Last year when I volunteered in a church magazine, I ended up under my namesake (tokaya), Karen (Galarpe)’s group. Several months later, she came to the shop to try out the food. She came twice more and mentioned that she wanted to interview me for GMA News Online!
Please click here for the published interview.
Here are the outtakes:
The interviewer is Karen (Galarpe), GMA News Online Editor and the interviewee is Karen (Young), cook and steward at Karen’s Kitchen.
1. How did the idea of Karen’s Kitchen come about?
Karen’s Kitchen, the cake making venture was an offshoot of my baking hobby. After I got married, it was an outlet for productivity and creativity while having the flexibility of being around for my kids because I could do it from home. At first, I used to bring desserts for gatherings with family and friends. Later on, they requested if they could order from me. They started giving away to their friends and family and those friends and family paid it forward. Later on, the one-order-per-month turned out to be a hundred cakes a day by God’s grace.
2. When did you open Karen’s Kitchen Kapitolyo, and why did you decide on Pasig as a location?
April 2015 on Easter Monday… That’s when our BIR and City Hall permits were released. Kapitolyo, Pasig is a rising foodie destination area with many homegrown restaurants. The location is easily accessible from the North, South, and Makati, and the rental is manageable. Entering the gates of Kapitolyo might make you feel like you made a wrong turn because it would look like you’re in the middle of nowhere but I think after you experience the homey, friendly, delicious, made-with-love vibe, you will be glad you got “lost” or napadpad in this secret hidden gem of a place which is so much nearer than Baguio, Batangas, or even Belgium
Did you decide on the design and concept?
The concept was pitched by my friend, Alix Angliongto. For two years, every time we saw each other, she would tell me to fix my Petron store but that didn’t ignite me until around August 2014 when she mentioned the words, “vintage kitchen” which appealed very strongly to me. At first, Alix suggested “Downton Abbey” which I looked up and found gorgeous but rather stiff. I then remembered my childhood favorite show, “Little House on the Prairie” which became the peg for Kapitolyo store, an embellished version
My designer, Joi Cutter, did a wonderful job of putting order to the unleashed imagination and making the space come alive.
3. What is your aim in opening a dine-in shop?
The dine-in shop was a result of a Bible search.
When Operation Vintage Kitchen was activated, I got an over-a-hundred year old Detroit Jewel oven for the Petron store. When I brought my kids to university abroad last year, I also shopped around for accessories to match the oven. When I came back to Manila, my designer, Joi Cutter, declared I had too much for Petron and that I should start looking for another location.
I went around talking to landlords until I saw the house on San Rafael that looked like my logo. With my original plan to fix Petron store alone, now I factored in San Rafael house. The layout looked like it had a space for dine-in. I told myself, “Wait a minute.” It was one thing to just make my Petron shop look nicer. It was quite another to embark on a full-scale operation that might require all of me.
Having a multitude of options between spending a short season near my kids, taking up a course, etc., I asked God to lead me to His best will. After spending most of my life going ahead of Him, I wanted to ask Him first because I realized from Jeremiah 29:11 that He already has a plan for me. I wanted to know what that plan was and align myself with it. The running question before I signed the lease was, “God, is this what You want me to do?”
I found the verse on Jeremiah 29:28
28 He has sent this message to us in Babylon: It will be a long time. Therefore build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.’”
I was also switching between translations and happened to see Romans 12:13b which would ordinarily be “Practice hospitality” in my usual NIV translation but I happened to be on The Message translation which said,
be inventive in hospitality.
Those two verses impressed in my heart that embarking on the projects to fix Petron as well as Kapitolyo was a go. I would settle down for a stretch of time doing this. I would go beyond cakes and create a healthy menu in a restaurant set up even though I haven’t done it before. Vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices, (specially healing ones) would be incorporated in my menu.
4. How did you decide on what dishes to put in you menu?
It was a mix of recipes I would cook at home and some newer ones using healing foods and vegetables.
My younger son got mild fatty liver before he was fifteen even though he looked reasonably healthy on the outside. A pediatric cardiologist sat him down and said he could give him medication but medicines sometimes affect other organs in the body and it would be like a domino effect of treating the new problem. If things got worse, surgery could be an option. But the third option was he would give my son three months to amend his diet. More vegetables, no more fried foods, healthier alternatives. In three months, my son’s condition was reversed and normalized.
That guided me in giving healthier options like quinoa instead of rice, air fried instead of deep fried, baked instead of fried, thin crust instead of thick, making vegetarian dishes tasty and appealing. I also try to have my pork ribs and adobo tender because when I cook for my parents in law, they can eat more if the meats are tender.
5. What are your bestsellers? Which ones are your personal favorites?
Our top three selling items are the Mushroom Truffle Pasta, Summer Garden Crispizza, and the Dalandan Chicken with Turmeric Rice. The menu consists of my favorites to eat as well as to feed my loved ones. But my personal favorite is anything with mushrooms.
6. Lastly, why do you do what you do?
In Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, he talks about each of us having been made by God with a “shape,”: Spiritual gifts (hospitality, teaching, service, encouragement, etc.), Heart (what you’re very interested in), Abilities, Personality, Experiences (good, bad, as well as ugly). Inventorying these different facets confirms that this is something God equipped me to do. We are encouraged to grow the talents God gives us so they bear fruit, give Him glory, and bless others.
I tried getting a culinary degree but after three sessions at ISCAHM, a string of acts of God occurred (my father passed away, Ondoy came followed by the Fujiwara storm, Melor). I felt like God was not prospering this pursuit so today, I remain an unschooled, ordinary cook in the culinary world and I can only credit Him for everything.
He also equipped me to write so I have a faith-encouragement blog, http://www.butterflyinthespring.com .
People usually go to a restaurant looking for food. From what I’ve been learning from the bible, man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes out from the mouth of the Lord. I take that to mean that our need for food is at least equal to our need for God’s Word which is really the source for strength, encouragement, victory, love, healing, comfort, joy, peace, and the-abundant-life kit.
I’m so limited. But God said His word will always accomplish the purpose for which He sends them. By making Scripture available in the interior details, it allows God to do His work while I do mine trying my best with what I’ve been given to produce healthy, good, ganda-licious food. Occasionally, I get to chat, share, and pray with guests. Somehow, some conversations get deep and I end up hearing from guests I’ve never met something like, “I don’t know how we ended up talking about this but this is exactly what I’ve been struggling with.” Sometimes, people ask me to sing. My voice is okay for a cook, but when I share with guests how ordinary songs can be seen from a perspective of God expressing His love or encouragement, they get so blessed. Such occasions make me feel that the ministry of food goes full circle.
The story of Maria Teresa Carlson, the beautiful famous beauty queen who plunged to her death from a high-rise or Robin Williams—these haunt me. From afar, they look like they have everything desirable and a wonderful life but there was desperation or helplessness. What if they just got to discover that the word of God is living and active, that the God of the Universe is going to equip them for what challenges come and He will fill their deepest need? The times we live in are uncertain. While I can’t solve ISIS, natural disasters, global economic issues, and every desperation, in this little pocket of space and time God gave me, it is a privilege to share seeds of faith, hope and encouragement and serve a little love on a plate.
Arielle (23) and Nicolette (21) Benoit grew up in Midwestern USA in a loving home with parents they both consider “awesome.” They had everything they needed, got a college degree, and then fresh out of college, they left their cozy comfort zone and came to the Philippines to become missionaries here.
What in the world were they thinking? That’s what I wanted to know.
They came to the shop last Saturday for a tea party hosted by Josephine Salonga for missionaries with Action International which has several outreaches to share God’s love with those in need.
Among others, their ministries consist of Shalom Birthing Clinic, Brand New Day Street Children Ministry, Faith Academy teaching, Kids Home Street Kids Ministry, Face to Face Iloilo Prison Outreach Ministry, Relief and Operation (Emergency Disaster Relief), Feeding Programs, Pastoral Training, Medical and First Aid Training for people in the military, Scuba Diving Training for former street kids as Livelihood.Here is the chat we had:
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): Why did you move to the Philippines?
ARIELLE BENOIT (AB): God put in our hearts since we were little to reach out to other people whether in the States or internationally. We had experiences throughout High School and College doing ministry and the Lord confirmed in our hearts that we were going internationally. Nicolette and I are really passionate about people living in poverty and in need of restoration and the only hope that they have is to know the Lord. That’s for everyone whether you’re really rich or really poor, the only hope is to really know the Lord. My sister joined after four months because the Lord placed it in her heart as well. I’ve been here a year and Nicolette has been here close to a year, too.
NICOLETTE BENOIT (NB): I got a teaching degree in the States. I really wanted to help teach street kids but I needed to know the language first so I decided to teach at Faith so I could start learning language and still teach English while I get used to the area. Next year I’m going to work in a ministry that helps the refugees of Typhoon Yolanda. I will be tutoring kids and I will be working with a local school district for a literacy program and teach literacy camps for the smaller communities.
BITS: When you say that the Lord put being a missionary in your hearts, what do you mean by that?
AB: I remember being in our Wednesday night church program and the lady who had been directing it had been to Mexico a handful of times. She decided to make a curriculum for the year on God’s Love for the World. So each month we “went” to a different place and we learned about God’s love for those people in that part of the world. I remember specifically she showed a video about a missionary and I was SO interested in what that would be like to share God’s love not just in the community I’m from. That’s when the spark was started but as I grew up and got to really know the Lord deeply as my personal Savior that I learned more about what His heart really is… for the world and for people who need His love and that’s everywhere.
NB: It was similar for me. This same lady put in my head what a missionary was like and I felt like that would be my dream, it would be incredible to share God’s love and learn another culture. But I thought,” that’s everyone’s passion,” so I didn’t know if I’m exactly called to it… until I realized after talking to a lot of people that not everyone wants to share God’s love in another country. So I thought, “Oh, maybe this is a special calling God’s given me that I have this passion to do that!” Then in college, I went to Ghana for the summer and I just loved every minute of being in a foreign country where you learn so much every day; you never know what’s happening next but you get to share God’s love in a new way with super awesome people. I really wanted to do this full time after I graduate but then I didn’t know where at all. My sister went to the Philippines and I prayed about that a bunch until someone who didn’t know me much at all told me she had a vision of me and asked me to pray about it and see if this is what God wants me to do. She had a dream about me “teaching kids of different nationalities in a remote place with lots of mountains in the background and it’s tropical and there’s a dirt road and I’m teaching adults as well.” I was thinking of teaching at Faith Academy in the Philippines and I am supposed to be working with Katie (another missionary) next year in remote places. So I thought, “that’s wild!”
BITS: When you say you love working with “awesome people,” what made them awesome to you?
NB: I love working with people who aren’t necessarily rich in the world’s eyes… people who don’t have much as much materially but the Lord sees as being really rich and really blessed… those who are poor and who’ve had a lot of broken things in the past… It’s hard because I didn’t have a childhood like that but God’s given me the passion to share how He can complete their life and how He can turn all their past things that weren’t as great into something that’s a lot more beautiful because it’s His work… Just working with people the Lord has a huge plan for but they don’t quite see that yet, so helping them catch that vision and their ability to see that.
BITS: For both of you, you had a childhood that was good, loving; you felt God’s love and it was complete?
A and N: Yeah!
AB: We’ve been really blessed with a really awesome family. We had the opportunity to be homeschooled growing up and we got to know the Lord in all of our studies. I asked God why He blessed us so much and one of the things He showed me is that He surrounded me with a family that loves me so that I could go out now and do the same thing for others— show them God’s love and teach them what it’s like to have a real family. With Brand New Day, there are a lot of street kids from all over, it’s not just a shelter for boys and a shelter for girls but it’s like a family in each setting. I feel like I’m really like an Ate (big sister) to them. We really interact and have fun. It’s ultimately God’s family. We’ve been really blessed in that it’s really cool to carry that out. We could just stay with our own families but the Lord tells us, “No. You’ve grown up being blessed but if you could carry that and share it with other people.” That’s really where the bigger blessing comes in because God didn’t just bless us for ourselves.
BITS: I thought that families or nations that are prosperous who seem to have everything with no perceived need would find that a hindrance to come to know the Lord. What would make you leave that comfort zone (to a strange place with so many uncertain factors, even dangers) to share this love?
NB: Our parents are so awesome. They instilled in us that it’s not really about what you have or how your needs are being met or what you’ve accomplished but it’s really about the love of the Lord. Each of our siblings just came to know that in a different way. For me, it was noticing that God has called us to be something more than just in our comfort zone because when I look at the life of Jesus, He basically was homeless. He didn’t have a place to sleep. He just poured into His twelve disciples. He preached in places. People didn’t like Him sometimes. He didn’t live a life of comfort at all. And we are called to live like Jesus. And to live that life. To deeply fall in love with Jesus, I needed to take myself out of that comfort zone so I could tell others about Him but ultimately know more about Jesus as a result and grow more in my relationship with Him and grow in God’s heart to know what He has for me to do.
AB: Our family always had enough but no matter how much you have, there’s always a void. You never can fill everything just by having things. It’s only through following the Lord where the greatest rewards are found. The moments with Brand New Day, playing basketball or having a great time, getting to encourage one kid and seeing their face light up. Those are the moments, I call it a golden moment, I know I’m living in where the Lord has me. Whether or not I ate my favorite meal before that or I slept in the most comfortable bed makes absolutely no difference when you know you’re living in the heart of God’s plan. Any of those moments, I go, “God, You’re so real. This is really where You had me.” Those worldly desires feel nothing compared to what God really fills when you’re following in His plan. Makes me excited thinking about it because it’s so great.
BITS: Don’t you think about danger or not having something to eat?
NB: If something is dangerous, it makes us super excited to do it. We have a different view on things. If we don’t know where we’re eating next or what’s happening at all, that makes us more excited because that leaves more opportunity for God to work when it’s not our plan getting in the way of God’s plan. It’s being open and seeing how God’s gonna work in our lives.
AB: There hasn’t been a moment (that I’ve been here or anywhere else when I know I’m serving the Lord where He wants me) where I have been scared or too far out of my comfort zone because He provides people who are there, community. I know if there’s any specific need in any moment, we’d have a ton of people to call who’ll be right there to help us or encourage us when we have no idea what we’re doing. The Lord provides along the way so there’s no need to have fear.
AB: The very first time I came to the Philippines and I just left my family…It’s hard to leave your family. I know the Lord wanted me here. I had never met a Filipino before and I didn’t know about the culture or anything. I got this big hug from Ate Christa Laroza (their missionary home host) and she said, “Welcome to the Philippines!!!” And I said, “I already have family!!!” The family and community has never left me. They’re the best. Wherever you go and the Lord’s with you, He provides for all those little needs, even the smallest of the smallest needs. It’s really cool to see how God richly blessed back. I’m so much more blessed here just by following His plan. The little that I get to serve, God just pours so much back to me, I’m like, “What?!! How can it be so good?”
BITS: What would you say to someone who is considering being a missionary?
AB: Be in the Word and learning what it really looks like to follow the Lord. See what opportunities you have in your community right where you are right now to be serving Him. It’s not just going overseas and explore and experience things and have an adventure. It’s also hard. There are difficult parts to it. For us, when we were in the States, we were involved in ministry right in our area until the Lord continued to confirm for us where to go. Really seek your mentors. Find people who know you best who can tell you where you should be going. Spend a lot of time in prayer. Take this step in the way the Lord is leading you, He will make the doors open just beautifully in the right timing in the right places.
NB: For me, a ton of trust in the Lord. We’ve had to raise support.. talking to a lot of people to see if they want to join your team. It’s like, “Okay Lord, if you want me there, You’ll raise up the money we need first.” It’s crazy to see the way God provides in ways you never imagined. Day by day, learning to trust in the Lord with any little thing in any moment. It’s learning to really surrender and not get yourself in the way or let pride get in the way and say, “I’m more holy now because I’m a missionary because that’s not true at all.”
AB: Not at all. A lot of times, set aside yourself and be humble. There are so many things I’m not good at at all here, specially from the beginning and until now, things I’m not understanding. It can be tricky so you have to be really teachable and flexible. Wherever the Lord takes you or whatever happens within a day, just count it as enough for the day.
NB: Specially being overseas, you have to be willing to set aside your own way of doing things in your own culture, and be teachable and take on what they teach you as part of what they are. I’ve seen some people as missionaries and they keep everything on their culture and say, “I’m going to teach you my culture.” but that’s not coming in a teachable way. If you want to really reach the people where they’re at, you need to come in a way to meet them where they’re at and not be like, “I’m above you.”
BITS: Arielle recalls how she couldn’t figure out how to do the dishes and called it one of the best experiences she had an awesome thing. I asked her why she thought it was awesome.
AB: It was when I could set aside myself and my own plans, culture and let them teach me. For them it was really empowering. It was like, “Oh, we don’t have to do what she tells us to do. We can teach her; she has an open heart to learn about us and how to do things our way.” It really made a cool bond right away. We still laugh about that first day all the time. If I had really held on to myself and be like, “I’m going to wash the dishes how I want to,” it would just set a really big distance between us and it would be harder to love them where they’re at.
BITS: Is it 100% you just want to learn how to do things in the culture you’re in?
NB: It’s a give and take. It depends upon the moment. Right away, I came with just wanting to learn because then I get a better grip of understanding things but eventually you come to a point where you understand why they do things and understand the culture better. And then you look at the biblical way. From that stance, you decide if there’s a better way to teach. Washing dishes… there isn’t a biblical way of washing dishes. So you decide, it’s way better how Filipinos wash dishes because you use less water and doesn’t spread germs so it makes more sense.
BITS: Does that make them more receptive to God’s love? Is that your goal?
A: Yes. In every interaction is to build a relationship so we could share God’s love with them. Every little thing—learning the culture, doing things with them or if something’s trickier, you’re trying to do it their way— it helps build that trust relationship. Sometimes the little kids ask me, “Why did you leave your family?” So I say, “My goal is to share with you guys and show you how much God loves you. My goal is to extend God’s family with you guys, too.” … It’s the coolest thing ever!
BITS: Can you give an example of how God showed His awesome provision?
BITS: What are examples of the hard things?
BITS: What solidified your decision to go out as a missionary?
BITS: What message do you have for your mom now that you’ve been here in the Philippines for some time?
It was humbling to hear the insights of these two amazing women after God’s own heart. Away from their comfort zone, their passion for the Lord and enthusiasm to share the love of Jesus with others who can’t pay them back is remarkable. Jesus has skin on today through people like Arielle and Nicolette.
If you would like to reach them,with their permission, I am posting their email addresses:
Thank You for the lives of these two wonderful ladies, their family, their mentors, hosts (Ate Christa and others), church, influencers. Thank You for their grounding in Your Word that enables them to laugh at their discomforts and mishaps and their decision to choose joy (and humor where necessary) in every circumstance as they serve others and impact the world for Your greater glory. Thank You for their work which they have courageously accepted as part of being in the center of Your will. Thank You for their example of a teachable attitude. May their lives continue to teach me Your ways and Your love.
If your kids’ spring vacation were coming up, what sort of things would you plan for? When my kids were in grade school and high school, I would think about taking them to places for some bonding time or maybe plan the backyard barbecues we would host so they could enjoy their friends’ company. Their friends’ families sometimes thought the same thing.
A few weeks ago, I met three families from Toronto during their kids’ spring vacation but their idea was to take their kids to a third world country and participate in a medical mission to minister to the poorest of the poor with Kids International Ministries alongside American missionary, Jeff Long. Jeff has been living in the Philippines for over twenty years since 1991 to share the love of Jesus with Filipinos by addressing miscellaneous needs of impoverished people including orphans, abused girls, Tacloban’s Yolanda survivors, and poor communities.
The Canadian group (consisting of a doctor, dental hygienist, pilot, engineer, teacher, housewife, missionary, and their children) was brought in to the shop by Annabelle who, out of her gratitude for the Lord’s blessings on her life, has been having the heart to refresh people who do work for the Lord… her way of encouraging them through the ministry of hospitality.
She and her husband, Peter, chose to do away with certain luxuries in order to make room for this ministry which they have been doing for the past twenty years. When asked what makes her do this, Annabelle replied, ” I consider it paying it (God’s love) forward because they minister to our people and we, in turn, minister to them… God can put even our love for eating to good use. I am blessed to bless and every time, it is a glimpse of heaven with Christ in our midst… Of no credit to me, I praise God for bringing His children together with the bond of friendship; even if it’s the first time we meet one another, there are no strangers among us.”
She is blessed to meet and know missionaries who sacrifice their life in their first world countries because God gave them love for the poor Filipinos who are “the forgotten people in our society,” Annabelle says. Their love for Jesus amazes her.
And just as Annabelle is amazed, I am also amazed watching them. Being amidst love, praise, and prayers, it is a fulfilling, awesome privilege to have them all in our shop. And, even partake of the fellowship.
Dear Lord, thank You for the blessing of being a witness to this time of refreshing, fellowship, and music with Your wonderful people who love You and live You.
What comes to mind when you think “Bride of Christ”? For me, I think of Jesus wooing me constantly into this eternal, wonderful, passionate, faithful, pure, fulfilling relationship with Him. He is my Beloved and I am His. When the troubles and triumphs of the world come and go with the seasons, knowing whose I am is a grounding encouragement. Knowing He is mine gives me strength to swim upstream when it is a difficult day to be different or to say “Yes” or “No” to what He would have me choose. He is coming for me and until then, I wait upon Him.
There’s an element of passivity in my perspective of being the “Bride of Christ.” This was challenged when I attended a talk last Thursday, at the event of the same name hosted by Artists In Touch and Media Pillar of the Philippines, where Rev. Ed de Guzman presented some thought- provoking questions…
Are you the bride of Christ? Is the church automatically the Bride? Are all the Church the Bride? How can Men be the Bride of Christ?
Here are some of the basic qualities of the Bride of Christ Pastor Ed talked about:
- The bride will be presented as a pure virgin (2Cor 11:2) [This doesn’t refer literally to the person who hasn’t experienced sexual relations but having purity of heart.
- The bride will be known for her righteousness or righteous acts (Rev 19:5-8).
- Holy, cleanse and washed by the Word of God, a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle (Eph 5:25-27)
- The bride of Christ will have the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:13)
- The bride will have sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2Cor 11:3)
You are the same person but as the Bride of Christ, you have a different mindset, appearance, behavior, action, priority, focus aligned with Christ.
If you move from being woman or girlfriend to now about-to-be-married bride of Christ, there is Transformation, Change, Radiance, and Glory found in The Bride not found in the ordinary woman.
The end times calls for the Wedding of the Lamb and His Bride— and He is not picking up the unprepared, un-attired, unadorned fiancee.
Can men be the Bride of Christ? Yes…
From a passive bride that awaits her Bridegroom (Christ) this teaching reminds me of Ephesians 1:18-19:
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.
Dear Lord, I want to be Your true bride. In what ways do You want to transform my mind and heart to be Your ready bride? What things in my life need to change in order to truly manifest my alignment to You? What do You want me to stop doing? What do you want me to keep on doing? What do You want me to start doing? Am I fearing people? I shouldn’t. Please give me Your wisdom and discernment and change my character to be more like You. Help me to have the reverent fear of You and do in Your strength the things You want me to do in Jesus’s name amen.
Behind the scenes…
After setting up the table for the cupcakes,
I was drenched in sweat, so I decided to go home to change before coming back as a guest. Finally before 6pm, I made it past the red carpet to the registration booth of Teatrino, Promenade, Greenhills. I asked the kind ladies at the desk if they had any paper; they didn’t. But a young lady from behind with angelic beauty stood up and motioned that she would get me a page out of her own notebook. She started snipping away and ended up giving me a few pages! It turns out she is Max Collins. And here is her boyfriend, Pancho Magno:
Julianne Tarroja led a wonderful, moving worship time. To have worship next to Kuh Ledesma, Carla Martinez, near Isabella Gonzalez and hear their voices blend is heavenly, btw.
Kuh singing this song (Who Am I?) brought tears to my eyes:
Rhoze Rivera did an interpretative dance:
Rev. Ed de Guzman gave his message: Get ready, Bride!
How do you decorate a table for the theme “The Bride of Christ” if you had twenty-four hours to plan?
That’s exactly the question I had in mind after I saw that there were no dinner reservations for Thursday night, the schedule of the event Kata Inocencio needed cupcakes for. I asked for wisdom. Here’s how God allowed the work to proceed:
I pulled out the custom embroidered white tablecloth that Mrs. Ragas, owner of Carolina’s recommended for my wedding cake business over eighteen years ago. It looks like the perfect satin doiley over the linen textured table cover.I showed my assistant, Krisha, the invite and asked her to put some white lace around the title. I was delighted with this gorgeous intricate white lace pattern. It looks so good it almost looks like it was machine made. The vines are inspired by John 15.
The grapes under the frame are reminders of the fruit of the Spirit (one kind of fruit —grape— but different pieces of fruit)
““I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:5, 8 NIV
The wash pitcher and basin was inspired by:
“to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,” Ephesians 5:26 NIV
The black (Lindor dark chocolate truffles) are like sin that needs to be washed with the Word to cause transformation. This is a reminder for me not to be impatient and sungit when I ask my staff to count the cupcakes and she motions counting and then tells me confidently that the cake stands had sixty cupcakes when I asked for eighty. When she actually counts, it’s really eighty. Help me, God!
The tea for two set is inspired by dining with Jesus when we open the door of our hearts to let Him in.
The crown reminds me of the reign of Jesus Christ, the triumphant King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Here’s an activity to consider if you’re dreaming of happily ever after!
Many weeks ago at an event at a big auditorium, I arrived late. After a hurried scan for an empty seat, I scurried to the first available one I could find. I realized next to me was Ning Hilario whom I just met a few months back during a photoshoot featuring my shop and me in the magazine where she is the Executive Editor —Meg, of One Mega Group.
During that previous meeting when Ning talked to me about her desire to do mission work, I was so inspired that here she was as editor of a popular magazine and her heart was to serve God. What does a marriage of faith and career look like?
While waiting for the event to start, Ning graciously agreed to be interviewed for this blog.
BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): Hi Ning! How would you describe Meg if I didn’t know anything about it?
NING HILARIO (NH): Meg is a magazine for young women… mostly those who just graduated from college who have questions about fashion, beauty lifestyle, career, relationship health fitness, family. We try to make the magazine solve real problems for real people, not just about being materialistic or trendy.
BITS: How long have you been a believer?
NH: My college friends would invite me in my first year in college ten years ago. I would just join JZone, the youth fellowship. Somewhere along the road, my D-group leader shared the gospel to me. It was a while before I really understood what Jesus did for me
BITS: What fertilized your faith?
NH: I believe in really reading the bible. That’s how I got to know Jesus. The Holy Spirit works, Jesus opens your eyes to who He is, what He’s done, and what He’s about to do. The intentional discipleship of others to me. My D-group leader also plugged me to different ministries where I had different experiences of serving Him like in graphics, retreats if I could facilitate. Those things matter because you get to exercise your faith and you also hear of other people’s experiences of the Lord.
BITS: When you say “graphics,” is that related to your work?
NH: Not really; it’s live production work. When I was choosing which ministry to serve in, I wanted something new so I could learn and also I wanted it to keep me humble— because I didn’t know anything about it.
BITS: How does your faith affect your work?
NG: #1 My work is so stressful. If you have the Lord, you don’t have to worry because you serve an almighty God and He can control everything… if you follow His will.
#2 It’s who you are. You don’t just go to church on Sundays alone but you live your life according to God and His commands and promises. During the first few years of my job, it was rocky because I didn’t know Jesus as much as I know him now. The more He opened my eyes to Him, I realized how even in the workplace, you can glorify Him.
BITS: How do you think you can glorify Him in your work?
NH: In content… which is powerful; however, that is a result of different people working together for one product and it’s not my responsibility entirely… so it’s more of how you live each moment looking at Him. When people see how you deal with challenges, how everything you’re doing is for His glory, how you depend on Him alone, when you are being mindful of what you do and mindful that people will see you and how you do things and hopefully see Jesus in you, that is faith applied and shared. God has given me the position of leading the team.
BITS: You get to lead by example even without words!! How much of it is intentional of glorifying God in your life? Do you just sometimes review your life and realize He was glorified?
NH: Before I even do work, at my desk, I pray. Even when I write, I pray… because I know if the words come from me, it will not be extraordinary. Apart from Him, everything that I do is worthless, meager, mediocre. But because of His sustenance and His power in me, I get to do different things for Him. Having that mindset and thinking that there’s someone watching you not just out of policing but out of love… that inspires me. I would try to bring the girls here and share the experience with them.
BITS: When you say someone is watching over you not by policing but out of love, what’s the difference?
NH: Perfect love casts out fear. If you do things out of love, you’re not restricted or constrained to work for a certain reward or to avoid punishment or a consequence. When someone is watching over you out of love, you respond by doing things to please the person because you’re doing it out of love also, that’s how God works. That’s how He values obedience, not to lift your own name higher but out of love for Him.
For Ning Hilario, marrying faith with career in the position of influence God gave her translates into seeking excellence in her output (magazine content) and the example she gives to the people around her as she applies what she knows God wants her to do and lives her life to please Him not out of fear but out of love.
Thank You, Lord, for the life of Ning Hilario and for using her to be a living example of Your Word applied in work. May You continue to bless and anoint her to shine Your light in Jesus’s name amen.
Easter Monday came and just like that, the shop reached its one year milestone. There are standards, quantitative and qualitative targets. When I ask myself how to assess that year… indeed, how? … In profit, turnover of tables, expenditure per guest, speed towards return on investment? In online thumbs ups, Instagram endorsements, TV features? Happiness quotient from guests, friendships formed, relationships restored within our walls? Smiles inside our kitchens, growth for my staff, prayers and praises uttered?
Many targets have been met and exceeded even as there remains room for improvement but in all these things I declare thanks for the graces God has already given. He has been faithful, sometimes leaving me in awe and out of words… what more can I say Lord, but “thank You!”
Contrary to what some people thought, I didn’t dream to open up my own restaurant. Not after I helped The Beloved in the first year he set up his restaurant sixteen years ago. I realised then that the work behind the scenes is no joke from morning until night with just a little break in between; there are no shortcuts. My years doing Christmas food gift baskets, sometimes working 24 hours straight, added to the thought,”This can consume a person. And … I don’t want to be owned.”
But in 2014, the first year that both my sons would start living in university far from me, I asked God the long-running question, “What is the best way to spend these empty nest years?” Before the project of remodeling my Petron Makati store and sign the lease to the old run -down house in Kapitolyo (which looks like our company logo) when I came across this verse:
Yes to Petron and Kapitolyo building projects… Not just cakes anymore? More produce…vegetables… fruits… herbs…?
“Inventive” makes me think “be innovative, creative, unique”…whereas I used to just cook for my home, family, friends, my kids’ friends, these two verses gave me courage to do this work officially in the hospitality industry. I felt that despite the resources, time, energy, interest, and passion requirements this kind of endeavour needs, God would be behind me to sustain me.
After the go signal, in front of a big task, how does one even begin?
I needed a team to run this.
God already gave me Alix Angliongto who ignited the spark with her “vintage kitchen” suggestion. She had told her sister, Joi Cutter, she couldn’t put her finger on why but she felt like she wanted to help me (I kind of could…). Joi ended up as my beloved designer whose joy, passion, creativity, and childlike out-of-the-box approach were the perfect match for the “inventive” design task.
My dearest prayer partners prayed with me every step of the way. Thank You Lord for each of them!
But I can’t cook for fifty guests by myself! In synch with Catherine Zeta Jones’s dance in Chicago, I knew I can’t do it alone. Pray, pray, pray…
I met my head cook at last year’s church fast for the first time after I asked a pastor if he knew of anyone looking for a job. “She just left!” he declared. But a last resort callout revealed she was just in front of us! We were each other’s answered prayer!
Now I have four cooks and two assistant cooks, none of whom used to cook professionally. My dining team came from different backgrounds and have recently been hailed by blogger, Frannywanny, to give “amazing, similar to fine-dining service.” My beautiful cake team remnant plus bonus has remained with me for many years. One of them was with me when I was just growing my hobby business in Manila seventeen years ago . Praise God for these teams plus… last but not least, my cornerstone admin office team! All precious blessings! Each one an answer to prayer.
What to serve? Last year, we started with just eight items on the trial beyond-cakes menu. Shortly after we opened, my aunt Irma excitedly booked a table; with her, I felt free to experiment with a multi-course meal. Much to my surprise, one of her guests, Janine wrote a lovely review on Facebook, I couldn’t believe it! The excitement was like falling in love! With work!:)
People who appreciated the food asked me what culinary school I went to and that made me reflect… when I was helping my sister, Joy, bake, that’s how I learned how to bake. While I helped my American Rotary Mom, Shirley, when she cooked daily, that’s how I learned how to cook instinctively. It was uncanny that during the times I thought I was helping others, God was equipping me! (So don’t hesitate to help!)
In the first few weeks, we were getting complaints that the pasta was too soft. Oops! Actually at our house, our pasta is set to be enjoyed even by those who are chew-challenged. But this was a concern … er… complaint for more guests.
One day, Coritte and Dr. Sun and their son, Francis, came. She mentioned that Francis, who was about to graduate from CIA New York, was willing to help me while he was on vacation in Manila! Within a few days, Francis promptly came with his rolling packet of precision cooking tools and he taught the whole kitchen team (of three then) how to cook the pasta al dente. For several more days, Francis came; we tried the food and he diagnosed what could be improved and gave suggestions. We experimented with some recipes. What an angel he is! I mean… what angels they are! Who chooses to use their vacation to volunteer at my kitchen?
From our early Palm Village days when I surrendered my Marketing Plan to God, He was faithful. Even before Kapitolyo shop opened, He went before us sending angels our way to promote the shop.
This one came out in Yummy Magazine on our opening month:
My friend, Vivian Go, brought awesome Chef Reggie Aspiras who was delighted with the Sticky Toffee Pudding and wrote about it on Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Golden-hearted Anton and lovely Rache Diaz came with their family and featured the shop on Our Awesome Planet.
Anton also included some of our hot dishes and desserts in his 100 Photos of Great Cuisines in the Philippines!
Appetite Magazine under the talented Nina Daza Puyat put up our first full magazine feature:
followed by MyHome Magazine by Andi and her marvelous team:
Professional Pepper.ph Editor, Mikka Wee, mentioned of Karen’s Kitchen as venturing into the “unparalleled dining experience brought by a home-cooked meal…”
Business and Leisure (Thanks Makie!) and GMA 7’s Balitanghali (Thanks Jonas for the recommendation!)
Then came TV5’s Aksyon sa Tanghali (Thank you Roda!).
The sweetest photo finish TV spot was getting featured for Kris Aquino’s birthday episode just less than a month before she filmed her final episode of KrisTV. It was like an action stunt of getting in through the closing door just in time.
We got included in more blogs with such gracious writers including Talesfromtheheart (Sugarospice), ChasingDreams, MrsBo (Rica Peralejo), Gluttonshopper, Greenlunchdiaries, MakeitBlissful, MarilenStyles, Muni-muni, and others.
Two more desserts (Xanadu and Sticky Toffee Pudding) made it to the Philippine Daily Inquirer Best Desserts List (making the total six of our cakes!)
GMA News Online Restaurant Review by Karen Galarpe called it “Homey, Healthy, Heartwarming,”; “On a recent visit with friends, we were there for a long lunch which lasted four hours. We fell in love with the Quinoa Vegetable Medley salad and the Dalandan Chicken with Turmeric Rice.”
ABS CBN Lifestyle included us in the list of Sights to Behold: 5 Instagram-Worthy Restaurants in Kapitolyo.
Choose Philippines included us in the 5 Quiet Spots in Metro Manila: Find Yourself Amid Chaos.
We were included in the list of 3 Dollhouse- like Restaurants in Metro Manila.
Happy guests posted of their satisfied treks to the shop and I highly prize each and every one. Among these many graces from our valued guests, one recent post was special because it validated that we are not only for grandmas (whom we love dearly) but can be appreciated by… well, someone in The Beloved’s demographic
A “chance” simultaneous arrival at the ground floor escalator of Century Mall with Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement proponent, Chef Jam Melchor, led to our participation in the gala night and the subsequent addition of Fiipino dishes (healthier version) in our menu to do our little share in promoting Philippine culture and heritage through food, supporting local farmers and producers, and helping our own country’s economy. I also never dreamed of the possibility of singing at the Philippine National Museum the opening Filipino song number, Payapang Daigdig.
God also opened up surprise face-to-face opportunities to interview for this blog Don Moen, Kuh Ledesma, Coney Reyes, Jaya, Fernando Carrillo, Stephen Baldwin, and other inspiring men and women of faith.
One year is a lot of time with so many praiseworthy blessings too many to list here. I didn’t get to diligently document but this is a fair sampling, thanks to Instragram.
My favourite blessings are the stories of encouragement and healing, restoration of relationships (Adele and Marnie among others); people coming together specifically to pray and praise God, share their lives and blessings with one another. Having the shop allowed me to share His love and my hope in Him with others. I don’t have all the pictures on hand but it’s a good thing God will remember all those precious moments even after I forget them.
Praise God for He is true. He didn’t lead me here to leave me here. Looking back, He kept me company, provided for and sustained me as He validated the work He assigned for this life season with the help of His many angels around.
When He validates my work, I sometimes feel like I’m Geena Davis in Long Kiss Goodnight in her Eureka I-can-cook moment. This fans my praises for the God who makes it possible for an unschooled, ordinary girl in the culinary world to dish out a little love on a plate in her little corner of the world.
I thought striving to do a good job was my true and proper worship for God. I realize this was for my benefit… an answer to an earlier prayer on how I would make it through the infamously dreaded empty nest season. While my nest was empty, He made my cup full.
Lord thank You once again for the village You’ve placed around me—our customers, suppliers, encouragers, inspirers, teachers, prayer partners, and team members! Everyone is a blessing! Can you please repay each of them a thousandfold?
If I measure these 525,600 minutes of the shop in Your love, I am surely overflowing!
Jesus was mocked, taken for granted, disrespected even in His own family (Matt 13:57), betrayed even by someone He invested His life in. He looked pretty dumb specially as He was getting beaten and forsaken, left to die on a cross… except…… His death was not the end. In the upside-down ways of God, His victory was merely about to be accomplished.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the Devil. Hebrews 2:14