Interview with Gary Chan from Bibble & Sip
Meet the International Culinary Center alum.
Last week was Bibble & Sip’s 1-year anniversary. Hard to believe it’s been a whole year already. Coming up with the cafe name took some efforts, but at one point Bibble & Sip just fell into place and stuck. “Bibble” is an archaic word that means to eat indulgently; “sip” implies cultured enjoyment. I wanted my cafe to be a casual and fancy experience at the same time, a relaxed environment offering sophisticated flavors.
– What did you do before attending ICC?
I graduated with a degree in Communication Arts, aiming to take part in the family electronics/film business. But very soon I realized it wasn’t a choice of passion. So I detoured from that prescribed route and started my own design company. After many years of hard work that didn’t quite pay off, I reevaluated my life and decided that design was just another safe route devised from the foundation of my former education. If I were to completely abandon what I should logically be doing with my life, where would my passion take me? And that’s how I ended up in ICC.
– What is your best memory from ICC?
There are many great memories, but if I must name the foremost, I would say the train ride home each day. That feeling is so nostalgic, where after a long and tiring day, my body would collapse on the train seat and everything I learned and did during the day got processed through my head. And the best part was, I would be holding the end product of the day, still warm on my lap, with its aroma filling the surrounding, and I just couldn’t wait to share it with my family.
– What inspired you to open Bibble & Sip?
Baking has always been a passion. Running my own business is a personal endeavor. With all the knowledge learned from ICC, I had so many flavor and recipe ideas that needed physical shaping. Thanks to my supportive family, teachers, and mentors (Chef Michael Zebrowski, Chef Michael Brock), those ideas not only took shape, but also shaped my dream cafe.
– What was the greatest challenge in opening your business?
The greatest challenge was overcoming the initial discouragement of an open but empty cafe. The first week when we opened, we pretty much watched skeptical passers-by day after day. All those pastry items (and hard work!) were thrown away at the end of the day, that heartache is indescribable. But we’re quite lucky that business picked up very quickly.
– What is the most rewarding part of running Bibble & Sip?
The most rewarding is seeing our regular customers come back time after time. It gives me so much confidence and gratitude to see the familiar faces. I love the feeling of looking down the line and knowing exactly what the next person is about to order. Of course, it’s also a different type of rewarding feeling to see excited new visitors snapping photos. It means they’re here from good word of mouth.
– Describe a day in your life.
I live about 2 minutes away from the cafe, so my day pretty much starts, progresses, and ends within the few hundred feet radius. I go in early in the morning, check that the kitchen prep is on its way. I make sure all the shifts of the day are covered. Once the cafe door opens, it’s all business with a short lunch break. By now everyone is familiar with the flow of the day so all the tasks are pretty routine. We have a wonderful team that works together seamlessly. My work day ends after the cafe closes, and all the cleaning work is done, which is late, but at least I’m only 2 minutes from home.
– What is your personal favorite drink and food at Bibble & Sip?
My personal favorite drink is just a simple cappuccino. My favorite food is the recently introduced Black Sesame Mousse Hazelnut Chocolate Cake. It’s been a successful new item so far. I’m glad the customers like it as much as I do.
– How do you come up with the new menu items?
It takes me quite some time to push out a new menu item. There is a long journey between the time an idea is formed and when a finished product finally gets put into the display case. It takes experimenting and re-experimenting, changes after changes, giving up then being picked back up again, tasting and reevaluating to finally be satisfactory.
It’s hard to say where inspirations come from, though the basis is generally French techniques and Asian flavors. But some of our best selling items are actually very personal recipes from home. My wife plays a huge role in the filtering process of what ends up on the menu. She was the one that gave me the confidence to sell our cream puffs despite it being such a simple item that I used to make for her as treats.
– What would you tell someone who is looking into starting a career or business in pastry?
I would say, make sure you’re ready to devote 95% of your life into this business. Brush aside all other priorities for this commitment, and make sure that people around you understand. There are so many details that I wish someone had told me about, but every business differs. I mean things like which brand appliance is better than another. Or warnings like, never use this design company for your display case. It was one of my biggest investments I’ve made that turned into my currently biggest headache with all its malfunctions and the manufacturer’s negligence.
– What are your dreams for the future?
My dream isn’t very vast. I’m just constantly reminding myself not to take the current progress for granted, and that I still need to work hard to maintain and improve the good qualities that brought us the well acceptance. If fortunate enough, perhaps Bibble & Sip will one day have other locations!
Gary Chin graduated from the International Culinary Center (ICC), founded as The French Culinary Institute (FCI). In 2020, ICE and ICC came together on one strong and dynamic national platform at ICE's campuses in New York City and Los Angeles. The school and this graduate’s culinary education legacy live on at ICE, where you can explore your own future in food.