Xiao-Ly Koh Of Xiao By Crustz On Spreading Joy Through Desserts
While 2021 continues to be a challenging year, some of our favourite chefs, such as Xiao-Ly Koh, are still finding ways to keep the public well-fed and happy. The pastry chef says, "We have expanded our range to include more gifting items that spread joy." Get acquainted with Koh through the following interview and better still, by sampling her sweets.
Can you believe we're almost halfway into 2021? How is 2021 going compared to 2020?
Yes, in the blink of an eye, we are now in May. My team and I have been busy trying to manoeuvre in and out of MCO and the whole pandemic situation, but we are more prepared than before. The transition from dine-in to online and back has been relatively smooth. I have to admit that our bond has grown stronger by taking on these challenging times together, and we are all grateful for the continuous support from our customers.
How would you introduce Xiao by Crustz and Tanuki by Crustz to unfamiliar customers?
Well, Xiao by Crustz is my first store which serves modern French pastries. Western and Eastern flavours are interpreted via modern desserts.
Whereas Tanuki by Crustz expresses the same concept via ice cream creations. Think mini ice cream cakes with different textures and flavours. We pay a lot of attention to the textures of our cakes and frozen desserts so they're neither too hard nor too soft, and ensure that all flavour notes are enjoyable for our customers.
One way we expand our creativity is by challenging ourselves to change the menu often and by offering seasonal specials in conjunction with Malaysian festivities; that way, there is always something to look forward to, not only for the customers, but for our team as well.
Do you have any advice for chefs or restaurateurs on going into business with their family?
I'm still on a learning curve myself, but there are more pros than cons, surely. From my supportive parents, who carry out all our last minute errands, to my siblings, who are my biggest advisors and the 'brains' of the business, my family is very involved and are truly the backbone of both operations.
My teammates have become my second family. We weather the same challenges and reap the same rewards.
Although we may disagree over certain issues, we always try remember the bigger picture. Instead of simply focusing on business profits, we try to remember how lucky we are to be doing what we love, and to enjoy the moment.
Has the pandemic impacted your cooking and eating habits, whether at home or at your cafés?
We used to have more staff meals between the two stores, but have sadly had to minimise social activities to adhere to the SOPs and to keep our staff and customers safe.
We occasionally order takeout or delivery to each store to celebrate certain occasions and to support our other friends in F&B.
Have you picked up any new skills or hobbies?
Oh, yes! One of my greatest achievements during the pandemic has been gaining viennoiserie skills. As most of our desserts are relatively fragile, we started looking into creating more essential items that could survive the delivery method. We now offer more variety in our store, including croissants and other baked goods. My partner Chef Loi developed a love of traditional Christmas Panettone, which took hours and hours of feeding and refreshing the starter. Chef Otto's gâteau de voyage (travel cakes) will also be on our menu real soon!
Have you made the most of virtual spaces during the pandemic?
We've spent more effort creating video content to engage with our clients, although the scene is getting saturated since everyone is online most of the time while at home.
I'm relatively old school and my attention span is rather short, so online classes haven't been easy. However, I do watch short videos and check social media to get fresh inspiration and ideas.
Throwback: Tatler Takes A Virtual Baking Class With Taylor’s University
Have any unexpected blessings or opportunities risen from the pandemic?
Yes, we have gleaned a better understanding of what our customers crave while they're stuck at home. So we expanded our range to include more gifting items that spread joy.
Last but not least, I've been very fortunate in the sense that both my partners, who are World Pastry Cup champions, have been able to spend more time in Malaysia to innovate and motivate the team and I to do better.
How can consumers continue to support your business besides, well, 'consuming'?
By providing genuine and constructive feedback, which allows us to analyse our weaknesses and to perform better. Also, do spread the word about our desserts; we believe word of mouth is still the most effective means of exposure.
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