Fuji Bakery – Climbing to the Top

Fuji Bakery – Climbing to the Top

Climbing to the Top

Susien Lee wants Fuji Bakery to be on the tip of your tongue when anyone asks about your can’t miss spots in Seattle. Rising to the top in a foodie town isn’t easy, though, and it wasn’t always a straight path. You might say Susien took the scenic route.

In the beginning, she was more likely to be a loyal customer than an owner of a destination-worthy cafe like Fuji Bakery. She was climbing the ranks in the corporate world, working long hours in banking but ultimately feeling unfulfilled. If she was going to work 70 hours or more a week, there had to be more than a paycheck at the end of it. She realized she needed to find something she could be passionate about. For Susien, that had always been food.

In her 20’s, she’d started a food blog that gave her a good reason to travel and to try new restaurants. When she moved to Taiwan, she took a big step up from blogging to write and publish her first book. That launched her into a world of translating and publishing books about cooking and baking. By the time she moved back to Seattle, she was ready to follow her passion for food wherever it led her.

Next Stop – Seattle

The next stop on the trail turned out to be Le Cordon Bleu Seattle, a college of culinary arts. Part of the program included a 3-month internship, which led to a position as the pastry chef’s assistant at the exclusive Rainier Club. With more experience came bigger dreams, and Susien was soon determined to own a place of her own, where she could have complete creative control. It took 5 years before she was ready to make the leap, and then another 6-months of searching for just the right space.

That’s when she discovered Fuji Bakery. Founding baker Taka Hirai had spent three years at a triple-Michelin-starred restaurant in Tokyo, and that expertise was clear in every offering. The Japanese-French fusion called to Susien and she leapt at the chance to make it her own. At first, she let the experienced bakers do their thing but, ultimately, she couldn’t resist getting her hands messy. She began showing up at 3am to work alongside the bakers and absorb the lessons they had to teach.

The hours were long and the work was exhausting but, for Susien, the effort was driven by passion and the payoff was a lot bigger than a paycheck. Good thing, too, since “working 17 hours a day and still losing money is not easy for anyone!” Running a bakery (or starting any business!) can feel like climbing a mountain of sand, but the view from the top is worth the work. Susien’s advice for getting there: “Be strong and believe in yourself… and don’t give up!”

Next time you’re in Seattle, seek out the now famous Crunchy Cream Malasada, but don’t miss their savory selections like curry buns and smoked salmon baguette sandwiches.


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