Trying new stuff has always been one of my favorite things. I think it is something that my parents have always tried to teach me. We had to try new foods, we had to taste things at older relatives homes, we had to have a “try-it” bite when we were at any table. For my 13th birthday we went to a fancy schmancy French restaurant and my dad ordered escargot. I have to admit. I cried. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t eat the snails….especially because they looked so much like the ones I saw out in the yard every day. My desire to try new things has lead into me scanning the shelves in local specialty grocery stores for fun things to bring home and share with my adventurous husband and kids. One day, a few years ago, when salted caramels were just hitting the stores, I picked up a box and brought them home for a little treat. I intended to share them with the hubby for our little at home date night. We each had one, and I had a hard time with the idea that we would be splitting the rest. I wanted them all to myself. Every. Last. One. My not-so-secret love of salt, combined with the buttery, sugary caramel was a perfect mix. I started to actively look for more salted caramel, and have been smitten ever since. I know it’s been around for 30 years, but I’m happy that right now you don’t have to go far to enjoy the combo. Justin, of Le Bon Garcon is perfecting his art of salted caramel, so if you get a chance, seek out his decadent treats and enjoy!
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Justin Chao, and I am the founder and chef of Le Bon Garcon. I currently live in Los Angeles. I grew up in a suburb of LA called Westlake Village, CA.
What do you make or do?
I make artisanal salted caramels. I started Le Bon Garcon after I followed a lifelong dream of spending a year in Paris working in some of the best pastry kitchens in the world. I make it my mission at Le Bon Garcon to make caramel so fresh, soft, and creamy that it makes people slow down and melt into the moment.
Where can we find your creations?
You can find my caramels on my website: www.lebongarcon.com You can also find Le Bon Garcon caramels in several boutiques and gift shops in Southern and Northern California.
Is there an interesting story behind the name of your business?
When I was living in Paris, I lived near a street called Rue des Mauvais Garcons, which means Street of the Bad Boys. When I started my company, I wanted to somehow incorporate that idea into the name. Since I’m more of a good boy than a bad boy, I decided to go with Le Bon Garcon which means “the good boy.”
Did someone in your family, a friend or teacher introduce you to your creative side or have they helped you along the way?
When I was little, I had a piano teacher named Yanna who allowed me to explore my creative side through music and art. She really encouraged me to explore the emotional aspects of music. She would also host art classes at her house for her students where we got to work with paint and ceramics. I found these experiences very inspirational and was always drawn to creative fields even though my family wanted me to pursue something more financially stable. I’m so thankful to have had Yanna as an influence in my life because she encouraged me to follow my heart.
Who are the makers that inspire you?
I am inspired by the pastry chef, Sherry Yard. Although I have only been able to taste her pastry a couple of times, I have always enjoyed what she makes. I regularly use her cookbooks as a reference. In my opinion, she doesn’t create desserts with exotic flavor combinations just for the sake of making something different. She just strives (and succeeds) to make the best version of whatever dessert she decides to make.