Ms Audrey Wang, co-founder and executive chef of Creamier Handcrafted Ice Cream and Coffee, has always had a sweet tooth.
She says: "I remember buying ice cream from the ice-cream man after school for just 10 or 20 cents. My favourite flavour was Raspberry Ripple sandwiched between wafers or bread. At home, there would always be sng bao (traditional ice popsicles) in the freezer.
"Even now, if I go to McDonald's, I'd buy an ice cream."
Her interest in sweet treats further developed when she started baking at the age of 25. She says she learnt to bake because her 67-yearold mother is a "good cook" who would critique her cooking skills.
"My mother would tell me that I was dicing and chopping onions wrongly. When I bake, she can't say anything because she can't bake," says Ms Wang, 44, with a laugh.
In 2010, after working in the advertising industry for 15 years, she wanted to take a break and considered pursuing a career in the food and beverage industry.
WHAT WOULD YOUR LAST MEAL BE?
My mum's cooking. I love her Teochew-style porridge with tau kwa (firm tofu), anchovies, garlic and fishballs. I'll finish with ice cream - whatever new flavour I'd have created by then.
Over the next two years, she gained experience in making pastry at the Pierside Kitchen & Bar at One Fullerton and The Patissier in Mohamed Sultan Road.
Ms Wang, who is single, says: "I went from earning $60 an hour to $4 an hour. I kept asking myself why I was doing this. But I stayed very focused and knew that if I could stay in this, then I would be ready to open my own business."
Together with Mr Victor Lim and his wife, Ms Khoh Wan Chin - whom she got to know through mutual friends - she opened the first Creamier outlet five years ago in Toa Payoh Lorong 1. It has since expanded to include a one-year-old branch at Gillman Barracks as well as three-year-old sister brand Sunday Folks at Chip Bee Gardens.
Sunday Folks focuses on desserts and recently added items such as adzuki ice cream, chocolate slabs and truffles to the menu.
Creamier specialises in premium ice cream and waffles. From now until Feb 28, customers can get a taste of Chocolate Tau Yew Tempeh Crunch - the last of a series of collaborations with local chefs for the brand's fifth anniversary. The ice cream - created using aged dark soya sauce from local sauce factory Kwong Woh Hing - is made in partnership with Wild Rocket's chef Willin Low.
On how the brand stays relevant after five years, Ms Wang says: "Social media helped us tremendously when we started. Now, it is used differently and we want to be seen as 'real'.
"We hope people see that we put a lot of heart into our work and when they think of desserts, they think of Creamier."
Tell us the thought process in coming up with the new flavour with chef Low.
It helps that both our brands are very similar. Willin is all about modern Singaporean cuisine and we focus on Asian flavours.
He suggested having tau yew (soya sauce) and I felt that it would pair well with chocolate. He wanted a crunch factor and, after discussing, we thought tempeh - a soya product - would work best. We considered having chocolate-covered tempeh, but decided not to because that would mask the tempeh flavour.
Has any ice-cream flavour not worked so far?
Cheese. We tried blending different types of blue cheese with ice cream, but the flavours don't seem to blend well with sugar.
It is also challenging to make ice cream with alcohol, as the alcohol affects the freezing point. We have to balance the amount used to ensure that you can taste the alcohol. Many places do not use real alcohol. They add a lot of artificial flavours.
What was the first ice cream on Creamier's menu?
Sea salt gula melaka, which was a turning point for us. When it was featured in The Straits Times in April 2012, everyone wanted it. It is still our best-selling flavour, along with pistachio and Earl Grey lavender. Of course, any flavour with chocolate sells well too.
What other desserts do you like?
In a buffet spread, I'd head for durian pengat, and bread and butter pudding. Both desserts are creamy, soulful and comforting.
Since you like durian, why does Creamier not sell durian ice cream? Many customers have requested it, but I am concerned about how its smell will affect the other ice- cream flavours. If durian was the only product we sold, then I wouldn't mind. Personally, I prefer eating the actual fruit.
What are your favourite restaurants?
The now-defunct Japanese restaurant Hashi in Bukit Pasoh Road and Italian restaurant Da Luca at Novena for its angel hair pasta with caviar, shaved truffles and scallops.
What do you crave after a trip overseas?
I must have char kway teow from a coffee shop in Toa Payoh. I order a big portion and always ask for more salt. I do this only for char kway teow. I love it extra salty.
Have you had any memorable meals on your travels?
Yes, at Uma in Barcelona, Spain last year. The meal ended with a dessert with a presentation that was an experience. The server placed a piece of paper on the table and then dropped a chocolate bowl from a height onto the table. It broke into many pieces and there were other ingredients such as edible flowers and berries.
What else do you like to do on your trips?
My favourite thing to do is visit the markets because that's the best way to see ingredients. I've brought home bags of lentils; a huge, bright purple cauliflower; and special spice mixes from London.
If you could invite someone, dead or alive, for a meal, who would you pick?
My late grandmother, who died two years ago. I never had many chances to have a meal with her. I'd cook for her since she's not fond of desserts.