Spotlight on Therese Ton
Meet Therese Ton: Owner and Head Baker of Toscah Bakery, an artisanal baking business that teaches the biochemistry of baking.
What inspired you to get into your line of work?
I started Toscah Bakery in the summer of 2017 after my sophomore year at Swarthmore College while I was working as a research assistant at a biomedical lab at Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia. I dreaded going to work because I felt like a monkey on the assembly line doing the same thing everyday and was not innately interested in the research itself. I started baking as a creative outlet to stay sane and began selling my family’s secret recipe of soft-baked biscotti at a local coffee shop called Hobbes Coffee in Swarthmore. I started developing new recipes and selling my culinary experiments to Hobbes such as my sea-salt dark chocolate cake and London fog cake, etc.
Once school started again in the fall, my friends and professors got wind of what I was doing and I started getting flooded with individual orders. One thing let to another and I started getting regular orders and invited to cater all-school events. At the time, I was a biology major conducting biochemistry research on the premedical track but started to realized that I enjoyed being more in kitchen baking and developing my business a lot more than being in the hospital, shadowing doctors, and taking my pre-medical courses. This was a really pivotal point in my life that lead me to ask myself, “Therese, what would you pursue in your life that you would continue doing even without pay?” I came up with three things: baking, biology, and teaching—three very different career paths.
Finally, one night I had a lightbulb moment and envisioned a career path that would combine all of my passions. I would open a brick-and-mortar location of Toscah Bakery that offers workshops teaching the biochemistry of baking. Reflecting on my experience growing up low-income with very few STEM opportunities around me, I also plan to create a fully funded after-school or summer program for high schoolers with similar backgrounds. STEM topics like biology, chemistry, and biochemistry can be very intimidating, and I want to make science more engaging, accessible, and fun. Since 2017, I have been able to launch 3 biochemistry of baking workshops in multiple local high schools and for my customers in Delaware County and Philadelphia. Last year I was invited by the Uncommon Individual Foundation to launch a fully fledge curriculum to one of their partner high school. Currently, I'm in the process of moving Toscah Bakery to Boston! I just accepted an offer from the Cardiovascular Disease Initiative at the Broad Institute at Harvard and MIT and will be working as a research associate for the next 2 years while I'm running Toscah Bakery! So thrilled to start this new chapter in my life!
Who has inspired you most on your entrepreneurial journey?
My aunt and uncle, Anh and Rick Perrotta, are my greatest inspirations and cheerleaders throughout my entrepreneurial journey. Anh is a kick-ass tech consultant who is the epitome of an independent women in STEM who also knows how to make a mean lychee martini. Rick is the co-founder and president of Royer Labs, the leading pioneer in ribbon microphones that are used in world class recording studios such as Capitol Records. He is the definition of grit. In his early 20's, he left home in Rhode Island, drove across the country to to LA to pursue a life in music. During his first night in LA, Rick was robbed in a motel yet he eventually found his way into the music production industry where helped designed and refined several ribbon microphone models at Royer Labs including the R-212 ribbon microphone that won the 2013 Technical Grammy.
If you were to get a tattoo, what would it be and why?
I would get the chemical structure of adrenaline on the back of my wrist because I'm such a biology and biochemistry nerd. In addition, adrenaline is a very familiar friend and foe. I've hustled all my life. Ever since I became financially independent since I was 17, I had to learn how to be resourceful and quick to adapt. Especially throughout my college career at Swarthmore, I had to learn how to navigate an elite education institution that doesn't necessarily foster the best environment for low-income, first generation students, let alone one that is entrepreneurial. Working 3 campus jobs, while running a fledging baking business as a full-time student really made me know the power of adrenaline in high-stress situations and how to use it to my advantage.
Breakfast of Champions: A matcha green tea croissant from Mr. Holmes Bakehouse with a hot jasmine pearl green tea while reading Christina Tosi's "All About Cake" recipe book.
Words you live by: Work Hard, Play Harder
Your Personal Bible Book: A tie between Salt, Acid, Fat, Heat by Samin Nosrat and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson.