Culinary Career Changer: Leigh Koh Peart of Craft Cakes
ICE grad Leigh Koh Peart (Culinary Management and Pastry & Baking Arts '08) had an dynamic career in the music industry, but something wasn't quite right. She moved across the world to study at ICE, which led to externships and work opportunities with some of the industry's top bakers and pastry chefs. Today, she manages an extraordinary custom cakes business in London.
What were you doing before you enrolled at ICE, and what inspired you to change careers?
I was working in Singapore at the time, running event logistics for MTV music events in Asia. It was great fun but I was ready to learn something new and see more of the world. I always had a love for baking and wanted to take it to the next level.
I also wanted to learn how to manage a food business. So I picked the ICE program because I was able to do both concurrently. It was quite intense but really fun, I learned a lot and made such good friends from around the world.
Where was your externship? And what have you been up to since graduation?
I did two externships. The first one was at Financier Patisserie, where I helped to produce their daily range of beautiful French-style pastries. Then I realized I wanted to learn more about the art of cake decorating, so I applied for an externship at Ron-Ben Israel Cakes, which was an amazing experience and inspired me to start my own cake business.
I moved to London after my externship at RBI Cakes. I worked as a pastry chef in Michelin-starred Chef Pierre Gagnaire's Sketch in Mayfair, London. I learned so much working alongside high-caliber chefs, but knew that life in a restaurant kitchen was not what I wanted in the long term. I decided to start my own cake business, Craft Cakes, where I currently make bespoke cakes, teach cake decorating classes and host parties in London.
Describe a typical work day.
I start the day by answering emails or ordering ingredients, and then go on to bake and decorate cakes due for delivery or prepare for classes. I also trawl the internet for new techniques or products for cake decorating all the time. Sometimes I get a bit naughty and sneak off for a lazy long lunch with a friend at a hot new restaurant in town.
What might people be surprised to learn about your job?
It is as fun as it looks! The best part is the flexibility of being self-employed. I can find the time to pursue other culinary adventures, such as running my own supper club. Please check out Two Hungry Girls when you are next in London! We specialise in creative Chinese cuisine.
Five years ago, did you ever think you’d be doing what you’re doing now?
I always had the idea of opening my own cake shop or cafe. I am still working towards that goal, slowly but surely! I'd also like to write my own cookbook or be a cake and baked goods consultant to companies in the food and beverage industry. Anything to do with cake, basically! It is a life-long obsession.