By CJ Gronner
It’s quite simple to celebrate Women in Venice, when there are so many wonderful, creative, business-savvy women making up our place in the world. I can think of more women-run businesses than I have fingers: Ananda, the Beauty Bungalows (Alexandra Wagner Skincare, Lavish Tan, Kelley Baker Brows, Stephanie Hobgood Hair all under one roof!), The Green House, Marla’s Cafe, Studio Surya Yoga, Bohemian Exchange, Capri, Casa Linda, Firefly/Kid Firefly, Floral Art, French Market Cafe, Hama Sushi, Huset, Just Tantau, Primitivo, Small World Books, Strange Invisible Perfumes, Trim, Urban Escape, Zingara … and that’s just off the top of my head. Strong women, each day making our community a great place to be. I was thinking about our Women’s Issue, and that fact that we could all use a little more sweetness in our lives lately, so I thought it was time to find out the story behind Kristy Choo’s Jin Patisserie.
There might not be a better place in the whole world for perfect chocolate than Jin Patisserie, and I can walk there. Serving up the most exquisite pastries and gorgeous, delicious chocolates since 2003 on Abbot Kinney. Jin is a true local treasure.
Kristy Choo was born and raised in Singapore. She always loved to bake (me too!), but craved travel and adventure (me too!), so never really saw herself working in a kitchen. She became a flight attendant to satisfy some of her wanderlust, but kept thinking about what she truly loved to do, and that was to create wondrous dessert delights.
To that end, Choo decided to attend the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, where she focused on pastry. She then went back to Singapore and worked in a hotel there, furthering her training, and joined the Singapore National Team for pastry competition, meaning she was really, really good at what she did. She was also married by then, and her husband’s work kept him in Los Angeles, and the long distance thing was hard. Choo decided she needed to join her husband in L.A., and that was when she started thinking about opening a little place of her own.
Driving around Venice one day, Choo saw the space recently vacated by The Hydrant Cafe was available on Abbot Kinney. It was a little cottage with a courtyard, just about the perfect size for what she had been envisioning. Venice was also perfect, in her feeling, as she explains, “I liked the FEEL of Venice. It wasn’t pretentious, people are comfortable with themselves here.” Exactly.
Choo started the process from scratch (like her pastries), knowing nothing about the ins and outs of starting her own business, and she did it all herself. After the usual rigmarole with city inspectors, permits, suppliers and the like (”Crazy!”), Choo opened for business in September 2003, and has been blowing our minds with her concoctions ever since.
It kind of amazes me that even many people that live right in the neighborhood have never been to Jin (named after Choo’s middle name). It IS kind of hidden behind its tall gate, and you have to walk through the garden past the cherry blossoms to get into the little house where all the treasures are displayed, but it is just truly not to be missed.
Jin serves exotic and wonderful teas, little tea sandwiches and quiches (lovely for birthdays or the shower type event) but the real masterpieces are the desserts. Choo originally wanted to only do desserts, but after learning the local needs/wants/habits, decided to give people the choice of savory before diving right into the sweet, if they want. Many of us have no problem skipping right ahead to the sweet bliss, all made right there in the Jin kitchen.
Like – our number one favorite – Sea Salt Caramels. There is also a cake called “Inspiration” that is a sea salt chocolate caramel dream. The macaroons are too much – brightly colored little rounds of melting-in-your-mouth deliciousness (again, get the sea salt caramel one of those too!). The artistic chocolates (packaged so beautifully you don’t want to open the box) are ridiculous – lavender, mango-basil, yuzu, cinnamon, Earl Grey, passion fruit, lychee, each better than the next – and perhaps the best possible hostess gift ever. No one will ever be mad at receiving a box from Jin, I assure you. The number of bags from Jin cruising up and down Abbot Kinney on Valentine’s Day this year made it clear that the local people know what’s up for impressing their loved ones. Likewise, Choo’s chocolate Easter eggs are flawless works of art that I like to just stare at each year. Remarkable.
There was a Jin location for a while in Century City in the Intercontinental Hotel (closed last year), and a Valentine collaboration with Japanese department stores, but Choo is most happy in her little house in Venice, welcoming the locals and tourists alike who share her love for the original qualities of our town. She likes that her shop is unique, that people can only get her creations here in Venice. How lucky we are!
Choo hopes that Venice “won’t be like other places. Venice is a precious part of Los Angeles. Everywhere else people look the same, here they have PERSONALITY.” Now that Choo and her husband have a child, she doesn’t get the time to enjoy Venice as much, but has noticed all the changes taking place along Abbot Kinney, like we all have. She can’t stand First Fridays (again, like most of us nowadays), and really prefers the older school way things were (ditto). But, also like most of us feel, the personality of place really outshines all the rest, and Choo’s local regulars are now her friends. She can’t picture her little chocolate factory anywhere else. She loves it here. We love having her here.
Try this … maybe you’re having a little challenge of some sort. Go to Jin. Pick something out, anything from the pastry or chocolate case. Take it with you down to the beach. Look out over the horizon. Let the breeze wash over you and the sweet dissolve in your mouth. Even if just for that moment, everything will be so much better. It really is about the simple pleasures in life. And Jin has them for you in abundance.