Rachelle Liu and Kathleen Chen
Mr & Mrs Creamery: Where Love, Ice Cream, and Tofu Flower Intertwine
Updated: Mar 3, 2021
Based in a small shop in Arcadia, Mr & Mrs Creamery hosts a rich assortment of ice creams, tofu cheesecakes, and cookies for all to enjoy. James and Jean Lee, Co-founders of Mr & Mrs Creamery, share a special story of opening their business after attending Le Cordon Bleu, meeting a year later, and falling in love with each other and a new culinary journey.
James Lee grew up in a Chinese household. He loved, but never imagined that being in the kitchen was a feasible option to pursue as a career. As a result, he went a more traditional route and attended the University of California Riverside before securing a job at the investment management corporation Merrill Lynch. Even while working, James’s interest in the culinary industry persisted but he still did not think it was possible. However, after researching culinary school schedules, he learned that he could continue his job and build his skills as a chef from either 6am to noon or 6pm to midnight. James opted for 6pm to midnight and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu, working long hours to learn French cooking practices while still working a full time job.
After graduating from culinary school, James left his job at Merrill Lynch. It was a huge shift, and his parents were hesitant about this change in career. Instead of butting heads with his parents, James introduced them into his world and showed them firsthand what went on in restaurants to disrupt the notion that it was not a professional working environment. James took his parents to a variety of restaurants and showed them the behind the scenes. After initial hesitation, his parents approved his career aspirations. He went on to work as a chef at Michelin-rated restaurants in Los Angeles. James later became a chef at the Beverly Hills hotel where he was exposed to the realm of catering. He witnessed the operations behind catering for the Oscars and Grammys, planting a seed for his own catering business in the future.
But there would not be Mr & Mrs Creamery without James’s wife, Jean. Though they both attended Le Cordon Bleu, they did not meet until a year after graduation. Together, they decided to create their own shop MM Creamery in 2012. But instead of having a restaurant or bakery concept, they focused their efforts on a catering business. James and his wife served a wide range of foods, such as multiple-course meals. As time went on, James and his wife narrowed their menu’s niche to dessert items. Through their mutual passion of ice cream, they toured North America finding the right old-school ice cream profile. The couple has since catered for large events at an enormous production scale. By making connections throughout the wedding industry with wedding planners and hotels, they were able to expand their client list. Before COVID-19 struck, the pair catered 200 to 300 weddings per year but have had to since shift their focus to their “Be Safe Bake Sale.”
James and Jean offer desserts at Mr & Mrs Creamery with flavors that are inspired by their cultures and childhoods. With James being Chinese and Jean being Korean, they are able to incorporate flavors like White Rabbit, yuzu, black sesame, and even Vitasoy into their desserts. One of their many unique offerings is their famous tofu flower cheesecake. James actually first came up with the concept in 2007 when he submitted the dessert for a Cathay Pacific contest. He shares that tofu flower, also known as “dou fu hua,” was his dad’s favorite dessert and what he would always order when their family went out for dim sum. The memories and flavors left a strong impression on James and led to their unique and light take on cheesecake! James and Jean have also offered special desserts for Lunar New Year and come out with flavors like mango cheesecake from travels in Hong Kong. In addition to being inspired by things he has eaten and places he has visited, James says that for them, they value “drawing from culture and heritage as inspiration.”
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