Sandy Tran, the fresh new Executive Pastry Chef/Chocolatier of arty-cool andSons Chocolatiers in Beverly Hills CA, perfected her pastry chef talents at Thomas Keller’s, The French Laundry (and with CIA Greystone and Mainland Inn, PA as well). Tran’s ‘keep striving for the best attitude,’ think out-of-the-box creativity, along with her BA in Social Ecology (the study of how individuals interact with and respond to the environment around them) from U.C. Irvine, make her the ideal new Executive Pastry Chef/Chocolatier to take andSons to the next exciting couverture level.
Despite cherishing being an integral part of the team of The French Laundry, when ‘Rona’ hit and the world shut down, Sandy, and her fellow chef husband Izra took the cue to move closer to family in Orange County with their beautiful baby son Asher in tow.
As fate would have it, not long after their relocation, Sandy and her husband stumbled into andSon’s in Beverly Hills where she soon found herself in conversation with owner-brothers Marc and Phil Covitz regarding the possibility of her jumping in as their Executive Pastry Chef/Chocolatier.
andSons, opened by ‘the mensches’ as Sandy calls them, in 2019, is a second-generation chocolate business. The first, Teuscher, Swiss Chocolate Chocolatier was owned and operated by their mother Aviva Covitz for 35 years and was a much-savored location for decadence on the corner of Camden and Brighton in Beverly Hills for decades.
andSons, which like Sandy, is still in the early stages of its trajectory, offers an ideal canvas for the smart and talented chocolatier due to its uniquely modern, eclectic vibe founded in the highest level of chocolate procurement.
With big plans in the mix and the holiday season soon approaching, CW Magazine caught a minute with creatively conscious Sandy Tran for a fresh and evocative conversation as enticing as her andSon’s bonbons.
The “why do you do what you do” question.
I’m an instant gratification kind of person. Being able to produce something with my hands and see the result of my labor is what really drives me. There’s a science that’s very satisfying when all the chemistry works out in your favor; once everything is tempered correctly and lines up like soldiers, you get that excellent shine. I like to have full control over the process. Knocking out a tray of chocolates is literally the best thing in the world.
Sandy Tran and Adam Driver; the artist’s perspective.
Just like Adam Driver doesn’t ever watch himself in his movies, once I make a tray of chocolate I’m like. ‘This is really great. Let’s move on!’ I want it to be enjoyed right there in that second in its purest form. I love to see the reactions when people go, ‘Oooh,’ or even, ‘Yuck!’ Whatever the reaction, like the chocolate, it’s gone and it’s fleeting. It’s wonderful because then you just get to start over. And then it’s, ‘Okay, how can I do this better?’
Speaking of ‘the force,’ what’s your superpower?
The ability to always question myself. A lot of this comes from my training at ‘the Laundry,’ where you know, we’d use this word ‘Kaizen,’ (Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning change for the better or continuous improvement. ) Thomas would say, ‘You can never achieve perfection just the joy and pursuit of it.’ It’s just being superfluid, never thinking that you’re done and never stopping.
Being a Social Ecologist, how’d you compare the environments of The French Laundry to andSons?
The ‘Laundry’ is its own special little place. From the
second you enter, you put on the jacket and the blue apron, and the culture is instilled in you. You just know this is a different place. You can’t help but be swept up in it. It changes you as a person.
The difference here at andSons is that I’m in charge. It’s up to me to develop the company culture and strive for perfection. The team here really resonates with that kind of drive.
The fresh seasonal flavor of andSons ‘time capsules’
The fact that we’re in Los Angeles is kind of huge. I love our home state. I’m born and raised in California. Our produce is exceptional. I can say with full confidence that I think Santa Monica Farmers Market is the best farmers’ market in the country. In terms of what we create here, all of that quality selection translates to our product right? Strawberries, peaches, apricots whatever’s in season, that’s what we’re bringing in. What’s really nice about confections is that it’s a form of preserving fruit jam. andSons has grown to a point where we’re creating as seasonally as possible. This is the main thing we really want to push; preserving our fruit-oriented bonbon when the fruit is at its height of flavor. You’re going to want a peanut butter and strawberry jelly bonbon in September. But you’re probably gonna really want one in January. So, when I put a strawberry in the bonbon, you best believe it’s a fresh farmer’s market strawberry going in and not a frozen product from a pack. The fresh seasonal flavor of the fruit is palpable. That’s the beauty of confection. They’re hermetically sealed and preserved.
O Noble Valrhona. Tran’s chocolate of choice.
There’s a lot of different couverture but Valrhona is particularly wonderful because they’re very consistent. It is also important to us that they are a B Corp (B Corp Certification is a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials. ) Working with an ethical company that ensures they are sourcing from farms not involved in slave labor, or child labor, and paying farmers a decent wage is really important to what we’re doing. We use Clover Cream for that exact same reason. We like to align ourselves with B Corps. because I can rest assured knowing we’ve done our due diligence. You gotta think about our future. It’s an uncertain time. We have to be thinking in this way in everything we do. And not everybody does.
All the leaves are brown and the sky is a pleasing 75 degrees in SoCal. But, do you have plans for what you might be procuring for fall?
This is my first season taking over so we’re in the baby infant planning stages. We haven’t made it official but I can drop a few hints. One of my cooks had this like wonderful idea to work with a local baker to celebrate the Hispanic roots in L.A. and incorporate authentic Mexican flavors of orange, cinnamon, fennel, and fennel pollen.
Giving chefs at Thanksgiving
As a chef, I claim this holiday from all of my family
members every year. I’m also married to a chef so we go big. We’ve been working in restaurants most of the time so you only really get the day of Thanksgiving off to prepare. So, we get up early and do everything the morning of.
You have to have a real plan. We go super traditional. All of our family friends and family come together. My entire family is spread around Orange County and Long Beach so Thanksgiving is always a really special time.
Last words about the ‘mensches’ of andSons and this opportunity in general?
They pulled me in with their good energy. Good energy is what comes first for me. I want to work with the people who would save the puppy on the side of the freeway. I was actually researching all the different brands and looking at andSons product, packaging and story and I liked their whole business and thought to myself, ‘One day if I had a chocolate shop, I’d want it to be like andSons. There’s validity and legitimacy to having something passed down from generation to generation. I could not find myself with a better company to align my goals with. We’re new together, but Mark and Phil have shown me nothing but good vibes and full support. So, I’m all about it.