Our final subject for “Unofficial Ladies Month” at On the Line is classically trained pastry chef Diane Yoon. Her dessert shop, Merely Sweets, is a collaboration with a classmate and her brother. She wanted to check out Portola Coffee Lab, so we spent a lazy SoCo morning sipping breakfast and got down to business.
What are six words that describe your food?
Fresh, scratch, classic taste and modern style.
What are eight words that describe you?
Stubborn, creative, quirky, passionate, chill, hungry, thoughtful and loyal.
Your best recent food find:
The green-tea-pudding dessert at Aburiya Toranoko — crave-worthy in my opinion.
Most undervalued ingredient:
Although we only bake sweets, salt plays a huge role in enhancing the flavors of our baked goods. Different types of salt can also affect a product's final taste, due to size of the grain, so we use more than one type in our shop. Kosher salt is flaky in texture (as opposed to sea salt, which is finer), so we use it in cookie dough.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen:
Work quick, clean and organized with a sense of urgency, but still maintain a positive and fun atmosphere. Being a team player and communicating helps us through any situation. There have been days when nothing went as planned, but everything turned out better.
One food you detest.
Shortening-based buttercreams. I hate the waxy aftertaste it leaves in your mouth. No amount of milk will wash it down. Oh, and Miracle Whip . . . what exactly is that stuff??
One food you can't live without.
A good chocolate-chip cookie can go a long way. It is just enough to make a bad day okay and a good day great.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
I would have to say Vietnamese food, both authentic and fusion.
What fast food do you admit to eating?
Chick-fil-a! The Chick-fil-a sauce has got me good.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Use a good pure vanilla extract. It's less expensive and has a longer shelf life then vanilla beans. It can really make or break a recipe. Also, know your oven! I always use oven thermometers to make sure I know the exact temperature.
After work, we love ordering food, bringing it back to the store, and eating it upstairs in our office space as we lounge and chat about inventions and being on infomercials.
Favorite celebrity chef.
When I was studying at the French Culinary Institute in NYC, I loved going to chef Jacques Torres' chocolate demos. He is a great storyteller, and I adore his sense of humor. He can make something that is simple become so delicious.
Celebrity chef who should shut up.
Even if I find a chef's personality annoying, if I can see their passion for food, then I can respect and look past their behavior.
Favorite music to cook by:
Things I enjoy the most in life are music and food. I have major music ADD. I range from listening to the Adele Pandora channel to Animal Collective with some Girl Talk and Explosions in the Sky thrown in between.
Best food city in America:
Hands-down, New York City. NYC offers diversity and individuality as well as the best fine dining anyone can experience.
What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
More hidden gems that provide one-of-a-kind menu items. I love traditional, classic food, but I am also a sucker for fusion food. It would be great to see more innovation and risk-taking. And more brunch places [Editor's Note: Funny, that's how I'd answer.]
What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Chain restaurants and fast food.
This is such a difficult question! I usually fall in love with a recipe or two within a single cookbook, but I have yet to find one in which I can really depend on most of the recipes. I am still searching, which gives me a reason to add to my cookbook collection. [Smiles]
When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
What girl doesn't like shopping? I also love checking out new restaurants and bakeries, as well as trying to catch a movie or a concert.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Silkworms are a pretty common street food in South Korea, but I doubt I would ever eat them again.
You're making breakfast. What are you having?
A cup of black coffee and a warm croissant.
You're at the market. What do you buy two of?
Diet Coke because I am addicted.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it):
A customer asked for anchovy cupcakes for his groomsmen as a joke. Yes, I did it, and they thought it was disturbing yet hilarious!
Merely Sweets is located at 260 W. Birch St., Brea, (714) 529-9909. As of this posting, its website is under construction.