Aya Fukai is from Japan, went to college in Boston and fell in love with pastry there. She moved to Chicago to work at a couple of hotels, then the company behind Maple & Ash and Etta.
She soon realized she could go into business for herself, make anything she wanted, then sell those breads and pastries back to restaurants, markets and coffee shops, while also offering custom orders to the public. It's a pretty sweet gig -- literally.
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Good luck trying to resist the pastry case at Sparrow Coffee in Naperville. When I first encountered it, I fell hard for the Samoas, realizing later that they were made by Fukai in West Town. Her namesake business is now supplying a lot of bakeries, markets and restaurants with their sweet carbs and gluten.
"We make bread and pastries to supply a lot of restaurants, cafes and hotels around the city of Chicago," Fukai said. "Everything from individual pieces of dessert to whole plated dessert components as well as bread for dinner service and for sandwiches."
Back to those Samoas though.
"Samoas are my favorite Girl Scout cookies," she said. "A shortbread cookie inside and then covered with dulce de leche cream as well as some chocolate drizzled on top, and because I like the cookie so much I wanted to turn it into a cake... and it's just yummy. I really love it."
Her breads are impressive: Baguette and brioche are just a few highlights. Even more impressive, whether you're a chocolate fan or not, is her enormous chocolate cake, which shows up on the dessert menu at Maple & Ash. The outside is covered in candied pralines. In between the layers of moist cake: coffee mousse; crispy chocolate feuilletine serves as a base for a perfect quenelle of vanilla ice cream.
Her sense of whimsy makes for some memorable endings. Note the distorted length of her coconut cream pie.
No retail location. Order online on Aya Pastry's website.
Pastries available at:
Maple & Ash
Sparrow Coffee (Naperville)
Plum Market (Old Town)