I graduated from the Ateneo in the year 2000 and I remember wanting to be either a Pastry Chef or a diplomat. My dad told me, work first, earn your own money. Paddle your own canoe. I provided you with education in the best schools (St. Benedict’s in Cebu and Assumption Antipolo for Grade School, Miriam College for High School and Ateneo for College). If you want to pursue further studies then pay for it yourself. I have done my part.
So I took my first job as one of the first Call Center Agents in the Philippines at e-telecare and it was tough. Night shift, sleeping during the day, learning to deal with irate customers, but it was exciting because we were the Pilot team (the Cowboys we were called because our first account was a telecom company in Texas.) I did my best and was promoted from CSA (Customer Service Associate) to TOIC (team leader in charge) in a short span of time but got stuck being TOIC because of some issues that cropped up when I handled the first Spanish speaking team and also my supervisors had issues with two trips I took abroad during my evaluation period which were legitimate leaves w/in the allowed number of vacation leaves ) The first trip was to visit my maternal aunt who lived in Switzerland to visit a potential Pastry school in Luzern and the other a trip to New York to visit my best friends who were working there and my maternal aunt in Washington DC so I could check out Georgetown, one the best schools for Diplomacy). I realized in the end that I couldn’t afford either (and unfortunately Georgetown didn’t accept my application) and so I continued working the graveyard shift focused and determined to reach my goal : To save enough money to go to Pastry school.
By the end of 7 years I finally did it. I earned my first million (and at this point I was already an Operations Manager Officer in Charge and Shift Manager) and luckily was able to find a Pastry School in San Francisco that fit my budget and had enough money to fly there back and forth several times a year and thankfully my Brother allowed me to stay in his house in Pacifica, free room and board and access to his cars so I could drive myself to school and in the process I had to learn to conquer my fear of driving on the Freeway because there was no way I could go to school w/o passing several freeways to get to the City! (My pastry school, Tante Marie’s Cooking School,was right by the Embarcadero/the Coit and was not accessible by BART.) In exchange I was to work in his Filipino Restaurant Sinugba on Gellert(which incidentally is the BEST Filipino Restaurant EVER!) as the Manager, waitress, stock and inventory keeper and drinks and desserts maker. He also paid me a fixed salary. It was backbreaking work – I was on my feet during my shifts and during marketing days I would carry sacks of rice and haul cartons of eggs and oil at Costco and buy fish and vegetables at the Asian Market by King Drive in Pacifica.
Pastry School was tough, I practiced and baked the entire module for each of the two nights a week classes during my free time because everything I made wasn’t visually appealing according to my Pastry instructor plus I wanted to practice the technical aspect and not worry about it when night class started. We had to fight for oven space and work under time pressure. I remember making so many fondant wedding cakes as my practice for my culminating project (and feeding my brother and sister in law so much white cake and icing in the process !!) and low and behold my discerning Pastry instructor was impressed with my Wedding Cake and asked me to replicate it during our Graduation Culminating activity!
Next was my internship at Patisserie Phillipe in the Market District which was equally tough- I had to be at work by 3AM and assist Philippe in preparing all the breakfast pastries. He was very critical of my work because he felt they were not beautiful and everyday I kept trying. Perfecting arranging the Strawberries on the Crostillant, slicing the apples on this intricate coring/spiraling vintage apple contraption that needed a quick wrist or else the apple collapsed and broke apart with one wrong move. I did my best glazing and piping the almond croissants and arranging blackberries on the fruit tarts. When Philippe would have time he showed me how to make his signature cake the Frasier (strawberries encrusted in Creme Patisserie) and the Opera Cake and was generous with sharing his recipes and allowed me to pick 3 pastries to take home everyday, my brother and sister in law were happy campers! By the time I was done with my 3 month internship, Philippe looked at my Crostillant and remarked “that is the most beautiful Crostillant I have ever seen”. And I beamed with pride! Before going back to Manila I promised myself this: that I would create one niche pastry and perfect it and sell it and also I wanted to teach and give back, just like Philippe who said that all he learned he got from his mentors.
Back in Manila I put up my own pastry business from home, Petite Patisserie and did bazaars. I attended seminars on how to become a proficient entrepreneur and on the last day of a particular one , the seminar leader challenged me to do something extraordinary. So I did! I made my signature 1oz Petite Cupcake and brought enough to feed the entire seminar class during morning merienda. I left my calling card on the table beside my pastries and told myself that I would be lucky if I got orders. Then one day out of the blue the Directress of the Maya Kitchen (incidentally the publisher of the first pastry book I baked from) called me up and said “I was so impressed by the tiny cupcakes you served, do you want to come and teach at the Maya Kitchen? I couldn’t believe it! I was going to teach at The Maya Kitchen, one of the first cooking schools in the country and the publishers of the best cookbooks in the Philippines. I was floored!
At one point I also worked for Chateau 1771 as a pastry cook for a year and it was tough: I was on my feet the whole day, prepped all the salads and pastries during the day and ate lunch by 4pm, worked for 6 days a week, rinse and repeat. I decided to leave and try working for a hotel in order to hone my skills further and I was luckily given the chance to do a Trade Test at the Mandarin Oriental but unfortunately was not accepted. What next? I told myself maybe I should just focus on making one pastry and be good at it, and tried my hand at the elusive French Macaron and after so many failures I was able to perfect my macaron recipe and approached Parvati, a store in Trinoma which sold pastries from home bakers. Thankfully they were impressed by my product and up to now I still sell my macarons in their Chiller section .
I now work for my dad as the Treasurer in my family business, Autocirculo, the biggest dealership in Metro Manila of Kia with branches in Las Piñas (my head office), Pasay, Pasig, Quirino, Greenhills, Esguerra (South Triangle), Sta. Rosa, Laguna and Marcos Highway and numerous subdealers in Congressional, Acropolis, Metroeast, Cubao, Molino, Alabang and Sucat. We also have our dealerships of Peugeot in Edsa Greenhills, Alabang near Westgate and Pasay and this coming October, Mahindra. I told my dad I would work for him, provided that I am given one day to bake my macarons and also take leaves when I teach for the Maya Kitchen.
I am happy because I am still pursuing my passion: baking one day a week and helping my family business four days a week. Passion and hardwork is what has gotten to me to where I am now. I still dream of making prettier looking pastries and slowly I am adding to my skill set – the great thing about being a Pastry Chef is that working , dreaming and creating new flavors never stop – and I’ll never stop dreaming!