GWEN LIM

Gwen-Lim-landscape2-2015

Even the most incredible and powerful women have someone they look up to, a role model they are inspired by and wanted to be when they grew up. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we reached out to some of our own personal heroines to find out who — and what — makes them tick. They will be featured in the “WOW Woman” series throughout March and April. We hope you’ll be inspired by them, and find the wisdom and courage in their words you need to pursue your dream, to live the life you want. #GirlPower

WHO: Gwen Lim, The Sweet G-enius

WHAT: Chef/owner of Patisserie G

WHY SHE WOWS: An individual style and the chutzpah to challenge the norm. These are two things about Coco Chanel that Gwen Lim admires and is inspired by. She may not realise it but the Le-Cordon-Bleu-trained pastry chef and owner of Patisserie G may have more in common with the Mademoiselle than she knows.

First of all, guts. In 2009, in her mid-30s, Gwen left her job in finance and logistics, went to Paris and completed a diploma course at the famous and prestigious French culinary school. What happened next sounds like a dream-come-true for any aspiring patissier: She scored a two-month stint at Pierre Hermé. And when she came back to Singapore, Gwen worked with more crème de la crème of pastry chefs — Christophe Grilo (Spoon by Alain Ducasse, Canelé) and Daniel Texter (Noma, Les Amis).

But the real icing on the cake has to be opening her own shop, Patisserie G, in 2012, where she creates and sells a petite selection of artisanal French pastries and cakes. And that’s where her independent style may be discerned.

Whether it’s following her heart in starting her own business, the

meticulous creation of her pastries, or the minimalist interior decor of the café (it’s more Japanese than French), Gwen seems to have a good idea of what she wants — and it’s OK if you don’t agree with her. Take her choice of ingredients, for example. The pastry artist reportedly uses only Flechard butter and Michel Cluizel chocolate from Normandy.

By her own admission, her market is niche. But if you have ever set foot into Patisserie G and tried her famous — and honestly rather delightful — cakes (order the Saint Honoré and G Spot), you’ll understand why you’re paying S$8/S$9 for a slice. And you’d happily get another to go.

Like Chanel’s Little Black Jacket, there’s just something so alluringly understated in the luxury of Gwen’s confections.

Whatever her recipe is, it sure looks to be working, and people want more. As you’re reading this, the expansion of Patisserie G is underway, and the soft-spoken entrepreneur is set to make a louder buzz when the extended cafe is ready to serve a bigger crowd with a bigger menu.

“There will be people around you who are encouraging and also those who will tell you that it’s going to fail. Take their negativity as a reminder of why you need to make it work,” says Gwen.

Well, whoever doubted her at first, no cake for you.

Something that has been working for me is being true to my own vision even if it is different, and not being afraid to try even if it doesn’t work out at first. I also think having a supportive circle of family, friends and colleagues is important.

WE ASK …

Who is the woman you look up to the most as your role model and inspiration in life?
Gwen Lim: I take inspiration from various people — my mum for her love of baking and cooking. She is always trying out new recipes and improving them. From a young age, we were allowed to help her out in the kitchen which has made me very comfortable (doing what I do) and it’s what got me started (with my business). Cliché perhaps, but (I’m also inspired by) Coco Chanel for how she built her business from scratch, by having her own fiercely independent style and by challenging the norm.

What is the key to your success — in your career and in life?
GL: I don’t think I have achieved success in my career yet. I started Patisserie G in November 2012 and have been quite lucky in how it has progressed (we are expanding our current shop in June). There is still a long way to go before I can call it a success, but I am enjoying the excitement of building a business and facing new challenges every day.

In hindsight, something that has been working for me is being true to my own vision even if it is different, and not being afraid to try even if it doesn’t work out at first. I also think having a supportive circle of family, friends and colleagues is important.

What is your advice for someone who is pursuing or wants to her dream?
GL:
You cannot be afraid of hard work when you start your own business, and the road can be quite lonely. There will be people around you who are encouraging and also those who will tell you that it is wrong and it’s going to fail. Take their criticisms constructively and their negativity as a reminder of why you need to make it work.

The most important part is the process, so you must enjoy the process and not just look forward to (what’s at) the end.

What is the biggest challenge you face turning your dream into a reality, and running your own business now?
GL: It’s difficult to single out one specific aspect because it all seems to be one big challenge. Everything seems to matter, from managing costs and retaining staff, to coming up with new ideas at the same time maintaining quality, all the way to the bottom line.

Currently, after some feedback from customers about our limited seating, we are preparing to expand our premises. This involves planning the layout and design of the renovation, creating an extended menu to include breakfast and lunch, hiring and training more staff, and generally crossing our fingers that the move will pay off.

There’s always something new to deal with, so maybe the biggest challenge is to learn how to juggle everything, not get overwhelmed, and still enjoy the journey.

[Photos: Wear Oh Where]