“I officially gave my two weeks’ notice,” says Churro Borough's Sylvia Yoo (pictured). That is, of course, in reference to her interior design job. Yoo’s life turned around two weeks ago when her churro ice cream sandwich creations took the food world by storm—pegged, perhaps mistakenly, as the next Cronut—while making appearances over radio airwaves and in Time magazine. After a week of viral page hits, Yoo knows the demand and is eager to ride the wave of momentum. “Interior design will always be there,” she says. We caught up with the churro guru, whose lines were by far the longest ones at this year’s LA Street Food Festival, to see how she’s been holding up, and what plans she has for the future. Churro Borough’s summer pop-up series starts July 2 at Ramekin, 7-10 p.m., and takes place Wednesday evenings through August.
CHOW: How have you been dealing with the sudden burst of attention?
SYLVIA YOO: It’s definitely something that is very surreal. When I started this company a couple years back, the whole brand identity revolved around me being anonymous. I tend to think I’m a bit of a wallflower. It’s overwhelming, but very lovely and flattering to know that so many people support me. It all happened very quickly, and I don’t want it to be misconstrued as a fad. It wasn’t something I created to be a gimmick. It came from my heart, in terms of telling myself I want to produce a unique product, not necessarily something that’s trendy. The components are near and dear because it comes from my childhood memories. That is why it resonates with a lot of people.
What is it like to have your product compared to the Cronut?
It’s very flattering because Dominique Ansel is well known and is very good at what he does. I am still a novice. I still think of myself as a line cook, not a chef. I don’t deserve that title yet. He might be known for the Cronut, but he’s had his bakery for a while now. In terms of comparison, both are fried, both are mash-ups, but they’re not the same flavor profile. I never made that comparison, and I hope he doesn’t feel any sort of, “Who is this person?”
How was it this time around for you at the LA Street Food Festival?
Last year we had lines consistently throughout the whole event, but not more than 50 people at a time. This year, the lines were two hours long, 400 people deep, and we served past 10 o’clock. People usually don’t go to dessert first, but they came to us because they knew we'd have a line.
Now that a lot more people have tried your churro sandwiches, have you received any helpful feedback?
There have been some vendors who’d like to wholesale our products. Some have asked to use my churros in conjunction with their ice cream, and even churro cart vendors have requested my information. What feels more pertinent to me is that a lot of chefs and restaurant owners are asking if they can host me for a pop-up. That's more useful at this point—continuing to be accessible. Some realtors have approached us, inquiring if we need a space. My brother Paul, who handles the business side of things, is scouting for locations. I'd like to still stay close to the metro LA area, whether it’s Downtown, or on the Westside, since churro sandwiches seem like something that goes hand in hand with the beach. Who knows, maybe it’s one, or both.
What kinds of people have reached out to you? Any strange requests?
One person asked if I could deliver the sandwiches on dry ice. And I had one email from a guy telling me his girlfriend is pregnant, and that she saw a picture of my churro sandwich and won’t stop talking about it. So he said I have to fulfill her pregnancy craving by selling directly to them. David Rodriguez, former Red Medicine pastry chef, has reached out and congratulated me. I talked to a couple of my pastry girls who have moved on from Jean-Georges. Everyone around me knows this has been something I've been working on for a while now, so it’s very humbling and a great blessing.
Photos of Sylvia Yoo by Beau Eaton
Justin Bolois is a writer living in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBolois.