Tamy Chung (@macaboston) loves a challenge. That’s what got her started making macarons in 2014. She baked cookies, cakes, and pies her whole life but found them a bit elementary. So she set her sights instead on perfecting the French pastry. Growing up in the restaurant business, Chung never planned to pursue baking as a full-time gig. But after she shared her homemade sweets with friends and family, they encouraged her to go public with her macaron bakery, Maca. The bakery made its debut in 2016 at The Somerville Flea, and Chung operates a storefront bakery in the same neighborhood.
Q. Why are you drawn to macarons specifically?
A. When I was baking just for leisure — cookies, pies, things like that — I never really liked the easy things. For me, that was too boring. Macarons are pretty hard to make and it was a little bit of a challenge, but it was something I got into because it requires technical expertise. And now, it’s something that you can truly customize. Depending on who’s contacting me, there’s really no macaron that’s the same, at least no order that’s the same.
Q. When you’re not making custom orders and just making things for your shop, how do you come up with ideas for decorating the macarons?
A. It’s really everything. It could be something I see when I’m walking down the street, it could be a lot of things I see when I’m traveling. I get inspired a lot by other things, other people, and that goes for flavors as well. Also, a lot comes from customers. They’ll come in and they’ll ask me: “Have you ever thought of making this?...” At least for the stuff in the store, I really try to make what I enjoy, because otherwise it’s not that fun.
Q. Can you tell me about your retail location?
A. I am located in Bow Market in Union Square, Somerville, and I have 166 square feet, so it’s super small. It’s about the size of a one-car garage, but I do all my baking operations from this store. In the front I have some retail things — things that inspire me and things that are also made by my friends who are local makers who I want to support and fit the vibe of the store. We have a display case full of 12 different flavors every single day, assorted characters as well, and drinks that are mostly local. Probably about three-quarters of the rest of the space is my kitchen and I bake everything in the store. When you walk in, you smell that fresh sugary, nutty smell and those are the macarons baking every day.
Q. How do you use your Instagram to promote your work as a baker?
A. Of all the social media platforms, Instagram is my choice. I think it’s the easiest, the most user-friendly, and really where I can connect with my customer base the easiest. I’m constantly responding to DMs to questions they might have, potential orders, or just if they want to talk. It’s something I use to really get personal with my customers because I think that is more important than me hiding behind an Internet wall.
Q. Do you switch out the flavors every day? Do you have a personal favorite flavor?
A. I’m constantly rotating flavors. I’ve stopped keeping track, but I think I’ve made well over 200 flavors since starting Maca. We rotate them all the time. Some of them are a one-time batch but some we make all the time. My all-time favorite is always going to be lavender honey.
Q. Do you have any notably wacky flavors you’ve made?
A. Whenever I do a collaboration, those are always super fun. Any time I link up with a distillery, like I’ve done a bunch of Bully Boy flavors: They’re based in Dorchester, and we had some fun things with that. When I launched my IndieGoGo when I was building up the store, one of the perks was to create your own flavor so I got some fun ones from that, like a Shirley Temple or a bananas Foster. Two of the collabs that I have most of the time are with Goodnight Fatty in Salem — and we do something called the “big fatty” which is [a] cookies and cream edible cookie dough macaron — and [for] Gracie’s down the street we do unicorn poop, which is a Fruity Pebbles cereal milk ice cream sandwiched between two large macarons shaped like a unicorn. We do fun things.