Cream puffs, profiteroles, choux à la crème. Whatever you call them, a generally indisputable fact is that the fluffy, bite-sized pastry balls filled with sweet cream were first created in France.
Despite those European roots, “cream puffs are really, really popular in Japan,” explained Madori Tanaka, co-owner of Whistler pastry start-up Lily Food Creation.
In Japan, “You can actually get it anywhere, and also it’s something [that’s more difficult for people] to find in Whistler.”
Madori and her husband, Take Tanaka, launched Lily Food Creation in August 2021 to help fill that gap. The pastry shop operates out of Whistler’s Chirp Co-Kitchen in Function Junction from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, though its products are also available at Forecast Coffee and Hot Buns Bakery on weekends. (That is, until they sell out.)
It’s difficult to tell from the images of sugar-dusted pastries splashed across Lily Food’s social media feeds, but Take considers baking a fun (if time-intensive) side-hustle. He previously attended culinary school and honed his skills working in hotels in Japan, picking up a few tips from the pastry chefs he shared a kitchen with along the way. These days, Take puts those skills to use most often as a line cook at the upscale Rimrock Café in Creekside.
“Cooking is my job, but pastry is my hobby,” he explained.
Lily Food Creation’s bread and butter is its two distinct styles of cream puff: a crunchier, more modern cookie-style dessert and a traditional pastry with diced almond and cane sugar.
In addition to those staples, Take mixes up the menu with decadent monthly specials like pastry rings, lacquered passion fruit éclairs with mascarpone and chocolate puff shell, strawberry mille-feuilles, rum-soaked cherry tarts with lemon whipped cream, tiramisu, opera cakes and chocolate cream puffs with custard cream.
For December, Take will recreate the chocolate pistachio Yule log cake that proved popular last Christmas, but is also throwing a new cheesecake-style Yule log cake into the mix. He also bakes custom birthday cakes by request.
While Take handles all things pastry, Madori runs the administration side of the business. “I never go into the kitchen,” she said with a laugh. Both snowboarders from Japan, the couple met in Whistler after coming to the resort in 2013 in search of snow. They were married in 2016. (Now, they have a three-year-old son who also works for the enterprise on Saturdays as chief greeter.)
“My husband had been thinking about having his own businesses since he arrived in Whistler. He always wanted to do something by himself,” Madori explained. With fewer shifts and more downtime brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the relatively low-risk business opportunity that comes courtesy of a time-slot at Chirp, it seemed like the perfect time to take action.
The dream would be to one day own and operate his own restaurant, pastry shop and maybe catering outlet, said Take. “I don’t know when yet, but eventually,” he added. In the meantime, Chirp is meeting all Lily Food’s needs, with the added bonus of connecting the Tanakas with other chefs and small business owners in the resort community.
“It’s a small town, so connection is important in whatever you do,” said Madori. “Now is the time to build those relationships with others.”
As Take added in a follow-up email, “We appreciate all our friends and people around who gives us advice and feedback, and encourages us always. We could not do this without these beautiful people.”
Orders can be placed via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 604-388-8787 or through social media at facebook.com/lilyfoodcreation or @lilyfoodcreationwhistler on Instagram. Delivery is available within Whistler.