CHEF JUDY LAI
Chef Judy Lai is a second generation Chinese American – the youngest of four daughters to immigrant parents from Hong Kong. When her parents arrived in NY, they settled in a one bedroom apartment on Allen street and held typical immigrant jobs with her dad as a line cook in a Chinese restaurant and her mom as a seamstress. They both worked hard to give their daughters a better life and always instilled good values and the importance of education. Growing up in the Lower East Side, Judy had a major sweet tooth and enjoyed traditional Chinese desserts like black sesame cake to very American desserts like the NY cheesecake.
Pastry was never part of the plan for Judy though. After graduating from SUNY Binghamton with a major in Economics and minor in Studio Arts and East Asian Studies. In 1999, Judy started working as an accountant at Sony Music. It wasn’t until she whimsically prepared a cake for her niece’s first birthday where she received rave reviews that she decided to take a chance and enroll in night classes at the French Culinary institute (now International Culinary Center). After earning her diploma in Classic Pastry in 2006, Judy was offered a job at the school’s distinguished L’École restaurant and after 5 years, they promoted her to the coveted position of Cake Decorating Instructor. While concurrently working a full time job at the French Culinary Institute, Judy also started her own company, Silk Cakes in 2009. In 2011, she decided to completely dedicate herself to Silk Cakes.
Throughout her upbringing, Judy was subject to the tension of self identity that many second generations experience. Fully American and yet markedly Asian, she created Silk Cakes to bridge these two identities by infusing Asian ingredients such as black sesame and green tea into familiar American desserts such as cupcakes. Thus, creating inventive Asian American desserts.