 to 100 of them daily on average.

Image Credit: Coco Bless Patisserie

Aside from sweet treats, he’s also been developing in-house viennoiserie recipes such as otak pesto focaccia. These are all available for in-store purchases and even online deliveries within Johor. 

All that said, it hasn’t been an easy transition. The founder candidly shared that they didn’t account for one big difference—spending power. “We realised that starting a business in Johor isn’t easy as the spending power isn’t as mature as Singapore and KL.”

The store’s location in Taman Impian Emas, Skudai also isn’t the most strategic. It’s about half an hour’s drive from the city. Considering that they’re hoping to target both young Johoreans and Singaporeans, this puts the business at a disadvantage.

Chef Lu is currently in Season 2 of Singaporean baking competition show, Creme De La Creme / Image Credit: Coco Bless Patisserie

To overcome this, the pastry shop partners with Malaysian cafes to supply them with baked goods. Chef Lu also collaborates with Miraclemo in Singapore to conduct pastry workshops for brand awareness.

Not afraid to take “whisks”

It’s been only about six months since Coco Bless Patisserie’s physical bakery opened, but Chef Lu and Clarissa have big dreams for the brand.

He didn’t disclose too many details but from what we heard, this won’t be the only outlet in the long run. Customers can expect to find them available in other locations around Malaysia. 

And who knows? If the right opportunity came up, maybe they might even set up a shop in Singapore just like their original plan.

Image Credit: Coco Bless Patisserie

One thing that’s clear is the couple’s mission to focus on what they know best, and that’s pastries. “At the moment, we don’t have any plans to include savoury dishes into our menu,” Chef Lu stated.

Their goal is simple: to have Coco Bless Patisseries be the first brand in a customer’s mind when picturing desserts and patisseries.

It won’t be an easy journey, as pastries are easily found throughout Johor as well. But the founders are confident that the brand’s focus on blending French and Japanese baking techniques is unique and mass-marketable.

“In France, dessert is more than just one of several courses at mealtimes. It is an art. We hope to bring up the quality benchmark of local desserts,” Chef Lu affirmed.

Chef Lu when he was younger and learning the art of pastry-making / Image Credit: Coco Bless Patisserie
  • Learn more about Coco Bless Patisserie here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Coco Bless Patisserie

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