Born and bred in Johor, Malaysia, Seleste Tan had harboured thoughts of being a pastry chef at a tender age. She realised her childhood dream when she became a pastry cook with the Four Seasons Hotel Singapore where she also met the love of her life. She then went on to be a pastry chef with DUO, a restaurant in New York. One thing led to another and she soon found herself helping friends to set up a restaurant. Fast forward to 2021 – a kueh delivery service was established. It was so successful that she set up a permanent storefront at 322 East 9th Street in 2022 and was invited to open an outpost at Urban Hawker in Midtown in 2023.
What woman (real or fictional) inspires you?
Michelle Yeoh. She didn't allow her race, gender and age to define what she can or cannot do. In fact, she has time and again broken the glass ceilings. At age 61, she became the first woman of Asian descent to win the best actress Oscar award – truly an inspiration to all women.
Studies have shown that 80% of women do not feel comfortable discussing finances with family and friends. Is this true in your experience?
This is 100% true for me. I believe women do not feel comfortable discussing finances with family and friends regardless of whether they are less well-off or wealthy.
What is the biggest risk you have taken?
We set up Lady Wong, a Nanyang inspired pastry and kueh boutique in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was meant to be a short-term project but business was so good that we decided to set up a permanent storefront. It was a terrifying experience but we decided to take a leap of faith. I'm glad the risks we took paid off.
Have you ever felt imposter syndrome? If so, how have you dealt with this?
It comes and goes as I go through different stages of my life. At times, I feel confident. At times, I would have doubts for setting up a business or question my ability to take on the challenges. However, I am grateful to have my partner in crime (aka my husband) who's always there for me.
What achievement or experience are you most proud of?
The publicity and accolades we have garnered in New York and elsewhere. We have been interviewed by Eater NY, CNA Luxury and our kuehs have been described by Forbes' journalist, Elizabeth Karmel as "the coolest dessert". The list goes on.
What is a cause that you are passionate about?
Making delicious and comforting desserts. Our customers who, over time, became our fans and friends, keep us going. It is always heartwarming to know that we are always their first port of call whenever they have occasions that call for celebrations.
What advice would you give to your 12 year-old self?
I would tell myself to enjoy the moment with my family. My father was a butcher and my mum used to be a hawker. I vividly remember visiting their stalls, taking pictures and videos of them hard at work and enjoying light-hearted moments with their customers.
What are you most looking forward to in 2024?
We have customers who fly in from other parts of USA just to buy our goodies. We look forward to being able to deliver our goodies to their doorsteps instead of having them fly to New York for them.