Family Is a Central Ingredient in Lauren Tran’s Toothsome Vietnamese Desserts
Last March, pastry chef Lauren Tran was furloughed from her job at New York City’s Gramercy Tavern—just four months after winning the beloved restaurant’s annual Thanksgiving pie competition with a coconut-pandan pie layered with lemongrass whipped cream. Later that year, her father, who lives in Seattle, where Tran grew up, was rushed to the hospital after experiencing chest pains, prompting Tran to move back to the Pacific Northwest. While caring for her dad, whom she credits with introducing her to the French pastries of his colonial-era childhood in Da Nang, Vietnam, and the abundant Vietnamese bakeries around Washington State’s capital, Tran found her pandemic silver lining by launching Bánh by Lauren, a line of traditional Vietnamese desserts, enhanced with her epicurean flair, that she sold in boxes at pop-ups around town. (They swiftly became known for commanding around-the-block lines and near-immediate sellouts.) Encouraged by the response, the chef recently returned to New York to proffer her creations, including steamed bánh da lợn layer cakes, crunchy fried sesame balls, and tropical fruit macarons, her not-too-sweet take on the classic French cookie. Here, Tran talks about the role her family and her heritage play in her toothsome treats.