After meeting in culinary school at Toronto’s George Brown College, Stephanie Duong and Bruce Lee interned in top kitchens in France and Hong Kong, using their off days to explore the local food scene and collect inspiration for their future endeavour. Returning to Toronto, they operated a small business producing buttery caramels for sale at local markets. In early 2015, the couple opened Roselle Desserts, located on a quiet stretch of Toronto’s King Street East. Their meticulously crafted pastries, cakes, caramels and more have garnered much acclaim.
What’s your most popular item?
Duong: The banana cream pie éclair is the embodiment of Roselle. It’s simple, but good. We use real vanilla beans for the custard and flambé the banana, then caramelize and add rum to it.
What is another best-selling item?
Duong: Made-to-order mille feuille.
Lee: It’s a puff pastry that’s delicate and crispy, and you fill it with a rich and smooth pastry cream. It’s beautiful.
And you still make the caramels?
Duong: We’ve added more flavours, including raspberry and blackcurrant, as well as seasonal options like apple-pear and coconut-macadamia.
What’s your pastry philosophy?
Lee: We make everything from scratch. I love the business model of mom-and-pop pastry shops and the boulangeries in Europe, where everything is done on site by people who care deeply about what they’re doing.
What was the inspiration behind the design of your space?
Duong: We created a space that’s laid-back, a simple room with light wood tones where people can enjoy delicious sweets in a casual setting—it’s light and airy, and places the emphasis on the beauty and intricacies of the pastries.
What do you like about the Toronto food scene?
Duong: The diversity.
Lee: We’ve had Tibetan dumplings and Korean food and Vietnamese food and Italian food, all within a week.
Duong and Lee’s Toronto Food Picks:
Duong: “Whenever I’m on the west side of the city, I’ll pop in and get some cookies. I love the amaretti and the biscotti.”
Duong: “They have this duck liver tart, a super-velvety paté they top with a seasonal gelée like concord grape, with a nice, flaky crust.”
Duong: “We love the vermicelli noodles with grilled meats—super-cheap.”
Lee: “Or a platter with vermicelli and rice wrappers that you dip in hot water and then roll up. Fresh ingredients, very flavourful dishes.”