At the height of a global pandemic, Remi Ho took a chance on starting his own bakery in Vancouver’s Olympic Village
Joss Arnott // Staff Writer
“You can find beauty in things that aren’t perfect,” says Remi Ho, owner of Remi Patisserie. “I wanted to create desserts that are like that.”
Remi Patisserie opened this past October, selling Asian pastries and desserts that emphasize flavour over form. “I don’t really care that much about decoration because what I care about most is how we deliver in your mouth,” said Ho. “It sounds weird, but it’s how the texture feels and how the flavour comes through.”
Speaking to one of his key baking tenets, Ho discussed the traditional Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi, or the imperfectly-perfect. “In restaurants, you have to make everything perfect, and I wanted to do something that is more natural. Because in nature, nothing is the same.”
The baker takes inspiration from the latest pastry trends in Tokyo and France and combines them with his mother’s old recipes. “It’s what I ate when I was growing up,” said Ho, describing one of his most popular innovations, his mochi. “It’s a real combination of French and Asian pastry.”
Ho started out as a dishwasher in Steveston, with no idea how kitchens functioned or cooking worked. He liked the atmosphere though, so he stuck with it. Years of working his way through various kitchens paid off when Ho opened his own bakery in Olympic Village.
After a three year hunt for a location, Ho finally found the perfect spot. It was a manageable size, in a good neighbourhood, and most importantly, affordable. His pop-up bakery had been growing steadily to the point where he couldn’t keep up with orders on his own. “I thought [business] was going to be pretty slow,” he said, speaking of when he reopened his pop-up in April, “but it was actually better than in March.” With no room in his old kitchen, Ho needed his own space. “My mind was set,and then the pandemic came.”
Ho wasn’t ready to lose his dream location, so he took a chance. “Not to brag, but I was confident.” Ho’s business was already centred around pick-ups, so he’s been able to weather the worst of the pandemic’s waves with his sales intact. “I think I was really lucky because I didn’t open a restaurant,” he said. “If I had opened a ramen restaurant, I would be dead right now.”
While business has been good, the pandemic has caused its own set of unique problems. “The city [Vancouver] has been a tough one,” mentioned Ho, who applied for a permit to bake in the new space in September. Due to a bureaucratic deadlock caused by the pandemic, Ho hasn’t been able to get the necessary permits for his business. “I still cannot bake in my own store,” said Ho, who is still working out of his old kitchen.
Starting his day at 5 am, Ho works late into the night, often till close to midnight. “Right now, I work twelve to fourteen hours per day,” he said. “The sales are good, but I have to work extra hard.” Once you taste one of his confections, you understand how all that love and care can make something delicious.