I was so excited when I first discovered MakMak. It felt like I had just stumbled across the source that was supplying to a secret society of macaron connoisseurs.
The macaron craze has been going on for quite some years now and the guerilla concept behind MakMak's business roots just shows that the demand for macarons isn't slowing down!
Their flavours are wildly intriguing - my favourites are the pavlova, the black sesame and the raisin toast. And since learning that the founders behind MakMak are only in their mid 20's, I just had to meet these two young enterprising foodies.
MakMak was launched in April 2010 (Happy one year birthday guys!) after Carlos Heng and Chia Wei Leong saw this article in Gourmet Traveller in 2009 and became obsessed with perfecting variations of the recipe.
Carlos is an ex-chef who says he left the restaurant industry because he was in a different head space and didn't enjoy the restrictiveness. Chia on the other hand has a degree in science, majoring in statistics and worked briefly in that field. Chia says that despite his professional career with numbers, he had always been passionate about food.
The duo met in high school in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) but followed separate paths. In a case of pure serendipity, they both discovered 3 - 4 years later, that they were in fact now both based in Sydney!
The idea for MakMak was conceived after countless challenges between the two to produce the best macarons. Hundreds of swapped macarons later, they saw value in merging efforts, and business began operating from Carlos' Newtown home. Their fascination with creating exquisite bold-flavoured macarons now had commercial legs to produce the best macarons in Australia.
One month into business, MakMak won first prize in the BGF (Bobby Goldsmith Foundation) Bake-Off which confirmed their beliefs that they had potential.
I asked Carlos and Chia about their most memorable business milestones. They gave me three :)
The first being in October 2010, where they were referred through a connection on Twitter to Via Del Corso Pasticceria e Caffé. It was their first wholesale client and the order numbers really challenged their production capabilities. At one stage, they went from producing 300 macarons per week to 2000 per week!
The second milestone was later in December 2010; they scored a large order from Fairfax media for 1200 macarons to be used as thank you gifts.
And in January 2011, MakMak Macarons was briefly mentioned in a review of Duke Bistro, where their macarons can be found. It turns out that Carlos used to work with Mitch Orr, who is now a chef at Duke.
Both Carlos and Chia agree that while establishing and operating the business has
been a giant learning curve, it was extremely helpful to be able to use Carlos' network for support. For example, getting insider knowledge on
suppliers, receiving referrals from online connections and having ex-colleagues
sell their macarons in their cafes/bistros/restaurants.
I can't help but admire their savviness. This is the way Gen Y does business.
They operate from home (and also have access to a commercial kitchen) to keep costs down.
They make deliveries personally to your doorstep with a hired GoGet car - wholesale deliveries, for example, to Via Del Corso who are in Westfield Sydney, are also done by themselves via public transport.
And when sourcing for ingredients, they look locally and are careful with assessing the consistency and quality of ingredients.
The MakMak kitchen now pumps out 1000+ macarons each week. Sometimes they work 9am - 5pm and at other times they can finish as late as 3am. During the Christmas peak they operated 80 hours a week!
I was also curious to see how many macarons these sweet-toothed boys actually eat on a daily basis. They giggle and admit that at the beginning, they were eating up to six macarons a day but now stop at two.
This blog post wouldn't be complete without a low down on the flavours would it?
The flavours are seasonal so here's the current range -
Pavlova: This one is a summer party in your mouth! The burst of passionfruit and mango jelly at the centre of the coconut ice is a lovely surprise.
Raisin Toast: Lightly spiced shell with a rum and raisin buttercream centre. It sounds like the strangest combination but goes oh-so-well together!
Salted Caramel: Dulce de leche and Appleton rum with Maldon sea salt flakes spread onto a plain meringue shell. Sea salt and caramel is an irresistible combination that has been translated magnificently onto these lush macarons.
Black Sesame: Gorgeous contrast of sweet and savoury, the flavour of black sesame is striking but not overpowering. It reminds me of the Chinese black sesame dessert soup!
Strawberry Shortcake: Another one with a burst of jelly (strawberry this time). I was delighted to learn that this flavour features a native bush herb called strawberry gum.
Lemon: MakMak's lemon flavour is the best I've tasted yet (it features a touch of lemon myrtle). There's a real lemony tart/sour taste that is reminiscent of Warheads.
Peppermint and Dark Chocolate: The pairing of peppermint and chocolate is an oldie but a goodie. It is inspired by the Arnotts Mint Slice and is made with organic peppermint tea. I love the refreshing minty contrast.
Gianduja: For nut-fanatics, this flavour combines 4 different nuts! Peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds and macadamias. So nutty, so good!
Two exciting new flavours are also launching for Easter week - hot cross macarons and milk chocolate peanut butter! I can't wait to try the peanut butter flavour!
As you can see, MakMak finds inspiration for new flavours in everyday life (I'd have the raisin toast macaron for breakfast any day!) as well as their cultural background (the black sesame is their signature flavour).
All MakMak macarons are individually hand piped and assembled. They are truly exquisite works of art - crisp shells, luscious centres, all uniformly shaped and so luxuriously delicate.
And you know what? They're all gluten-free because Carlos and Chia believe that everybody should be able to indulge in the comfort of macarons.
So where to next for MakMak?
Well, the boys are on track with their wholesale (75%) to direct sales (25%) ratio and a boutique retail store may be on the cards in the near future.
In the meantime, you can order online at www.makmak.com.au or check them out at Via Del Corso in Westfield Sydney, Baffi & Mo in Redfern, Cafe Lounge in Surry Hills, Duke Bistro in Surry Hills, Kantine in Surry Hills, Le Depot in Ultimo, Poolside Cafe at The Domain and Cow & The Moon in Enmore & Juju Espresso at Macquarie Place CBD.
If you haven't had a taste of MakMak's macarons, you're missing out big time!
Phone: 0432 501 852
Costs: $25 per dozen
Thank you to Carlos & Chia for taking the time to chat with me! You guys rock! ;)