Although she fell in love with the art of pastry when helping her mother in the kitchen as a child, Angela Lai didn’t realise she wanted to become a chef until the age of 21, when she had already started a career in management. Following an instinct telling her that she belonged in restaurants instead, she enrolled at At-Sunrice culinary school in Singapore and graduated with a diploma in pastry and baking arts in 2009 – and the rest is history.
Ambitious, talented and determined, the cook spent nearly 10 years training and working in pastry shops, restaurants and hotels in Singapore, eventually landing a job at Guy Savoy’s eponymous French restaurant at Marina Bay Sands. It was here that Lai first met chef Kai Ho – then the only Taiwanese chef at the restaurant – who three years later would offer her the position of Pastry Chef at his brand-new restaurant, Taïrroir in Taipei.
Since moving to Taiwan in late 2015, Lai has been on a journey of discovery of the seasonal produce and culinary traditions of the country, fully embracing the learning experience and translating it into her desserts. Taïrroir is a restaurant that aims to deconstruct Taiwanese cuisine, integrate French techniques and infuse a global spirit into classic recipes – an ethos that perfectly aligns with the pastry chef’s love for classic French patisserie classics such as cream puffs.
For her signature Pong Pia dessert, Lai took inspiration from a hollow Chinese pastry traditionally baked with a brown sugar filling. The story goes that women in Taiwan would be given the pastry fried in sesame oil after giving birth as a pick-me-up to restore strength and health. For her version, the pastry chef created a filling that features dark brown sugar, Madong chocolate crémeux (a custard-based ganache) and sesame oil ice cream, all covered in a thin pastry encasing that bears Taïrroir’s Chinese characters.
Lai’s desserts often feature different textures and a wide array of flavours, with the chef often integrating bitter and savoury notes in her creations. Thanks to their eclectic taste, Lai believes that her desserts would be loved even by those without a sweet tooth – though she is most passionate about ensuring that the last moment of the meal leaves a truly lasting sweet impression.
With a number of impressive creations already under her belt and a promising career ahead, Lai is a worthy winner of the Asia’s Best Pastry Chef Award 2021 and she is expected to emerge on the global culinary stage very soon.
Learn more about chef Angela Lai by reading the interview on 50 Best Stories
Discover more about the previous award winners