Baking has always been a special interest to me. I remember as a child my favorite activity during the winter holidays that I always looked forward to was baking chocolate chip cookies with my dad. I remember being endlessly fascinated by the process - I loved hearing the sharp snap and crunch of chocolate bars under my father’s knife, the smell of butter and sugar in the mixer, watching them rise in the oven with bated breath, knowing we were minutes away from a hot cookie, still fresh and hot from the oven. For a couple of years, my dad allowed me to get experimental with the holiday cookies. He let me pick as many kinds of chocolate as I wanted to chop up and throw in the batter. I always loved mint chocolate, so was extra excited that I got to customize my own batch with my favorite candy. No one in the family touched the mint chocolate chip cookies except for me (not that I’m complaining about getting a whole batch to myself!). They were probably, objectively, pretty awful. But, the realization that baking didn’t have to be by the book, the freedom of knowing I could experiment, opened a world of possibility that I carry with me today. Both of my parents are migrants, my mother migrating from Singapore, so my brother and I were lucky to be raised with bits and pieces of different cultures. I have always been particularly close with my grandmother from my mom’s side, and my mom’s older sisters. We love traveling to Singapore to be with family and have always adored the food there, both dishes and culture. In Singapore we joke that there are three topics of conversation at the dinner table: what we had eaten before, what we were eating now, and what we were planning to eat later. When we are all able to get together, we find ourselves spending most of the day in the kitchen, cooking up recipes for one another, singing and dancing around the stove as we offer each other tastes of this, or bites of that, each spoonful or taste our whole world and history and family love. Despite Singapore being widely known for its food culture, it has been nearly impossible to find Singaporean food anywhere we have been in the US. I want other folks in the west to be able to experience the wide array of flavors I have been privileged to eat, and I knew the only way to do that would be to find a way to make it myself. Of course, it will never match up to what our hard-working aunties and uncles create in their stalls at the hawker centers (which are places a bit like food courts we have in the US, but a million times better with fresh, flavorful food.) but I like to hope that I can at least serve as a tiny piece in the bridge between our two regions. Singaporean food is very different from anything you can get here in the US, and new flavors and textures can be intimidating to some, so, I take inspiration from Singaporean dishes and use that to come up with something that is still in a familiar format: cookies. Accessibility is a passion. Besides the bakery, I also do hospice work for senior, chronically ill / disabled dogs. I am disabled and chronically ill myself, which I feel can make me a better, more empathetic caregiver for my dogs. The genetic condition I have is called “Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome”. This illness can present in many different ways (there are currently 13 subtypes described), and on a spectrum of severity. EDS is something that affects an important building block in the human body, and as such, impacts every single part of the body, including skin, joints, organs, and even blood vessels, which often creates a domino effect in our bodies, causing many different symptoms and comorbidities. At this point in my life, my EDS is considered severe and life-limiting, and I spend a large portion of my time at various hospitals for treatments, tests, procedures, and consults in order to survive. I am also autistic, which commonly co-occurs with EDS. Accessibility and food can be intertwined for me. My condition has impacted my digestive system, sometimes creating radically different restrictions and requirements from my diet. Being autistic, I also have ARFID (avoidant restrictive food intake disorder), which, while quite mild now as an adult, did have a large impact on my life when I was younger. I have also struggled with a longstanding restrictive eating disorder since I was a teenager, which further impacts the way I interact with food and my body. Trying new foods can be a scary experience for some, especially for those with sensory issues. Knowing the struggle, I wanted a way to make trying new flavors and textures feel more accessible, bridging the gap we sometimes feel between wanting to try something new, while also feeling safe. I felt that cookies could be the perfect carrier for that, utilizing different flavors while keeping them in a familiar format. I hope that being experimental with my baking can encourage others who desire, to try and experience new foods and flavors they haven't had before. Food is a love language, and a lot of love goes into every ingredient in every batch. I hope CookieTiam can offer that same joy and comfort I feel, singing and dancing with my mother and aunties, sprinkling all our love into every dish.