Fijian Cakemaker, Bert Jang Lives the Dream

Surround yourself with a strong team and ask for help when you need help, don't be a hero and burn yourself out. Your family and friends loves you. You have a team willing to support your dream, reach out and grab it!
10 Mar 2019 16:13
Fijian Cakemaker, Bert Jang Lives the Dream
Auckland based chef and cakemaker, Bert.

What started out as a therapeutic hobby at the time has be­come a successful niche for Bernard Jang.

The Auckland based chef and cakemaker is now com­monly called Bert Jang.

The Fijian born, Marist edu­cated Jang who went to New Zealand in 2012, is now living his dream, making Pasifika-style cakes through his Sweet and Me cake business.

He was also one of five West Auckland entrepreneurs who took part in The Kitchen Project, a 26 week Auckland Council Panuku programme to teach business skills.

Below are excerpts of an interview with chef Bernard;

1. Tell us about yourself?

I was born and raised in Namadi Heights, I have seven naughty brothers and loving parents, and way too many nieces and nephews.

I had my senior years in Marist Brothers High and studied culinary arts at the School of Hospitality at Nasese.

I then moved to the Cook Islands where i was under the wing of my first mentor Maitia Vano, a famous pastry chef on the Island.

Had the privileged to work under many amazing chefs there, as you know, the Cooks is very diverse.

After six wonderful years, my best friend and I, whom my mom thought was my partner, Arvind, set our eyes on Aoteroa.

We traveled and worked all around NZ and made many friends along the way, he de­cided to stay down South, in Queenstown where he now owns his own restaurant – Kanuka.

I moved up to Auckland, did a few years teaching Cu­linary, opened a restaurant with a friend and then moved on to start my own Cake Business- Sweet and Me

2. Tell us a bit about your business and how it all started?

It started out as a hobby, I found it therapeutic at the the time lol so on my days off I’d practice cake decorating.

Pastry and Hot line chefs are two very different ma­jors, I sucked at decorating so whenever I’d be cursing in my mother tongue in the kitchen at home, the flat mates knew “Do not Dis­turb”.

I was introduced to be part of the first cohort to under­go a new programme-The Kitchen Project that sup­ported young businesses at early stages.

The experts provided guidance in realistic busi­ness goals, legal require­ments, Food Control plans and so on.

Towards the end of the term, I was paired up with Martin Smith, chief execu­tive officer of Collective Catering.

Mr Smith and his bril­liant team, polished my works and got me ready to see investors- whom I met recently.

3. What was the motivation for starting the business?

I saw the need to show­case our desserts.

To create sustainability in the islands.

Our knowledge with our foods, that were passed down from our mothers and fathers, to agricultural development in the islands.

I wanted to use products from the islands to educate non Pacific folks, on the benefits and wonders of our traditional delights.

As part of a personal growth, I wanted to do something different in my life, I loved cooking but it got to a point where I reached the peak of my skill set.

I switched to baking as I knew I was terrible at it and could develop a new set of hands, senses for this new adventure.

I haven’t looked back since, whats the point of working if you dont love your job right, I love mine!

4. What are your long term plans?

My plans for the year is to open something concrete, where I can be a beacon for all pineapple pie lovers hah.

Have a small space to have classes from and just giving back to the fam­ily.

I would also love to work with our Government in developing Culinary awareness, education in local developments-Agri­cilutral local support and sustainability, and maybe also open something small in my hometown.

5. What is different about your business?

We’re a Pacific Business. We aim to be an ambassador to all Pacific islands and sup­port local produce. I source my cocoa from Samoa, Koko Samoa, coconut oil from Va­nuatu, vanilla essence from Tonga, cassava and coconuts from Fiji and Tonga.

I hand paint Masi designed macarons, a signature des­sert, trademark of Sweet and Me.

If you would love to know how to make these beau­ties, head over to my web­site Sweet and Me.

It re-enacts childhood fa­vorites that you from the islands and hopes to create beautiful memories for your special occasion.

6. What is the hardest part about being in business?

Honestly its just diving into it, you’re either 100 per cent or nothing.

You risk everything and eve­ryone, if business were easy, everyone would be doing it. There are so many sacrifices you put up but if youre not in it for the love of your work, Business is not for you.

The hardest for me is hav­ing a stable income and a normal shift.

During my first months of opening, I struggled to get in­come and always wondered where my rent money would come from.

I worked day and night for nothing and it got to a point where i questioned myself “ is this worth it? am I happy?”

I pushed through with the love of my parents and fam­ily and the gratitude of my customers.

Some of their actions would bring me to my knees, to a point where I’d be breaking down to Mom and I knew in my heart, that I belonged here.

7.What advice would you give to others, thinking about starting a business?

Do your homework. Know your competitors, know how to be different- Stand out! be true to yourself and your product, if you believe in it, then take pride in it and not sway.

Sometimes you might have to make a few twerks but nev­er doubt yourself and you ca­pabilities as a professional.

Know your books, and ac­count for everything.

Surround yourself with a strong team and ask for help when you need help, don’t be a hero and burn yourself out. Your family and friends loves you. You have a team willing to support your dream, reach out and grab it!


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