Q&A with Tam Trinh of Sugarlip Cakes
Meet the International Culinary Center alum.
Originally from California, Tam realized at an early age that she had a great passion for both art and baking. With her desire to bring both of these passions together, she found her ultimate passion in patisserie. Sugarlips Cakes was started in September 2012, when Tam moved to The Netherlands, for love, and started the company with her (now) husband, Luc.
Current job: Owner and Cake Artist at Sugarlips Cakes (Utrecht, the Netherlands)
Hometown: Newport Beach, California
Course of study: Classic Pastry Arts
Graduation year: 2011
One food/beverage you can’t live without: Shockingly, not a dessert, though it comes in a very close second. But I cannot live without red meat!
Describe your culinary POV in three words: Less is more.
Best meal of all time: FG Restaurant (Rotterdam, NL), 2 Michelin Stars. The dessert was so inspiring that I ended up ordering a second dessert just to taste more of their creative combinations. I asked them to go as crazy as possible and surprise me, and in the end it included vanilla ice cream with caramelized macadamia nuts, blue label olive oil, and liver. It was absolutely delicious and so inventive!
What were you doing before you attended International Culinary Center?
I was actually studying studio arts at the University of California, Irvine. It wasn’t really what I wanted to do in life, but I did it to make my parents happy and to have a back-up. I always knew I wanted to do something more towards a creative path, and pushed myself to graduate a year early so I could immediately enroll in ICC.
How did you choose your specialty?
Though I loved everything that I learned in my time at ICC, when we got to the cake curriculum, I knew I was at home. I absolutely loved making and decorating cakes, and once Ron Ben-Israel came to teach our class, I was sure this was what I wanted to do with my life. I have always loved details and small handwork, and this was where I could incorporate that into what I love.
Why did you choose International Culinary Center?
I did a lot of research on different culinary schools and ICC kept coming up as the best and most well rounded. I really knew I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in school anymore, and the fact that ICC had an intensive course, sounded perfect to me. The caliber of chefs also greatly appealed to me, as everyone seemed to come from a very experienced background. The last big draw was that it was located right in the heart of New York City!
How did you enjoy attending school in New York City? Did you find the energy of the city and its culinary scene enhanced your experience?
New York is truly the best place to learn about food. There are so many influences and you can literally find anything you want in the city. The energy gives you a certain drive which makes you feel like you want to do even more and perform even better and my time in NY got even better with the experience of all the chefs at school and their tips on where to find the best pastries and restaurants. I really think that is you can survive this industry in New York, you should be able to blossom anywhere else.
Did you have goals upon graduation?
I always knew that I wanted to own my own cake shop. I didn’t know how it would be possible or when/where, but I did know I needed more experience first. I interned at Sugar Flower Cake Shop in New York and then further went on to work in California at It’s All About the Cake. When my long distance relationship with my then boyfriend (now husband) took me all the way to The Netherlands, I decided it was time to go for it!
How did International Culinary Center contribute to achieving those goals?
The knowledge I gained about pastries made me very well rounded and the training I received taught me to work in an organized and quick way. I now own my own cake shop in the Netherlands with my husband, and after being open for only two years we were awarded with the Dutch Wedding Award for Best Wedding Cake Specialist in the Netherlands! Now, in our third year we have gathered a great team around us and will be creating 200 wedding cakes this year. We also have very big plans for the upcoming year, but can’t quite disclose that information yet!
Find Sugarlips Cakes online:
Tam Trinh 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. ICC’s culinary education legacy lives on at ICE, where you can explore your own future in cake.