Daniel Tay

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Daniel Tay
Daniel Tay profile.jpg
Born1971
EducationLa Salle School, UFM International Baking Institute (Bangkok)
OccupationBaker, Entrepreneur
Known forFounder of Bakerzin, Founder of Cat & Fiddle, Founder of Old Seng Choong

Daniel Tay is a Singaporean pastry chef and the founder of Bakerzin, a local bakery chain best known for being the first to sell French pastries in Singapore. He is also the founder of Cat and the Fiddle, an online cheesecake store and Foodgnostic, a food manufacturing solution company supplying high-quality food products and services.

Background

Daniel Tay (right) and his parents. Photo from The Straits Times.

Growing up, Daniel wanted to be a fashion designer. His interest in fashion made him decide to study fashion designing at La Salle. However, Daniel Tay has mentioned that “[his] sewing skills were not up to standard” and he dropped out of his course at La Salle.[1]


At his father’s suggestion, Daniel took up a six-week intensive baking course at the UFM International Baking Institute in Bangkok in 1988. It was there that he found his passion for baking at the age of 17.[2] Daniel then spent a month in Paris as unpaid labour for a renowned French restaurant, Fauchon.[3] It was there that he learned about Food and Beverage organisation and food quality.


Daniel spent eight years attending culinary classes in France and Japan from renowned baking schools such as Cacao Barry Chocolate School, the Valrhona Ecole du Grand Chocolat and the Bellouet Conseil Ecole de patisserie, among others.[4]

Personal life

Daniel's recipe book "Just Desserts" (2008).

In 2008, Daniel published a cookbook titled "Just Desserts" in which he shared his personal recipes. The book was published by Marshall Cavendish. Daniel reportedly took three years to complete the book, having to “pen the instructions and keep them straightforward”.[5]


In a 2009 interview, Daniel mentioned that his favourite traditional Chinese pastry is the tau sar piah (bean paste biscuit), “particularly those with a salty green bean filling that has fried shallots in them”.[6]


Daniel enjoys sweet, Teochew-style char kway teow from Hong Lim Market, Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice from 275 Thomson Road and braised duck from Hup Seng Duck Rice at Block 22 Sin Ming Road. As his last meal, Daniel mentioned that he would like to eat “eight rolls of [his] mother’s Teochew-style popiah”.[7]


As of September 2019, Daniel is married to Dorothy and they have three sons - Darryl, Russell and Jayden.[8]

Advocacy

In 2019, Daniel participated in Chefs For A Cause, an event by South East Community Development Council, with thirteen other chefs to raise funds for underprivileged children. They created their signature dishes, with the proceeds of the sale channelled to supporting students from low-income families with their school expenses.[9] Daniel served durian puffs and strawberry cheesecakes.[10]

Early career

Daniel took up apprenticeships under Pokka Corporation. He was tasked to start Rive Gauche patisserie. Through building the patisserie from scratch and working with the General Manager, Daniel learned about accounting, profit and loss (P&L) principles and calculating the break-even point. From Pokka, he joined Bengawan Solo as a Production Manager.

Dan & Allen’s Patisseries Pte Ltd (1995 - 1996)

The Seng Choong Confectionery shopfront that has since closed down. Photo from The Straits Times.

In 1995, Daniel started Dan & Allen’s Patisseries Pte Ltd, a food processing company.[11] The company supplied frozen bread doughs to hotels and F&B businesses. Daniel’s business partner planned to go into wholesale supply so they began with a semi-automated central kitchen. They converted Seng Choong Confectionery into the retail arm of the business. Founded by Daniel's father in 1965, Seng Choong Confectionery was a household name in Marine Parade.[12]


Daniel mentioned in an interview that Dan & Allen’s Patisseries was meant to be “an alternative from Delifrance and other wholesale bakeries”.[13] Additionally, he wanted to tap on the Seng Choong’s brand identity and “create a new image for [Dan & Allen’s]”.[14] However, the business closed in a year. With a high start-up cost of $1 million, they realised that they faced high overhead costs and a lack of capital.


Daniel took a loan of $3 million to fund Dan & Allen’s Patisserie. The poor sales made it difficult to offset the heavy investment in high-end baking equipment and a central kitchen. Daniel racked up debts of “a few hundred thousand” and Seng Choong Confectionery’s shop space was sold to pay off part of his debts.[15]  He almost ended up bankrupt at this time.[16]

Les Amis (1996 - 1997)

In 1996, he went on to join Les Amis as a pastry chef, which helped him bounce back. It was there that he gained a deeper understanding of cooking techniques.[17] Alongside the job at Les Amis, he also sold homemade Oreo cheesecakes at $24 each to pay off his debts.[18] He managed to clear his debts in 2 years.[19] Daniel left Les Amis in late 1997 and opened Baker’s Inn in 1998.[20]

CEO of Bakerzin (1998 - 2013)

Bakerzin at Gardens By The Bay. Photo from Gardens by the Bay.
Known for its innovative flavours and seasonal products, Bakerzin was Daniel Tay's first successful business venture as an entrepreneur. Photo from Bakerzin.

For more information on the Singapore brand, Bakerzin, refer to the main entry.

Origins

Daniel started of Bakerzin as Baker’s Inn in 1998. His motivation for the name came from seeing Models Inc on television and liking the catchy sound of the words. At the time, It was situated in Hong Heng Mansion, a condominium complex in Sembawang.[21]


Baker’s Inn took off as a small patisserie supplying wholesale orders of French bread and pastries to restaurants and hotels. The aim for Baker’s Inn was to produce wholesale orders rather than retail. Daniel remarked that his motivation for setting up Baker’s Inn was his love for baking and his realisation that “there [was] no real French pastry shop in Singapore”.[22]


Baker’s Inn retail sales in the first month amounted to $100. However, it had made $600 a day supplying French bread and pastries to restaurants and hotels in Singapore.[23] Baker’s Inn was profitable within a year.[24]

Expansion

In 1999, Daniel persuaded his friends to invest in Baker’s Inn. This capital funded his move from Sembawang to Millenia Walk. Sushi Tei became a sleeping partner in 2001, owning 55% of the business. The remaining 45% of the business is owned by Seng Choong Confectionery which belongs to David, his father and two other friends.[25] Baker’s Inn was renamed Bakerzin in 2004.


After the business has taken off, David has shifted his focus to management and creation of new products.[26] Daniel does his baking at the test kitchen in Harper Road, where Bakerzin’s cakes were made and sent out to outlets. He spends an average of four to five hours conducting tastings and experimenting with new recipes for novel items to be introduced at the outlets.[27]


Daniel was also keen on expanding Bakerzin into an international brand. He once mentioned in an interview that “if Starbucks can do it, why can’t we?”.[28] He has led expansion plans for Bakerzin into neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, China and even to the USA.[29]


In 2003, Daniel shared the intention to exit Bakerzin, either by selling the business or having it listed on the stock exchange.[30] In 2007, Daniel sold Bakerzin Holding Pte Ltd, the company managing Bakerzin, but remains as the company's Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Daniel subsequently resigned as CEO from Bakerzin in 2013 and went to start Foodgnostic Pte Ltd.

Founder of Foodgnostic Pte Ltd (2013 - present)

The Cinnamon Apple Cheesecake - one of the cheescakes supplied and produced by Foodgnostic. Photo from Foodgnostic.

Daniel investing an initial capital of S$2 million to start the business. He set up a centralised bakery and food production facility at Kampong Ampat to meet an anticipated demand for food innovation and large-scale food supply.[31]


A report by The Business Times revealed that food supply made up 90% of Foodgnostic’s business revenue and 10% comes from the e-commerce model of Cat and the Fiddle.[32] David mentions that this new business allows him to not worry about rent and service staff.[33] In 2014, Foodgnostic has a staff of 50 people running the operations.[34]

Innovations

Foodgnostic faced a deficit of S$300,000 in its first year and S$200,000 in its second year. Daniel looked for solutions that allowed him to produce large volumes of ingredients, such as using a soup and sauce mixing machine to whip cream cheese. This produced large volumes of cream cheese for the cheesecakes that were sold on Cat and the Fiddle, Daniel’s online venture selling cheesecakes.[35]


Additionally, Foodgnostic has an ultrasonic slicer that costs US$160,000 (S$ 220,000) used to cut the cheesecakes. It reduces the need for manpower and saves time. The slicer can cut a cheesecake in 10 seconds and it required only 1 person to operate the machine. In comparison, it takes 5 people 5 minutes each to manually cut the cakes.[36][37] Daniel mentions that technology is essential in today’s climate, as it reduces the cost and time needed to produce baked goods.[38]

In 2016, it was reported that Foodgnostic to produced 2,000 cheesecakes a day with only four or five staff members.[39]

Founder of Cat and the Fiddle (2014 - present)

The interior of Cat and the Fiddle's flagship store at Central, Clarke Quay. Photo from Bite.

Daniel launched Cat and the Fiddle in 2014, an online premium cheesecake store. The e-commerce is a union of Daniel’s passion for creating the best cheesecakes in Singapore and to continue Daniel’s good relationship with existing customers who like his pastry creations. After perfecting the cheesecake recipe, Cat and the Fiddle has branched into creating unique and localised cheesecake flavours such as Mao Shan Wang Durian and Milo Dinosaur.[40]


Daniel invested S$100,000 to set up Cat & the Fiddle, with the bulk of the cost going into marketing and ensuring a pleasant online shopping experience.[41] He had set up an IT company to support the online shop as well as spending thousands of dollars a month on Search Engine Optimisation.[42]


Moreover, Cat & the Fiddle offers convenience to customers when purchasing cheesecakes, such as taking in order at any time of the day and allowing for delivery the following day.[43]


In 2015, Cat & the Fiddle has more than doubled their turnover in one year to $800,000. They started selling 30 cakes a day to 3,000 cakes a month.[44] As of 2019, Cat and the Fiddle has a flagship store at Clarke Quay Central.

Founder of Old Seng Choong (2016 - present)

Old Seng Choong's shopfront. Photo from Bites.

Daniel launched Old Seng Choong as an online business in 2016 to sell traditional Chinese confections. Daniel remarked that starting a business online incurs fewer start-up costs such as renting a retail space. Daniel hoped that the recent nostalgia for traditional food would make Old Seng Choong a success.[45]


Daniel named the online store after his father’s old bakery, Seng Choong Confectionery. The bakery had been sold in 1995 to help Daniel pay off his debts. Seng Choong Confectionery was opened in 1965 and was a household name in Marine Parade.[12] Daniel mentioned that closing his father’s business was one of the biggest regrets in life and opening Old Seng Choong was a way for him to make it up to his father.[46]


Within a week from its launch, about 1,000 cakes costing $23.90 each were sold. Old Seng Choong’s products are produced in a 14,000 square feet central kitchen in Kampong Ampat.[47]


In 2018, Daniel opened Old Seng Choon’s flagship store at Clarke Quay Central aiming to “make traditional pastries hip again”. He aims for Old Seng Choon to be “a household name for classic Chinese cakes and pastries amongst Singaporeans and a one-stop souvenir shop for tourists”.[48]

References / Citations


  1. Siow, Pearlin. “Daniel Tay - Baking Maverick.” In Boss of Me!: the Pocketbook of Big Thinking: 20 Power Secrets to Remember as Shared by Singapore’s Movers and Shakers, 81–86. Singapore: Armour Publishing, 2008.
  2. Siow, Pearlin. “Daniel Tay - Baking Maverick.” In Boss of Me!: the Pocketbook of Big Thinking: 20 Power Secrets to Remember as Shared by Singapore’s Movers and Shakers, 81–86. Singapore: Armour Publishing, 2008.
  3. Phua, Wen Yi. “Bakerzin.” In Secrets of Food Millionaires: How You Can Churn Millions in Asia’s F&B Industry. Singapore: Rank Books, 2009.
  4. World Gourmet Summit. “WGS Awards of Excellence.” World Gourmet Summit. n.d. Accessed August 30, 2019. Retrieved from: http://www.wgsawards.com/aoe2006/finalists/finalists_culinary_pastrychef.htm.
  5. Huang, Lijie. “Baker’s cookbook dream comes true”. The Straits Times. March 9, 2008. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  6. Huang, Lijie. “Baker’s batter half”. The Straits Times. November 23, 2009. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  7. Huang, Lijie. “Sweet success.” The Straits Times. November 18. 2007. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  8. Huang, Lijie. “Baker’s batter half”. The Straits Times. November 23, 2009. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  9. Seow, Joanna. “Local Chefs Raise over $26k for Underprivileged Students.” The Straits Times. August 16, 2019. Accessed August 30, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/local-chefs-raise-over-26k-for-underprivileged-students
  10. Project Happy Feet. “Daniel Tay.” Chefs for a Cause. Accessed September 2, 2019. Retrieved from: http://cfac.projecthappyfeet.org/daniel-tay/
  11. Phua, Wen Yi. “Bakerzin.” In Secrets of Food Millionaires: How You Can Churn Millions in Asia’s F&B Industry. Singapore: Rank Books, 2009.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Goh, Kenneth. “Homegrown pastry chef Daniel Tay focuses on retro goodies with new online bakery Old Seng Choong”. The Straits Times. January 18, 2016. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/home-grown-pastry-chef-daniel-tay-focuses-on-retro-goodies-with-new-online-bakery-old
  13. “DESIGNER DOUGH”. The Business Times. December 3, 1999. Accessed August 20, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  14. “DESIGNER DOUGH”. The Business Times. December 3, 1999. Accessed August 20, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  15. Salim, Zarifah. “A Whisk-Taker: Why Bakerzin Founder Gave Up A $14 Million Annual Revenue For 'Batter' Businesses”. October 146, 2017. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from: https://vulcanpost.com/623353/daniel-tay-bakerzin-founder/
  16. Phua, Wen Yi. “Bakerzin.” In Secrets of Food Millionaires: How You Can Churn Millions in Asia’s F&B Industry. Singapore: Rank Books, 2009.
  17. Phua, Wen Yi. “Bakerzin.” In Secrets of Food Millionaires: How You Can Churn Millions in Asia’s F&B Industry. Singapore: Rank Books, 2009.
  18. Goh, Kenneth. “Homegrown pastry chef Daniel Tay focuses on retro goodies with new online bakery Old Seng Choong”. The Straits Times. January 18, 2016. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/home-grown-pastry-chef-daniel-tay-focuses-on-retro-goodies-with-new-online-bakery-old
  19. Salim, Zarifah. “A Whisk-Taker: Why Bakerzin Founder Gave Up A $14 Million Annual Revenue For 'Batter' Businesses”. October 16, 2017. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from: https://vulcanpost.com/623353/daniel-tay-bakerzin-founder/
  20. Goh, Kenneth. “Homegrown pastry chef Daniel Tay focuses on retro goodies with new online bakery Old Seng Choong”. The Straits Times. January 18, 2016. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/home-grown-pastry-chef-daniel-tay-focuses-on-retro-goodies-with-new-online-bakery-old
  21. “A smart turn from catwalk to cake walk”. The Straits Times. May 23, 2007. Accessed August 20, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.  
  22. “DESIGNER DOUGH”. The Business Times. December 3, 1999. Accessed August 20, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  23. “Corporate - The rise of Baker’s Inn”. The Edge Singapore. February 24, 2003. Accessed August 20, 2019. Retrieved from Factiva.
  24. “DESIGNER DOUGH”. The Business Times. December 3, 1999. Accessed August 20, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  25. “Corporate - The rise of Baker’s Inn”. The Edge Singapore. February 24, 2003. Accessed August 20, 2019. Retrieved from Factiva.
  26. “Corporate - The rise of Baker’s Inn”. The Edge Singapore. February 24, 2003. Accessed August 20, 2019. Retrieved from Factiva.
  27. Huang, Lijie. “Sweet success.” The Straits Times. November 18. 2007. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  28. Siow, Pearlin. “Daniel Tay - Baking Maverick.” In Boss of Me!: the Pocketbook of Big Thinking: 20 Power Secrets to Remember as Shared by Singapore’s Movers and Shakers, 81–86. Singapore: Armour Publishing, 2008.
  29. “Bakerzin goes to US”. The Straits Times. February 23, 2007. Accessed August 21, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  30. “Corporate - The rise of Baker’s Inn”. The Edge Singapore. February 24, 2003. Accessed August 20, 2019. Retrieved from Factiva.
  31. Yip, David. “Ventures beyond the Kitchen.” The Business Times. September 3, 2016. Accessed August 27, 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/lifestyle/food-drink/ventures-beyond-the-kitchen
  32. Yip, David. “Ventures beyond the Kitchen.” The Business Times. September 3, 2016. Accessed August 27, 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/lifestyle/food-drink/ventures-beyond-the-kitchen
  33. Loh, Sherwin. “Daniel Tay’s central kitchen”. The Straits Times. December 24, 2014. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  34. Tan, Rebecca Lynne. “Labour-hit restaurants turn to outsourcing”. The Straits Times. June 1, 2014. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  35. Tan, Tam Mei. “Budget 2016: You innovate, we support”. The New Paper. March 25, 2016. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/budget-2016-smes-get-help
  36. Salim, Zarifah. “A Whisk-Taker: Why Bakerzin Founder Gave Up A $14 Million Annual Revenue For 'Batter' Businesses”. Vulcan Post. October 16, 2017. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from: https://vulcanpost.com/623353/daniel-tay-bakerzin-founder/
  37. Tan, Tam Mei. “Budget 2016: You innovate, we support”. The New Paper. March 25, 2016. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/budget-2016-smes-get-help
  38. Fang, Joy. The Big Read: When it comes to innovation, the food industry has a winning recipe. Today. April 16, 2016. Accessed august 28, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/big-read-when-it-comes-innovation-food-industry-has-winning-recipe
  39. Lee, Marissa. “Tech's the Way to Sell Cheesecakes.” The Straits Times. January 19, 2016. Accessed September 2, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/business/techs-the-way-to-sell-cheesecakes
  40. Wong, Ah Yoke. “Food picks”. The Straits Times. April 18, 2014. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  41. Lee, Marissa. “Tech's the Way to Sell Cheesecakes.” The Straits Times. January 19, 2016. Accessed September 2, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/business/techs-the-way-to-sell-cheesecakes
  42. Lee, Marissa. “Tech's the Way to Sell Cheesecakes.” The Straits Times. January 19, 2016. Accessed September 2, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/business/techs-the-way-to-sell-cheesecakes
  43. Wong, Ah Yoke. “Food picks”. The Straits Times. April 18, 2014. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  44. Lee, Marissa. “Tech's the Way to Sell Cheesecakes.” The Straits Times. January 19, 2016. Accessed September 2, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/business/techs-the-way-to-sell-cheesecakes
  45. Goh, Kenneth. “Homegrown pastry chef Daniel Tay focuses on retro goodies with new online bakery Old Seng Choong”. The Straits Times. January 18, 2016. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/home-grown-pastry-chef-daniel-tay-focuses-on-retro-goodies-with-new-online-bakery-old
  46. Salim, Zarifah. “A Whisk-Taker: Why Bakerzin Founder Gave Up A $14 Million Annual Revenue For 'Batter' Businesses”. Vulcan Post. October 16, 2017. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from: https://vulcanpost.com/623353/daniel-tay-bakerzin-founder/
  47. Goh, Kenneth. “Homegrown pastry chef Daniel Tay focuses on retro goodies with new online bakery Old Seng Choong”. The Straits Times. January 18, 2016. Accessed August 28, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/home-grown-pastry-chef-daniel-tay-focuses-on-retro-goodies-with-new-online-bakery-old
  48. Yip, David. “Recipe For Success”. The Business Times. January 5, 2018. Accessed August 22, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/lifestyle/food-drink/recipe-for-success