Food can either be your medicine or your poison.
Delcie Lam is a Singaporean pastry chef who specialises in healthy, vegan, diabetic friendly, gluten free, and allergy free baking. Time Out Singapore ranks her as one of the “Top 5 Healthy Chefs in Singapore”.
Delcie’s passion for confectionery artistry was ignited at an early age when she won a cake mixer from a lucky draw when she was 11. Since then, Delcie became obsessed with baking while experimenting in the kitchen – always giving away most of her baked Pineapple tarts and Christmas fruitcakes to friends and family.
She recalls, “When I was 13, my dad told me I should start selling my cakes to my neighbours but that did not happen because I had no confidence to approach my neighbours. This idea sunk into my subconscious and I never thought about it since.”
Immediately after graduation, she was employed as a Junior Art Director in Doyle Dane and Bernbach (DDB) Singapore. For the next 2 years, she was so committed to her day job she hardly had time to bake anymore. She later quit her job in September 2008 to pursue her childhood desire – baking.
However, like most parents, her mother strongly opposed the idea of giving up her day job to start a business and both her parents declined to support her financially. But determined to prove that she was committed to working in this business, she invested all her savings and embarked on her three months action plan.
First on the list was to find a space, but with her limited capital, renting an entire kitchen space was impossible. Thinking out of the box, she went around speaking to owners who closed their shop once a week and finally, she negotiated a $400 a month rental with a bubble tea stall owner to use her kitchen when she closed every Thursday. She began her business with just one oven and a cake mixer in a humble shop at a quiet Bishan neighbourhood.
In December 2008, the opportunity to take over the entire store came when the bubble tea stall owner needed to return to Malaysia immediately. She left Delcie an empty shop and 6 months’ remaining lease term to commit to. She was plunged into committing full time into the business.
Unfortunately, her mother was diagnosed with cancer shortly after Delcie took over the store. She had to balance her time between the hospital and managing her shop single-handedly. Finally, she decided to close the shop temporarily to spend time with her mother.
But unfortunately, her mother passed away on 31st March 2009 and Delcie went into depression for the longest time she could remember.
“Like me, my business was going downhill,” she says.
In 2011, she recovered from her depression and snapped back into focusing on the business. She realized food can either be your medicine or your poison. Recalling her mother’s battle with cancer, her mission to create healthy cakes was once again aligned. She began to focus on pioneering the technique in baking guilt-free cakes.
“Going egg free and dairy free was not by chance, it was shaped by my personal lifestyle and my responsibility to my customers.”
Her husband first initiated to turn vegetarian (eggless) for religious reasons and needed moral support from her to encourage his diet. Following this, she received an order from a customer whose child had a severe dairy allergy and wanted a cake for his birthday. Both situations eventually led her to remove both egg and dairy from all her baking so that people with allergies could have a cake on their birthday.
She started testing her egg and dairy free recipes on her customers. She recalls, “I remember throwing away so many unsuccessful cakes. I hid in the kitchen for a good six months, fearing to face unhappy and nasty customers who might not be satisfied with my initial products because this is not how cakes should be baked.”
Finally, positive reviews and many touching testimonials from parents with allergic children motivated her to try harder. In the end, she pioneered the technique of baking egg free, dairy free, gluten-free, and diabetic friendly cakes by using organic ingredients in Singapore.
The business became known as Delcie’s Desserts and Cakes. Due to the work she did, she had obtained a Specialist Diploma in Nutrition and Health Promotion and is also certified in Food Allergen and Gluten Free Management.
Over the years, she has been featured in both local and South-East Asia’s magazines, newspapers, and has also been invited to showcase her knowledge and business on TV lifestyle programs and news channels.
Delcie’s has been awarded “International Top 16 Vegan Bakery” by onegreenplanet.org and is also one of the Top 5 Gluten Free cafés in Singapore mentioned by MarieFranceAsia.com. It is also the first bakery in Singapore to be awarded the “Healthy Choice Bakery” endorsement by Singapore Health Promotion Board since 2011. In 2015, Delcie’s was recognized as the “Most Innovative Heartland Star Enterprise” by Singapore’s Federation of Merchant Association.
The New Savvy: So, Delcie, what are the Unique Selling Points of your business?
Delcie: Our mission is to carefully re-develop all-time favourite cakes and desserts recipes with a healthier twist by removing unhealthy cake ingredients such as eggs, dairy, gluten, and sugar. Our products satisfy people who never dreamed of having a cake due to their dietary restrictions, without compromising on the taste.
We created four main menu items for four of our largest customer segments:
- Vegan and Healthier Choice – for general health-conscious customers and the vegans
- Vegan and Diabetic Friendly – for people with diabetic conditions
- Vegan and Gluten Free – for people on gluten-free diet or with celiac disease
- Vegan and Baby Friendly – for babies aged one and beyond
More information at www.delcies.com/menu
Additional upgrade to Soy-Free, Nut-Free, and avoidance of other allergen ingredients are also available under customisation of each order.
With our fully customisable recipes, customers with multiple allergies will still be able to enjoy a good cake from us. This makes us very different as we do not use pre-mixes (which are not customisable) and we conduct our R&D baking in our kitchen.
The New Savvy: Why do you do what you do?
Delcie: The ability to re-create and develop new recipes for customers who appreciate my effort in choosing the right ingredients for them. Getting positive testimonials from customers keep my entire bakery motivated to create more.
The New Savvy: What do you love about your job?
Delcie: We receive so much gratitude from our customer (some are published online while some are personal messages send to us) when we successfully bake them a cake which they and their family members can enjoy without any worries.
We love listening to their stories as we understand how difficult it is to get a cake that is suitable for their dietary requirements.
The New Savvy: Could you describe one of your typical workdays?
Delcie: Normally, I go to the kitchen to bake only for special orders, for major customised design cakes that require more than one chef to execute, or for R&D purpose to develop new recipes or for a customer with very strict dietary requirements.
Otherwise, most of the time, I focus on website content management and administrative work. Other times, charity work.
The New Savvy: Share some advice for female entrepreneurs.
Delcie: When I was travelling in Israel, I met an ex-military soldier on the plane who shared with me how he had gotten his four-year-old son to jump off the cliff into the sea. His son was afraid to jump off the cliff even though he was an excellent swimmer for his age, and this dad was very confident in his son’s ability. When his son refused to do it, he told him, “Never say no out of fear. You have to attempt it at least once before you have the right to say no to the choice you are making.”
His words have given me a lot of strength to try new things.
My advice is never to fear risks, take the leap of faith, and that everything is possible if you dare to dream about it
The New Savvy: What are your keys to success?
Delcie: Maintaining consistency in quality of the product, focusing on my core mission, and sympathizing with customers and listening to their problem.
The New Savvy: Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
Delcie: My business was largely inspired by my late mother. If not for her, I would never have been exposed to organic ingredients. Upon her death, the business was a tribute to her, and my mission was built around the idea of living a healthy lifestyle with healthy diet choices so that we can prevent and delay illnesses.
However, to sustain my newly set-up business and to deal with the loss of my mother all at the same time, my husband plays a critical role as my pillar. At one point in time, I almost decided to shut down the business because it was tough doing everything all on my own and my savings was bleeding out. I saw no purpose in the business as my mother was no longer around to witness my success.
He motivated me and gave me a very good reason to hang on so that more people would be able to benefit from my healthy cakes. He was also the reason my business took on a turn from baking using traditional ingredients to the specialized bakery it is now, which bakes allergy friendly cakes.
Last but not least, my business mentor, Dr Wong. The first time I attended his class, I learnt about the need to solve a customer’s problem first then sell a product that my customer will appreciate. Then the second class, I discovered that we should not build a barrier around our business.
During that lesson, he personally taught me to let go of my family responsibility so that I can be myself again. It will take a whole day to talk about this story so I shall not go into the details. The result from his little knock on my head changed my life and my relationship with my dad.
With my life changed, the way I handle my business was also affected in a good way, and it has been smooth sailing since.
The New Savvy: How do you improve your financial knowledge?
Delcie: Through reading and learning from financial websites like The New Savvy.
The New Savvy: What do you think we can do to improve financial awareness today?
Delcie: Start financial awareness at a young age by educating the parents first, since children eventually follow the examples of parents. If parents have the little financial knowledge, it will influence their children.
The New Savvy: What are the biggest obstacles to planning your portfolio?
Delcie: Getting an overview of all the best-evaluated products in the market in one place.
The New Savvy: How do you decide on what to do financially?
Delcie: By evaluating opportunities and prioritising spending based on my needs over wants.
The New Savvy: What do you think of women today?
Delcie: Strong, educated, independent, compassionate.
The New Savvy: How do you think modern women can be more fulfilled in their lives?
Delcie: Involve in more charity work. Help others achieve their life first and it will all come back to you.
The New Savvy: What is the biggest challenge facing women today?
Delcie: There is nothing stopping women from getting what they want these days. A woman can wear so many hats at one time. The only women who say they can’t are those who already believe they cannot.
The New Savvy: How can we improve women’s relationship with money?
Delcie: Haven’t thought about this before. I always assumed women are better with money. Haha!
The New Savvy: Which three people (famous or otherwise) would you most like to bake for?
Delcie: My mother, my future children, and customers and children who have never eaten cakes because of their allergies.
The New Savvy: Who are your heroes?
Delcie: My parents. I owe my life to them and everything else that comes with it.
Buddha. I have learnt so much about life, compassion to others and myself.
The New Savvy: What’s the side of you the public never sees?
Delcie: I prefer to be alone.
The New Savvy: What are you most afraid of?
Delcie: Flying insects.Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in