Sam Brimmer and her fiancé Mike Whittaker are the folks behind Bing’s Bao Buns (, which makes Asian-inspired cuisine, available for pickup from their apartment in downtown San Luis Obispo. The couple moved to the Central Coast from New Jersey because they wanted to take part in a community that feels like home. “We make food we want to eat, and we’ve had an amazing reaction from people,” says Sam, beaming from the couch as Stir Fry the cat circles nearby. (The name “Bing’s” comes from the sound of Stir Fry’s strange meow.)

There's No Place Like Home

PHOTOS BY Shannon McMillen

Originally published in Edible SLO Magazine. 

At Six Test Kitchen ( in Arroyo Grande, Chef and owner Ricky Odbert prepares every fourteen-course tasting menu just a wall away from his childhood bedroom in a stainless commercial kitchen in what was originally the garage. Odbert brought the space to life in 2015 with help from his parents, who live in the home attached to the restaurant. Separating work and play has never been an issue; Odbert loves what he does. Over the years he’s built relationships with local artisans, farmers, and  shermen, so guests are able to experience the unique story of every Central Coast season. A new addition to a recent menu, the spider crab, Odbert says, “is so scary but really good. I like surprising people with what they once thought of as gross. I want to make the unappealing appealing.”

Baking from home has allowed Lonielle De Haven to balance work and family in her own way. “Not having to worry about the overhead, foot traffic or operating hours of a commercial space takes the weight off and lets me focus on what I really want to do.” She and her husband, Justin, own and operate The Cakery (, an at-home cake design studio in Atascadero celebrated by locals and visitors alike since starting out in 2003.

A stay-at-home mom, De Haven appreciates being able to set her own hours and spend more time with her loved ones. That’s not to say it’s a piece of cake, though. “There is always an email or call to return. One of my biggest ongoing challenges is trying not to work around the clock,” De Haven says.

De Haven takes pride in the work that comes out of their home and it shows: she’s been baking professionally for over two decades and loves hand-piping scrollwork, swirls, and flowers. Of the many flavors and fillings available, clients most often request her vanilla cake with raspberry marmalade and cream cheese.

When it comes to where The Cakery calls home, “San Luis Obispo County has such a great feeling of community. People are friendly and involved. There is an overall feeling of happiness that I appreciate being part of.”

“This isn’t the place for gluten-free or lactose-free food. You wouldn’t go see a band and demand they play something that isn’t on their set list. I have the creative freedom to do what I want.” 
- Ricky Odbert, Six Test Kitchen


“We don’t waste anything. We compost. We get creative.”
- Sam Brimmer, Bing’s Bao Buns

“I try hard to disconnect from the job and be present.”
- Lonielle De Haven, The Cakery


“When I moved out at 18, I didn’t come home often. I was focused on what I needed to do. As I get older, home is more important to me. I feel like the community is rooting for us to keep going.”
- Ricky Odbert, Six Test Kitchen

“Home is my happy place—a place to grow roots and share our culture. We want to share the things we love.”
- Sam Brimmer, Bing’s Bao Buns

“To me home means love, comfort, creativity, and sometimes a little craziness.”
- Lonielle De Haven, The Cakery

The two full-time Apple employees first started cooking for their hungry collegiate co-workers when they noticed most were living on fast food. Brimmer and Whittaker knew they could make an affordable alternative that was healthy and delicious. Whittaker tends a vegetable plot at Emerson Park Community Garden, growing vegetables and herbs from quinoa and broccoli to Thai basil, Shishito peppers, and lemongrass.

Whittaker is responsible for preparing every bao bun, rice bowl, batch of bone broth, and crispy chicken skin that comes out of their home kitchen. Brimmer stays busy managing orders and ensuring they have all the ingredients necessary to succeed on their two days “off” from Apple. She is also happy to serve as the official taste-tester.

In the future, Bing’s plans to offer bicycle delivery service and eventually open a brick and mortar location. Their expansion may need to happen soon in part because they’re running out of fridge space. The pair recently went through over 20 pounds of Cal Poly chicken to fulfill their weekly orders.

Today, texting is the best way to place an order (805.538.2464). Fans (aka Bingers) are also encouraged to follow their evolving menu on Instagram at @bingsbaobuns.

Beyond Odbert’s own garden of vegetables, herbs, and nasturtiums, he sources chicken from Bee Wench Farm and vegetables from Rutiz Family Farms, “We have so much to o er here—the wine, the produce, the fish in Avila and Morro Bay. We have so many resources to run a restaurant focused on hyper-local ingredients.” It doesn’t get any more local than serving the community from the home where you grew up and Odbert is confident “We’re doing something people want.” Today he serves private groups of six  ursday through Sunday evenings alongside Chef de Partie Matt Corella. For reservations, visit