“I will be proud because I was the one who taught her”, Chef Pauline Lagdameo recalls what one of her mentors, Chef Jessie Sincioco, said when asked about the idea of Chef Pauline one day opening her own restaurant and becoming a competitor.
This was several years ago, back when she was still taking her internship in Le Souffle.
Nowadays she focuses on her online baking business, Chef P’s (named after how her students call her). A year and a couple of months since leaving her corporate job, she initially did not have much time for the business due to her consulting work. The pandemic changed things, and she had to adapt.
“When the pandemic hit, in the beginning I didn’t even know if I could get ingredients. And then I found that I can get what I need without going out of the house, so I decided to really concentrate on my online business.”
Her current selection is limited to three variants: Choco Dulce de Leche Gateau, Basque Burnt Cheesecake, and Blueberry Basque Cheesecake, plus a July to August special, the Choco Toffee Crunch Traybake. Given the restrictions of the ongoing community quarantine, she had to make sure her products can survive being delivered by Lalamove or Grab. Other fancier cakes might melt during delivery.
Chef Pauline did not take the usual path to becoming a chef. She majored in AB Communications in Ateneo de Manila University and worked in advertising right after graduation. She considered taking up Masters in Advertising abroad but ended up studying Culinary instead; partly because she did not want to do another thesis, and also to appease her father who did not like the long hours and sleepless nights that came with a career in advertising.
The plan was to “take culinary, enjoy for two years, and then come back [to the Philippines] and go back to advertising”, but things started to fall into place with culinary and she never looked back.
When asked how to be successful in the industry, she said attitude is even more important than skill. “In a kitchen, you’re always working as a team. If you’re fighting with everybody, it’s going to come out in the food. The team members have to trust you and rely on you.”
“Everyday there’s always a challenge, something will always happen. What is important is that you always have to be positive. Don’t dwell on the mistakes but learn from [them]”, she adds.
“For me, right now it’s really more of paying it forward and sharing what I know”, she said after demonstrating how to make a Verrine (pudding served in a glass) using some basic ingredients and equipment.
Using butter cookie pieces as base, she adds a pudding mixture of egg yolks, sugar, salt, flour, milk, and vanilla. Bananas and strawberries were then added as layers and on top. She finished making the whole thing in 20 minutes, noting that it can also be made into other flavors like coffee or chocolate, and with whichever fruits are available.
She explained everything so clearly that even someone without background in cooking or baking will be able to follow.
“It’s constant learning but it’s also constant giving back”, she continued, showing how she has come full circle. The intern has become the mentor.
// by Francis Abad