Jackie Ang Po: “No Day Off”

Jackie Ang Po, chef and owner of cafe and pastry shop, Fleur de Lys Patisserie Inc., has been in business since 2001. Among her many awards, she has received Bronze for  Singapore FHA Plated Dessert, Gold for Best Hongkong Food Expo-Live High Tea, Gold Award for Coach at the Hongkong Food Expo- Live High Tea and just last year, Coach at the Asian Pastry Cup- Best Display.

Chef Jackie is the Del Monte Kitchenomics spokesperson. She also works for World Kitchen (Pyrex, Corelle, Visions) and is the Wilton Method Instructor for Living Well, Inc.  She does corporate demos and teaches classes all over the country.  She will soon be offering baking and culinary classes at Fleur de Lys as well.

Here are is my chat with Chef Jackie:

When did you realize that you wanted to be a chef? I don’t know. Haha. I just really wanted to sell food for a living. I didn’t know there was a title to it.  It was more of… I wanted to be a home baker… then I found a spot on Morato. I was just Heny’s assistant then I was on TV with her. After that, I taught at Heny’s school then I was asked by GMA (TV) to work for them. It was just availing of the opportunities presented and making sure to do my best.

Was there someone in particular who influenced or inspired you in the kitchen?
Many people inspire me when I was already working. Cyrille Soenen and Ariel Manuel for their never-ending creativity and perfection; Heny for her classic take and perfectionism; Kanjiro Mochizuki for his extreme skill and dedication to the Imperial Palace of Japan. I could go on about so many chefs I admire. Penk Ching for always being up -o-date on designs. Many younger chefs than me, too, like Jireh Rodriguez who can do 8-inch string works.

Was being a chef your number one goal or did you start off in another field of work? I worked for a bank. Then I went to the US to study.  I had no goal yet at that time . I just needed to work!   At a certain point in my life, I realized as my plane landed at NAIA (coming from the US for school and work). “This is true and serious.” I had no excuse nor reason to ask my parents to ask for money anymore.   So I really had to strive hard and start working.

Where did you get your training? California Culinary Academy.

What are the greatest challenges you experience in business? I think we can all write a book on this.  If I can cite one: I would really love the government to be supportive of entrepreneurs specially small and medium entrepreneurs. It is a challenging part of any business; again, if I could cite one: maybe in giving more real benefits to the employees like in terms of free health services.

What are the greatest rewards? Cash? (Hahhaha) Nobody should deny that money is a rewarding part of our job. But more than money – it makes me happy to know that I am part of celebrations… birthdays, baptisms, happy moments!

What is your most memorable experience in your years of work?
1. Getting a medal. The feeling is just. Wow!

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Chef Jackie pointing to her GMA TV poster

2. Getting to work with Del Monte Kitchenomics. Wow again!
3. Having my business for so long. And still very strong.
4. Meeting my idols (like Pierre Herme) when I go abroad with the Pastry Alliance.
I’m very easy to please   Everything is memorable to me.

How do you balance your time as an entrepreneur, wife, and mom? Time management Talaga. It is a choice. There are many things I have to give up in my career to be a mother.  Normally, between 5 to 8:30 pm, I would politely ask anyone who wants to talk to me to call me later at night when my kids are asleep.

Of course, there are many days I am working or meeting, too. When I go to provinces, I don’t linger to make “lakwatsa” if I can go in the morning and come home to my children at night. This is what I do.

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Any tips for working moms?
Do what is best for your children. Make them a priority over your career. But the best is to strike a balance. Ask help —from your parents, husband, yaya— to help you out with your children. But ultimately- quantity time and quality time are needed. No amount of money, gifts, trips, will measure up to amount of time you spend with them.

If your life story as an entrepreneur/ teacher/ mom/wife  had a title, what would that title be? “No Day Off.  ”

What considerations would be important for women before going into business?
1. If they have the skill necessary; it cannot be all passion. (Capability)
2. If they have the capacity to sustain their business. (Capital)
3. If they would be willing to be a 24/7 boss and employee at least for the first few years. (Commitment)

How can they can equip/prepare themselves?
I think entrepreneurs should go to traditional school – finish college, not just for knowledge but also for maturity, having connections, relating with people, being involved in organizations. A big part of business is relating with people and having organizational skills. This business is more than a recipe.
When you are in the business already – always learn again and again; be open-minded. There are so many avenues to learn nowadays and from so many people.

What mistakes to avoid?
I guess the biggest mistake is jumping into a business just because you have money without really doing your homework. A business is always a calculated risk. It is not 100% guaranteed success and especially in the restaurant industry, where you can sink in as fast as six months.
Have some experience first. I’ve seen culinary graduates “gifted” by their parents with a restaurant. Wow! What a great gift but it should only be accepted with experience, too. Or… get help from experienced chefs.

Most important lessons you’ve learned?
I am responsible for everything that happens around me. I cannot blame anybody for any failures. The easiest part of my job is opening the restaurant. The hardest part is to make sure it stays open.
In order for business to keep open :

  • Business needs to be dynamic.
  • It needs to improve constantly.
  • Nothing is too small, even if you think no one will notice it, do it anyway.
  • Even if you sometimes think that it won’t really make money but it will make your customers happy, do it anyway.
  • Don’t be pressured to go into something just to prove yourself to the public.
    Only you can make the right decisions on how to take care of and improve your business.

What qualities do you look for in staff?

I look for people who are always on time and don’t like to be absent.
People who don’t like to complain.
Skills – we just train them ourselves . We don’t need to pirate.
What inspires you to do what you do?
I am fortunate to love what I do. When I am in the kitchen, I am a kid in a toy store. Mas choose ko pa kitchen section over clothes, shoes, makeup. You cannot make me buy a P10,000 bag. But a P10,000 kitchen gadget – yes!  I love books on food and desserts.  My travels revolve around food too. I get excited to learn, create, recreate, teach, compete. I cook for love, bake for a living.  I am fortunate to have so much excitement in me— it outweighs the trials of being an entrepreneur.

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Chef Jackie teaching a student
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Chef Jackie with her students

What are your success secrets?
Wow.  It is no secret. Continuous Hard Work. Continuous learning. Be understanding and compassionate with employees.

Do you have other tips or anything else you would like to share?
We are all one industry.  No man is an island.  Sad to say, there are still chefs/ entrepreneurs with crab mentality. They do not like to share suppliers, ideas, input, or they lead you to the wrong ones.

For me, you only compete with yourself. Be open with people in your industry. Share and learn too. I guess I will always be respectful and never ask for the recipes of  “bestsellers” from others, haha! But I don’t think sharing suppliers and ideas and techniques will hurt.

Lastly, to all new chefs / entrepreneurs – our industry is so big. There are many types of work or businesses to choose from.
You can do the traditional hotel/restaurant route. If you fail – just stand up and work. There are so many great opportunities in our industry. Opening a school, catering, writing a book, being a corporate chef or consultant, etc. Do not be disheartened if you don’t succeed at first.

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You can catch Chef Jackie’s show on GMA 7, Del Monte Kitchenomics, on Sundays at 11:55 am.

Her kitchen classes are at Gourdos Podium; Little Chef, Banawe; Monster Kitchen Cagayan, Davao; Caro and Marie, Cebu; and Chefsville, Ormoc.

Chef Jackie Ang Po’s Page (where you can get Fleur de Lys’s information; Chef Jackie will also be announcing through this page soon when she launches a Floral Buttercream app!

 

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