The Cake Maker

Bertrand JangDetermined to be a chef at the tender age of six, Bertrand Jang’s success story is one of perseverance, persistence and aspiring to accomplish your goals in life. Today, Jang proudly owns a bakery, where he spends most of his day whipping up exquisite cakes and sweet delights that he describes will surely send you to ‘cake heaven’.

“I knew I wanted to be a chef at the age of six and there was no stopping me. It was probably the easiest decision of my life,” he said.

Jang is of iTaukei and Chinese descent from Suva. He has six brothers and was raised in an extended family of 14 people.

“I am really blessed to come from a family who love to cook. Food has connected us. We bonded while we prepared food,” he said.

Education and Career

After completing Form Six, Jang decided to pursue further education at the Fiji Institute of Technology (FIT) in Nasese which is now FNU’s College of Business, Hospitality and Tourism Studies (CBHTS). He enrolled in the Trade Certificate in Cookery programme, which was an 18-month course.

Reminiscing his university days, he said, “I loved going to the campus back then, the teachers were awesome and the curriculum was interesting to learn.  The lecturers were very interactive and very open to discussions. I had a part-time job at the time of studies so I never got to stay back and spend time with the other students but occasionally went to a few “Gunusede”.”

He graduated in 2005 and the following year, he worked at the ROC Café in Suva as a Barista for one year before landing a job in his field in Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands where he spent the next six years working for Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa as a Commi Chef and later for Pacific Resort Beach & Spa as a Junior Sous Chef.

In 2013, he moved to New Zealand when he got the opportunity to be the Senior Chef de Partie at the Wairakei Bayview Resort in Taupo. He then joined the Peppers Bluewater Resort in Lake Tekapo in Timaru as the Sous Chef for the next two years.

An opportunity to teach presented himself and he joined the Cornell Institute of Technology in Auckland as a Cookery Tutor in 2016. But his love for the kitchen saw Jang join Kai Pasifika as the Head Chef in 2017 and worked there until the end of the year.

On January 1st 2018, Jang opened his own cake shop, Sweet and Me which he currently runs in Auckalnd, New Zealand. He has a team of seven staff.

Talking about the challenges he faced starting a business, Jang says, “One of my biggest challenges was not having a stable income for the longest time, ever since I was a teen I always had a steady income and lived a comfortable life, but since starting up my own cake shop, it has been a struggle. Not knowing where your rent will be coming from and not enjoying certain aspects of social activities was difficult. If it weren’t for the support of my partner and best friend, I truly never would have gotten this far. They had the utmost belief in my dream and knew that it would work and gave me strength and hope when I was down”.

Sweet and Me

He describes his business as “For Pacific Lovers who need artistic non-traditional Island cakes, Sweet & Me is a Speciality Cakery that is true to the Pacific spirit. The visual appearance and ingredients used are a reflection of the Islands, as well as New Zealand, and evoke memories for all occasions. They are handcrafted based on your desires and offer great value.”

Jang uses a variety of ingredients such as koko from Samoa, Heilala Vanilla Extract from Tonga, coconut from Fiji or coconut oils from Northern Vanuatu. He uses Manuka honey, wild berries, molasses and sweetener as well as fresh flowers from New Zealand.

Jang says that their cakes are unique and can be adapted to each customers taste. For healthier and ‘dietary friendly’ options, Sweet & Me offers customers a choice of healthier varieties, catering to each family’s need.

Words of Wisdom

Jang’s advice to students is work hard and be responsible.

“Studies are expensive and require a lot of time and effort, so do the hard yards and spend time reading your notes. Do independent studies, the curriculum is just the tip of the iceberg and it is your responsibility as a student to convict yourselves in your dreams and aspirations,” he said.  

He also shared his top three tips to graduates starting out in their career.

“Be punctual – I know you hear this all the time, but it is so important! Not only in the classrooms, but also to meetings, projects, promises and life in general. You become a more respected individual when you show that initiative at the first meet,” he said.

“No excuses – Own it! Do not shift the blame; acknowledge your hard work or mistake. Do not repeat it again and improve on everything you do. Work Smarter,” he added.

“Balance – Work, sleep, drink, eat, laugh and repeat! Surround yourself with strong independent people and ask for help when you need it,” said Jang.

A successful and upcoming entrepreneur, Jang is keeping a part of the Pacific alive by showcasing it on his cakes and delectable sweet delights.