House of Flour – by Erin Kennedy

On Sunday March 21st, 2010, students from Shanghai Young Bakers (SYB) went to meet the incredible pastry chef, baker and entrepre neur Brian Tan, founder of the House of Flour. With the purpose of learning how to make one of Tan’s renowned chocolate cakes, the students of SYB also had the opportunity to learn how to effectively use their skills as bakers to build a career.

Entering into Brian Tan’s House of Flour, located at 635 Bibo Lu, in the Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park, and being greeted by Tan himself, the House of Flour exudes a sense of community and comfort set within a stylish café and bakery. Having set up a teaching station at the front of the café, the students gathered round to learn from someone who is not only talented in his craft, but who is also successful in business and life.

Brian Tan taught the SYB students how to make one of his renowned chocolate cakes. This being a secret recipe, the SYB students were privileged participants. Creating a casual atmosphere open for dialogue between students and teacher, Tan lead the SYB students through the precise steps of baking his delicious chocolate treat. The students were active participants, Wang Li was a great assistant, and many students were firing off questions to Tan, keeping him on his toes. Questions were greeted with encouragement by Tan as he acknowledged the SYB’s student’s abilities to relate their skills as young bakers to the skills required to making decadent chocolate cakes. The science and precision of baking and working with chocolate was not lost on the SYB students; they actively kept up with Tan’s questions and philosophies of baking.

While waiting for the chocolate cakes to bake, Brian Tan spoke openly about his introduction to the pastry and baking world, outlining a journey that counted on hard work, a strong sense of community and morality, and a willingness to work for your goals. Tan’s openness allowed the students to experience a story that took a man on adventures throughout the world and led him to his dream. Having found an interest in bread and baking, Tan started his career in his 20’s. Working as an apprentice, Tan pushed himself to work 12-16 hour days in the kitchen and then continue with extra studies outside of work. The SYB students had looks of respect and recognition on their faces as they listened to Tan’s story; a story they could relate with as they are now beginning their careers at the same age as Tan had begun his journey into the baking world. Being dedicated to working long hours and pushing themselves to study further after leaving the kitchen are experiences that the SYB students share with Tan.

While enjoying the delightful chocolate dessert, and gathered around the elegantly decorated cakes, Tan emphasized some of his keys to success to the SYB students. Tan expressed the importance of always having dreams, and that in order to achieve one’s dreams it is necessary to put oneself in the best position possible through education, experience and hard work. Tan talked about the importance of gaining respect by showing your strengths and your ability to constantly improve. Finally, Tan talked of the motivation that can be found in enjoying new challenges and going after new experiences.

Spending the afternoon with Brian Tan at House of Flour proved to be an excellent opportunity for the SYB students to broaden their horizons into the world of baking. While at the same time the SYB students got to experience the success that can come from hard work, dedication, and the continuous development of their skills as young bakers. Tan was an inspiring teacher for the SYB students and provided an excellent example of what an individual can achieve if he or she has the motivation to go after a dream.

Article by Erin Kennedy, volunteer