It’s no surprise that a pandemic-prompted hobby turned into a flourishing pastry business for culinary power couple Mogan Anthony and his wife Seleste Tan. The two have experience cooking in Michelin star restaurants, five-star hotels and resorts from Singapore to New York City. Their venture, Lady Wong has become a bit of a destination spot for New York City’s East Village. But for Anthony and Tan, their patisserie isn’t just a business venture that worked out in their favor. It’s more a matter of heart that keeps Lady Wong Cakes beating since it is entirely inspired by their love of cooking and their family’s heritage. And their recent announcement that Lady Wong will now be delivering to Fairfield and Westchester counties is not just about expansion, but rather about wanting to share their delectable desserts with their neighbors.
“My wife was missing traditional pastries that her family used to make in Asia, especially for Chinese New Year,” says Anthony of the initial inspiration behind making the collection of cakes while staying home during the pandemic. But the two had French culinary training and neither had spent time making those traditional desserts from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia that they grew up with. So they began testing the idea of using traditional flavors from Southeast Asian but using French pastry techniques to create something uniquely their own. Flavors like pandan, which is an Indonesian vanilla; matcha, with its deep bitter and umami flavors; and tangy calamansi and passionfruit curd. “In the city, most of the pastry shops are French or Italian. There are not really many places that have these flavors of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia—very Southeast Asian,” says Anthony. Tan put her experience and expertise in French pastry technique into putting a twist on crêpes, entremets and tarts.
The response has been overwhelming, says Anthony. Aside from winning multiple awards, fans on Instagram say the tastes remind them of their family back home or childhood. But Anthony says, it’s also given them an opportunity to connect with other Americans and new generations who are not familiar with those traditional Southeast Asian flavors, and introduce them to something special. “As a chef, I do love the education part of the business, introducing something new. I can see a lot of people getting excited about the different flavors,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons we are continuing to expand and offering delivery back home now, too.” The impetus to begin delivery to Fairfield and Westchester was spurred by the fact that they have been longtime residents of Greenwich, CT, and they wanted to share the taste of their culture with their own neighborhood. “Orders are coming in,” says Anthony. “Not only are there are a lot of young families who have lived in Thailand, Vietnam, and been to Singapore, that are really big fans, but also, we are seeing a new broader audience excited to share our cakes and pastries with friends and family for special occasions and dinner parties.”
Among Anthony’s personal favorites, the pandan pistachio cake. “I feel like it captures that sense of French American with the buttercream but instead we use coconut milk. It’s less sweet than its French American counterpart so people like that.”
He is hoping fans won’t become “one and done” customers who try it once, but rather keep coming back to Lady Wong for their special occasions. “We have a bigger dream to share our culture and these flavors and French techniques so they begin to feel friendlier and familiar.”
For now, their pastries and whole cakes are available only from Lady Wong. The couple doesn’t plan on selling them through restaurants at this time. “We’ve had a lot of requests, but right now we are focused on the direct-to-customer experience.”