Interview: Le Bon Garcon Caramel Maker Justin Chao

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Caramel Los Angeles

Artisanal LA has become a proving ground for food and drink related concepts that demonstrate a commitment to local, sustainable and handmade philosophy. From April 16 – 17, event organizer Shawna Dawson gathered more than 90 vendors in a vacant space on the top floor of Santa Monica Place. Attendees got their first tastes from tenants at The Market, a 45,000-square-foot, multiple booth venue that opens on May 20, and several other concepts could easily achieve breakout status as well. Each artisan has a story, and we have eight tales to tell, including a caramel maker.

Le Bon Garcon founder Justin Chao hand-makes, hand-stirs, and hand-wraps every caramel, whether it’s salted, macadamia nut or mango-passion fruit.

Why caramels?

I went to culinary school in France, and when I got back form France, I started making a bunch of stuff for friends. These were the things that everybody really liked, so I decided to make a business out of it.

When did you know that you would do this for a living?

It was maybe three years ago, I took a professional pastry class at Epicurean School in West Hollywood. Then I talked to the pastry teacher and she told me that I should probably pursue it. Then I went to Paris and studied over there.

Where’d you study over there?

It’s a small pastry school in Paris called the Ecole Gastronomique Bellouet Conseil. I think there were five or six people in my class. It was probably one of the best times in my life.

If people should try only one of your caramels, what should it be and why?

It’s hard to say. I really like the macadamia nut ones. The popular ones are actually salted. I say try all three.

Where are they available?

I’m selling on my website, at a flower shop in Santa Monica called Language of Flowers, and at the Broad Stage at Santa Monica Symphony.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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