Melbourne patisserie power couple pass brûlée blowtorch to new LuxBite owners
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, December 9: Bernard and Yen South Yarra on December 09, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Fiona Hamilton/)
Popular Melbourne patisserie LuxBite – creators of the famous MasterChef Lolly Bag Cake that broke the internet in 2013 – has new owners, but dessert devotees are being reassured they’ll still be able to indulge in the café’s vibrant macarons and stunning designer cakes.
Recently celebrating a decade of satisfying the city’s sweet tooths with their edible art, LuxBite’s co-founders and head chefs Bernard Chu and Yen Yee feel it’s the right time to embark on the next chapter of their culinary careers.
“We’ve had a brilliant 10 years and are delighted to depart on a high, knowing that the business is in very capable hands going forward,” Bernard said.
“I’d be lying if I said it has been an easy ride, but with our strong work ethic and passion, and a team who share our vision, we’ve accomplished much more than we ever imagined. That’s something we’re incredibly grateful for.
“Fortunately, we’ve been able to remain open during the pandemic and retain our 20 employees and keep Melbourne as sweet as we possibly could during the testing lockdown period.”
After moving to Australia in 2003 to study at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu school in Sydney, the humble Malaysian-born couple honed their skills at celebrated restaurants including Quay, Rockpool Bar & Grill and Giuseppe Arnaldo and Sons.
“We were young and had a massive hunger to learn everything we could from the best in the field about desserts, cakes, pastries and sweets.”
In 2010, Bernard and Yen built up the courage to open LuxBite’s flagship store in Toorak Road, South Yarra and quickly amassed a loyal customer base.
“That’s the beauty of Melbourne – the people here are more adventurous when it comes to food and flavours and accepting new ideas.”
Bernard’s guest chef appearance on MasterChef in 2013 skyrocketed his and LuxBite’s profile. Dubbed ‘the cake that stopped the nation’ on social media, Bernard devised a complex cooking challenge for contests – a seven-layer Opera style cake featuring classic Australian confectionery, including spearmint leaves, bananas, jaffas, freckles and red rippers.
“The funny thing is, before creating the cake for the show, I’d never tasted Aussie lollies and I found musk sticks utterly disgusting…and that’s my polite description.”
When Bernard lifted the silver cloche to reveal his Lolly Bag Cake, contestant Christina Batista exclaimed that it ‘was created by an evil genius’ which Bernard still regards as the ultimate (backhanded) compliment.
“We’d always been busy, but MasterChef took the business to a whole new level.”
Bernard (37) explains that LuxBite’s specialty desserts combine French technique with Malaysian flair and exotic flavours, inspired by his and Yee’s hometown and childhood memories, which for Bernard include playing wih sugar and flour in his grandfather’s bakery as a toddler.
“When I’m creating new macaron flavours, I am literally that excited proverbial ‘kid in a candy shop’ – it’s just like a pastry playground,” Bernard laughs.
LuxBite produces 500 macarons and 300 cakes each day. Some of the popular macaron flavours over the past 10 years include pandan coconut, bamboo oolong tea, kaya (coconut jam) toast and rose lychee.
Bernard and Yen have always been committed to giving back to the community and each year they hold a fundraising sale to support cancer research, in honour of Bernard’s father who died when he was aged 12.
“We are looking forward to a bit of a rest after 10 years without a break, then pouring our expertise into collaborations and consultancy projects.
“We’ve really loved the previous collaborations we’ve done with such iconic brands such as Disney, Hello Kitty and The Daily Edited and we’d welcome the opportunity to do more.”
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