Brush Before Bed. And Try Your Dentist’s Macarons.

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Texas-born, NJ-based dentist Dr. Stephanie Tran isn’t one to shy away from bucket list items. During the pandemic, while the rest of us were perfecting our sourdough starters, Dr. Tran was trying her hand at the technical, hard-to-perfect, French delicacy known as the macaron. What started out as just a hobby is now a full-fledged baking business that includes pop-ups and baking classes. The founder of Steph’s Macarons spoke to us about the sweet balance of running a business while still practicing dentistry.

Tell us how you first started baking. And why macarons?

I’ve always loved cooking and baking in general. I created a cooking/baking bucket list and macarons were on the list even though I had never tried one that I actually liked. My little sister made me try one from Trader Joe’s and I wasn’t impressed (sorry Trader Joe’s). But I was intrigued because they are hard to make. And I always like a challenge. So during Covid I tried my hand at them while I was in the middle of dental school. The first time they weren’t great. Then I tried another recipe. I had 50 and started giving them to friends and family to sample. I still didn’t know what they were supposed to be like, but I knew they were different than any other macaron I had tried before. So I decided to start making them to sell because they were different from all the rest.

So the business took off from there?

After I nailed the technique I realized there were so many flavors and varieties to try. The best way to get rid of them was to sell them to my dental school classmates. Business was slow to start at first and I wasn’t taking it too seriously. After a year of doing that I finally started doing pop-ups. I borrowed a friend’s table.

You’re a dentist who bakes sweet treats. The irony isn’t lost here. What is the typical reaction?

Either people laugh or they are impressed. You don’t see your dentist at a coffee shop selling macarons on the weekends. Nobody has ever been negative. People are pretty positive about it.

What are the similarities and differences between baking and dentistry?

Similarities: how technical and sensitive the process for both is. Macarons require measurements in grams. It’s very repetitive, but each time is different. The same is true for dentistry. It’s the same recipe, but it could be different every time, just like a patient. Both require attention to detail. Differences: Even though dentistry requires creativity, baking is more creative. Macarons are definitely more fun. I also teach baking classes on the weekends. Baking customers always want to be there. Not everyone wants to be at the dentist.

It’s one thing to bake as a hobby, but it takes grit and passion to launch a business. What propelled you to take your baking to the next level?

Running a business has always been inside of me. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of selling things. Even in high school I sold chocolate-covered pretzels to afford a prom ticket. I really like selling things in general. I’m also an all-or-nothing type of person and why do something halfway? After I started selling a few macarons, I figured I’d keep going. Why not go all the way with something? I still love dentistry though, and I’ll stick with it until loans are paid off.

I think you’re proof that you can wear many hats (sometimes a chef’s hat) and it’s important to not put people into boxes. Can you speak to this?

I think having the balance is great. It’s great to put my mind in a different place. I still love working with patients. Both are an outlet for each other. Both build each other up. Being a dentist is what makes my brand stick out from others. People recognize me as the dentist who also bakes macarons. Having the flexibility is great. Both balance each other out.

What’s been the most challenging aspect of running your own macaron business?

Because I’m a home baker, it’s hard to find the time separating personal and work life. I have two freezers dedicated to the business. I need to learn how to take some time off and build some more friendships. But baking has allowed me to branch out and meet new people. The doctor-to-patient relationship is different than the baker-to-customer one.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future of Steph’s Macarons?

I would love to have a storefront with a great aesthetic. I’d want to see a wide array of my customer base and have a space to teach my classes. The store would be a place that people would have on their bucket list to visit. Right now I only do pick-ups. I haven’t figured out how to not have the macarons crack if I were to ship them to customers. People also like to see them in real life and have the experience of meeting me to pick up their order. My goal isn’t to make the most money in the world. It’s to create an experience for the customer.

That makes you a unique businessperson already.

I would also love to eventually use part of the storefront location as a part-time soup kitchen one day. A macaron recipe only calls for egg whites, so we always have yolks that I have to think up recipes for so as not to waste them. I’d like to think of a way to use these food leftovers to make food for the homeless. It’s a situation close to my heart and I’d be fortunate to use my space to give back one day. My macarons have allowed me a connection here in NJ outside of dental school. It would be an opportunity to give back to a community that’s welcomed me with open arms.

What is your most popular flavor right now?

That’s easy. Crème Brûlée.

Lastly, for those of us who love our sweets, what’s one dentist tip to avoid cavities that you can leave us with?

Always brush your teeth at night! It’s odd but people don’t do it. It’s just so important to remember to brush and floss before bed every night!


Elizabeth Hazard

Elizabeth Hazard is a writer, producer and photography editor. Her work has appeared in various publications and she writes frequently about art, culture, fashion and history.



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