I’m absorbing a lot from books written on desserts and various cooking techniques...It feels like I’m having a science experiment in the kitchen, 1 gram at a time.
* This interview is also available at JPy Magazine 2015 Winter issue
Congratulations for recently opening the RING baked tofu donuts shop in Woodland Hills! How did the opening of the shop come about?
I always loved making confections. I tried working for restaurants but it never worked out for me the way I wanted it to, for example, not getting the hours I wanted, low wages, etc. But with the support from those around me, I started to think that maybe it’s possible to have a business with the "Baked Tofu Donuts".
Would you tell us the reason why you chose Baked Tofu Donuts as your main product?
I thought about a raw sweets shop, but I didn’t have much capital to start with, so BTD was the result when I took initial investment into consideration. Also Los Angeles is a major car-society, I needed to come up with something that could last the long delivery drive. After trial and error, I came up with the Baked Tofu Donuts. I was thinking of it as a gift for people to take to their friends and for visits, but Japanese sweets like dorayaki wouldn’t be as familiar for the American market, so I chose donuts. Los Angeles doesn’t have humidity and that seemed to affect the texture of the donuts at first, but when I baked it with tofu I was able to get the texture I wanted. It was a great discovery because it adds a healthy image and a mix of Japanese culture into it, too.
Your concept is very distinctive and design is very refined. How do you come up with your ideas?
The labels and logo designs are designed by Yuko Okada. She loves designing so I have her design everything. The concept and direction is something I constantly decide together with my partner.
Were there challenges upon opening up your shop?
I started trial productions from 2012 and came up with over 200 recipes. I still fine tune ingredients and recipe so it never is final. I think the donuts will keep evolving as ingredients become better. There are no recipes for BTD out there, so I’m absorbing a lot from books written on desserts and various cooking techniques...It feels like I’m having a science experiment in the kitchen, 1 gram at a time.
Please tell us what you care most about, when it comes to RING donuts?
If I have to choose, then it comes down to the taste and ingredients. I like to use Local, organic, non GMO ingredients as much as I can. I speak to each of the shop keepers/owners and gather ingredients that I personally love. From Farmer’s Market, Supermarket, Cafes, to cake bakeries, they’re all my favorite places to hang out, so I incorporate ingredients and tastes that I find there.
What are your plans for the shop?
I would like for more people to know RING and have them come to our store. And get even more creative and have fun with the flavoring. Soy sauce, miso, yomogi, spinach…gluten free...flavors and ingredients that are Japanese style or not, I am constantly experimenting.
Can we get a comment or advice for the JPy readers and JOBOT users?
I’m the one asking for advice, really [laughs]. I’m still in the middle of learning. I feel blessed because I’m surrounded by wonderful people and opportunities, so I think it’s important to keep striving to not let that go to waste.
Influenced by her mother, Aya started making sweets & desserts when she was still a child. It was during her study abroad in San Francisco, she was craving Japanese confections, so she started to making her own. Later, she got accepted to California Culinary Academy (today: Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts) to study Baking and Pastry arts.
Working as patissier in Japanese restaurants, she makes her move to Los Angeles to open her shop.
She starts RING Baked Tofu Donuts in 2012 with her present partner. Made-to-order as their business model, they opened their first brick & mortar store in Woodland Hills on November of 2014.
6800 Owensmouth Ave. Ste 130
Woodland Hills, CA 91303