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Friday, Feb 23, 2024

Getting Stuck on Caramel

Mix one part ethnic cuisine and two parts marketing savvy and you have the recipe for Crème Caramel LA. The small bake shop is set to open Sept. 9 in Sherman Oaks and will showcase flavors from proprietor Kristine de la Cruz’s Filipino heritage with custards such as ube (purple yam) and buko pandan (young coconut flesh). After years of selling her delicacies in farmer’s markets, De la Cruz, 39, finally put together a plan to move to a permanent 646-square-foot shop at 14849 Burbank Blvd. “I always had an inclination and leaning to hospitality. After college, my friends and I would throw parties, and I loved that we could produce something people enjoyed,” said De la Cruz, whose previous career was in marketing and event planning. Her inspiration for a custard bakery came from a trip to San Francisco with her boyfriend and Crème’s co-owner, Sean Gilleland. De la Cruz said while there, she tried custard and figured it could be a good medium for a variety of flavors. The two started out dishing their custards and bread puddings at farmers markets and wholesale to local restaurants, including The Park’s Finest in Echo Park, an American-Filipino BBQ. Eventually, the couple decided to open a shop after realizing they needed more baking space. “We started looking for a kitchen since October of 2012. We were working out of a co-op kitchen, and knew we were going to outgrow it,” De la Cruz said. She and Gilleland, 38, put a $100,000 investment into their store with their combined savings and a $50,000 bank loan guaranteed by the Small Business Association. Now that she has her own kitchen, De la Cruz plans to expand the menu to include scones, biscuits, Mexican fresh fruit drinks called aguas frescas and bread pudding. While one-product bakeries such as Sprinkles in Beverly Hills is famed for bringing the gourmet cupcake craze to the West Coast, Kevin Burke, managing partner at L.A. boutique investment bank Trinity Capital LLC, said that more variety might help Crème Caramel LA. “Businesses that penetrate with different products will be more successful. They just have to have a more comprehensive product offering,” he said. Currently, most of Crème Caramel LA’s clients come from Silverlake and Hollywood, but De la Cruz wants to slice off a piece of the Valley crowd. “We want this to be our little niche in L.A.,” she said. – Jacquelinne Mejia

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