Duo Patisserie Owner and Executive Pastry Chef Eric Chan

For Eric Chan, owner/pastry chef, of the dynamic Duo Patisserie in the Toronto suburb of Markham, the concept is simple: pastries and dessert. But to his devoted clientele, it’s beautiful, edible art. CW Magazine caught up with Eric for a brief chat on his influences and industry observations.

What was your route to entrepreneurship?

I started working at 13, a very young age; cleaning, bussing, and tedious work. I knew an office job wasn’t what I wanted. I‘m more of a hands-on person. And being in the food industry for so long, decided food was what I wanted to pursue. I grew up in Markham but never worked in any Markham shops because there just weren’t many. That’s why I decided to open a market because I wanted to open in the place where I grew up and to introduce what I’ve learned to my community. There wasn’t anything like this here, and I was a bit unsure how the community would accept it. It’s been 8 years, and the feedback’s been very positive. The people love it and I’m very grateful for it.

What’s been your biggest challenge…and reward?

The biggest challenge post-Covid is definitely the labor. The work we do requires time and focus, and whenever we’re short-staffed it’s very difficult to run the operation. I’m sure everyone is experiencing this: it’s difficult to find a good staff with the proper skills. I’m fortunate that my staff has been loyal, and many have been working for me for over five years.

And the rewards? One obvious one: when you open a business, money plays an outsized role. Yes, we all love to do this. The pastries and desserts…It’s fun. But if you do decide to open a business, I think you should prioritize having the money come in. I’ve worked every day since I opened. I work seven days a week and I’ve never taken a day off. A lot of times we work from 3 a.m. and continue for over 12 hours. As an entrepreneur, money is quite important, and I want to be realistic about it. Another type of reward? It’s been a dream of mine to open something like Duo.

With your ambition and drive…what’s next?

For now, just maintaining, which is another challenge. When you start, it’s easy…as long as you have proper capital. But to actually last to the end and to maintain it, is the most difficult part. So my goal at the moment is just to maintain. To do a good job and build a good team and train the next generation so that there could be more shops like this opening in Toronto.

How do you recharge?

I close the whole month of January, for almost three weeks, and I force all my staff to take a break after Christmas. Usually, this is the time for me to go traveling. Paris or Tokyo or New York or whatever it is, to get some inspiration and take a little break. This January,  if it goes well, I’ll be going to Lyon to see the Coup de Monde, which is equivalent to the World Cup of Pastry. They also have a show there. It’s called Sirha – it’s one of the largest baking trade shows in the world. I want to go and see what’s new: new technology, new ingredients, new trends. I just want to be a little bit inspired and keep up with what’s going on in the world.

Speaking of trends, what’s new, and what’s next? And what ingredients are you inspired by?

I think the trend is always going back to something simple and something classic. And I’m very inspired by just very simple things; very simple things are very hard to make. I’m sure everyone’s heard of that. But actually, if you do make it well, the customer will keep coming. People always want to eat something that they’re familiar with. And if you do a good job, you always will be successful.