Mizue Murai: Born in Yokohama. Enrolled in Tsuji Culinary Institute then attended Brown University in the United States and majored in Visual Art. Worked at JP Morgan and Boston Consulting Group, recently opened a madeleine cake shop, Madeline Lapin, in Jiyugaoka, Tokyo. Mizue is also the author of “Visualisation Makes Things Easy” (Zude Kanngaeruto Subete Matomaru) published by Cross Media Publishing.
Mizue has a unique history: after graduating from high school, she attended Tsuji Culinary Institute and went on to Brown University in the USA, and after graduating university joined JP Morgan.
“When I started my career, I thought having expertise in both cooking and finance would be really beneficial in the future since there were few people who knew both areas.”
She took a position at the consulting firm to learn how to develop a business plan and business strategy, and is not afraid to follow her intuition. Her next action was opening a cake shop specialising in madelines, making cakes from scratch using eggs from free-range chickens. She says, “I love people, animals and nature just the way they are.”
There are many classic recipes for madeleine cakes but Mizue wasn’t satisfied with them, so she tried everything to find out the best ingredients, the proportion, the order of adding them, the way to stir them and eventually it took a year to accomplish her special secret recipe.
What were the most formative experiences that led you to the job you have now?
I have always loved food ever since I was a child. As a school kid, I could memorise the school lunch menu for a whole month! My friends were so surprised, but for me it was like, “You don’t remember the lunch menu? Why not?”
I went to Italy to learn art history when I was a junior in university. I was really impressed by how Italian people enjoy eating, talking and spending time together. That was probably the time I started thinking about creating a comfortable cozy space for people.
What’s keeping you busy these days?
The sales volume varies depending on how I showcase the cakes. Not only cakes but interior such as display tables, plants and glass cases really matters. When I have time, I sort of like to spy on other shops and take photos of them to analyse the way they display their goods. Thanks to that, I could come up with the wooden shelves which are the perfect way to showcase the cakes.
“I THINK I AM PRETTY RELAXED ALL THE TIME SINCE MY JOB IS WHAT I LOVE”
How do you relax on a day off?
I like to go to Komazawa Park or Setagaya Park with my husband and daughter and have a picnic lunch there. But I think I am pretty relaxed all the time since my job is what I love.
Who has most influenced you?
I think my parents have. They told me that I didn’t have to go to university. It was a bit funny because actually they were university faculty members. They talked about justice and morals but were basically hands-off parents. Thanks to them, it was natural for me to go for my gut instinct.
Which book has influenced you the most?
I like fantasy books such as Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings. I even got my display and wrapping ideas from those books. They made my daydreams come true!
“THAT EXPERIENCE MADE ME THINK ABOUT WHAT MY STRENGTH WAS AND HOW I COULD FIGHT WITH THE WEAPONS I HAD”
What has been the most challenging experience so far?
Definitely it was when I entered university in America. Academic English drove me crazy at first. It was really tough. But that experience made me think about what my strength was and how I could fight with the weapons I had besides English.
What attracted you to kay me?
kay me dresses are so light-weight and comfortable to wear. I usually dress casually, almost too casually, so I love kay me dresses that achieve “instant elegance” when I want to wear more business-like attire. And the designs are suitable for all ages!
Mizue’s travel essentials:
Images: I find many photos of other shops which give me new display ideas.
Wrapping papers and boxes: I also collect wrapping papers and packages to get new wrapping ideas for cakes.