Life, Desserts, and Dreams
Wang Wei is making a classic dessert of the Ecole Lenotre named Autumn Leaves.
Wang Wei’s career journey has taken her into several very different fields of occupation.
After graduating from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM), she first worked in the pharmacy of a hospital in Beijing, then after some time, she changed her job to work in the HR department of a big central SOE. Not content with that, her life path led her in another direction. She quit her job again and went overseas to study the culinary art of making desserts in Paris. Now she owns a bakery named Pardes in Beijing.
Wang Wei’s bakery Pardes is located in Beijing Yizhuang Development Zone.
Give Dreams a Try
Wang was born into a family of aerospace engineers living in Beijing. Her parents and grandparents have all devoted their lives to China’s aerospace industry. After graduating from high school, she chose to pursue a major in the chemistry of traditional Chinese medicine in BUCM. Upon receiving her diploma, she went to work in a pharmacy at a hospital.
Although the job was in her field of academic training, the daily routine and monotonous lifestyle made her feel bored. Keen on trying new things, she quit her pharmacy job to seek something more creative and challenging. Soon, she found a new job in the human resources department of a big company affiliated to China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, where she worked quite well. But the stable life did not satisfy her either, and there was always something inside her that propelled her to seek something new.
One day in 2014 while browsing on Weibo, a popular social networking platform in China, the posts of a food blogger caught her attention. The blogger, who had been trained in Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute, posted lots of videos and pictures of bread and desserts which the blogger had made. Wang was immediately attracted. She loves desserts, and watching small dough balls gradually rise made her feel very happy. After that, Wang began spending more time after work collecting information about baking. She bought books, watched videos, took online courses... the new hobby brought her much relaxation from her high-pressure job as an HR.
In 2016, Wang took a one-month vacation from her job and went to Changsha to take part in a baking course from a professional baker who had lived in France. She was exhilarated every time she stirred the batter, baked it in the oven, and then saw the freshly-made desserts emerge in the oven.
After returning to Beijing, she bought herself a set of baking equipment, and started to practice her baking skills at home. The encouragement and praise she received from friends and family made her so satisfied that she realized what she really wanted to do. “I decided that I would take baking seriously this time. I couldn’t just treat it as a hobby,” Wang said. She was determined to devote herself to what she truly loved.
Wang Wei lays out food for picnics as part of her work for companies.
Never Too Late
Finally, rather than pursuing a predictable future, Wang chose to explore the infinite possibilities of her life. In 2017, she quit her job as an HR manager with the company she had worked for nearly 10 years, and spent a year learning French, searching for information on culinary art schools, and making preparations for sudying baking in France.
In early 2018, Wang arrived at the Ecole Lenotre in Versailles, Paris, to begin her courses in cooking desserts. Lenotre group has a history of more than 60 years. Its founder, Gaston Lenotre, is known as the pioneer of modern-day pastry-making in France. The profound brand culture and high class of the school were the main reasons Wang finally chose to attend Lenotre.
Being alone in a new place and facing lots of pressure in classes, Wang told herself to be resilient. She gradually got used to her campus life, and with great passion for baking, she enjoyed her study and life.
The program in Ecole Lenotre operated on a tight sche-dule. Wang had classes from Monday morning to Friday afternoon. In addition to this, teachers administered evaluations every Friday, where teachers would rate the work of the students. Every minor alteration, such as the thickness of the dough or the depth of the sugar water, would directly affect the final products. “Every teacher paid strict attention to detail, and I was impressed by the serious attitude they had towards the products and students,” Wang recalled.
This spirit of excellence was also found off-campus. In order to improve her skills, Wang visited many popular bakeries in Paris. To her surprise, she found many famous bakeries often closed temporarily. Later, she learned that the reason for that was the chef’s strict requirements. They would rather close their doors to customers than serve them imperfect desserts.
“Once, I had to return to a bakery three times before I finally got the bread I wanted,” she said. But the moment she ate it, the pleasure her taste buds experienced helped her understand instantly the meaning of the chef’s “stubborn” persistence in pursuing culinary excellence.
Wang Wei (second from right, front row) attending the commencement ceremony of the Ecole Lenotre with her classmates.
Dreams Finally Take Off
Wang’s training in France laid a solid foundation for her to start her own business. After returning to Beijing, she set about building her own baking brand. Considering the high expenses of opening up a brick-and-mortar store, she decided to start from an online one. She did evertything all by herself, from finding a place, buying equippment, developing products to promoting her brand.
At the end of 2018, she officially opened up her baking studio. It mainly focused on doing customized business at first, such as providing desserts for the cafes of companies. Her specific goal at this stage was clear: to accumulate customers by offering quality products. She acutally did it. In the span of about two years, Wang built up cooperation through online and offline channels with well-known enterprises such as JD.com, Tencent, and Volkswagen, with more than 9,000 stable custombers.
“Building a brand is like raising a child. If it only stays online, it may never grow up,” said Wang. After gaining some experience from the online studio, She decided to take the next step forward in setting up a physical bakery. However, it was no small challenge. She needed to find a good location, decide on the decoration style and the kind of desserts to be made, and recruit employees. After nearly half a year of preparations, her bakery officially opened on Christmas of 2021.
Wang named her bakery “Pardes,” a compound word of “partager” (meaning to share in French) and “dessert.” The professional knowledge she gained in college and the culinary techniques she learned in France gave her a firm belief that Pardes should stick to a couple of key principles: select 100 percent natural and healthy ingredients and make all products by hand. Although the bakery is a French-styled one, Wang adjusted the recipes by reducing the ratio of sugar and oil, to make the products more suitable for people in north China, a goal which is shared by young customers pursuing a healthy low-fat diet.
In less than two months after its opening, Pardes ranked first among all the bakeries in Beijing Yizhuang Development Zone. Not long ago, an alumni association under the Campus France Chine held an activity at her bakery, participants enjoyed the desserts, made desserts by themsevles, and exchanged thoughts on French culinary culture.
“In the future, I hope to diversify Pardes’ business to make it a platform for hosting offline events with different themes, in a bid to bridge cultural exchanges between China and France,” Wang said.
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