What It Takes To Flourish As Both Mom And Chef—5 Chef-Moms Share Their Recipes To Success
I always tell my students that, in the culinary world, you have to be single to make it to the top. But I never said that you should not be a mom either—it can work. It’s just a matter of knowing what your priority is. In fact, I can name a number of hands-on mothers who have managed to be successful and respected chefs. I asked five of them to share their thoughts on what’s it like to be both a chef and a mom.
Michelle Dinglasan Tomacruz is the chef-owner of The Cookery Gourmet Catering. Pastry chef Christa Q. Mendiola owns Christa Manila Cakes and Pastries, and has four children: JC, 22, Raffy, 20, Reese, 16, and Mateo, 14. Also a pastry chef, Celina David teaches at the Magsaysay Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts (MIHCA) Cebu campus, and is a consultant for Sugar Monster. Rosemarie “Roselyn” Tiangco Siapno owns Kitchen’s Best Home Patisserie. Jacqueline “Jac” Laudico helps run OK Café, Guevarra’s, and Chef Laudico Catering.
What do all these mom-chefs have in common? Despite their hectic schedules, heavy production, last minute orders and deliveries, paperwork, and meetings, they always have quality time for their children.
What are the challenges of being both a chef and a mom?
Michelle: Like all working moms, I don’t seem to have enough time for my children. This is especially true during the Christmas season when the demands as a chef reach their peak. So my challenge is to be able to give my family quality time and make them feel the Christmas spirit despite all the catering events and food orders!
A buffet spread by Chef Michelle
Celina: The most challenging part I must say is time management. Being a chef requires me to go to different cities for classes, events, and workshops for days. Whenever I am not home, I leave instructions what to prepare for the kids. I keep the pantry and fridge well stocked. When I am home, I simply spend quality time with them like watching a movie with them.
Chef Celina with Nicole, 21 and Red, 17
Christa: As a chef, I have to keep up with food trends and I have to always come up with new items to offer and produce them with the best quality consistently. There is always pressure. Cooking for my family, on the other hand, is what relaxes me because we have such lovely quality time together. I let my children help in the meal preparation in the kitchen. I make the kids release their extra energy by cranking the pasta machine and making their favorite pasta dish. I even let them use my professional knives so that, even at an early age, they get the right feel already.
How did your training as a chef help you in raising your kids?
Jac: Being a mom tests your patience and you develop patience in the kitchen. A lot of beautiful food creations take time, no shortcuts. It’s not a sprint but a marathon. It also forces you to communicate and work with different personalities, develop different leadership styles. I make it a point to make my children help in the kitchen not only in cooking but also in cleaning up. I tell them cooking is a life skill and they don’t need to be a chef to need to learn how to cook.
Chef Jac Laudico with her two kids
Celina: My training as a chef helped me prepare food that is healthy and wholesome for kids to eat at home and in school. Since I go to different cities often, I make my kids travel with me a plate at a time. I make it a point to eat at places where locals eat. I then try to replicate the dishes at home so it’s like taking my kids with me to my trips. I also make them help me in the kitchen.
Roselyn: My patience was tested when I had kids but my training in the kitchen helped make it easier for me to be patient with them. In fact, I bake and cook with them every Saturday.
Chef Roselyn in the kitchen with son Benito, 2 and daughter Belinda, 5
What are the advantages of being a mom-chef?
Michelle: The biggest advantage is I make sure the kids get to eat quality food. I love cooking pasta, steak, and pizza for Vito, and scrambled eggs, Japanese soufflé pancakes, and torikatsu with Carmen. I also do cooking demos in the schools of the kids, and they’re always happy when I do that. In fact, Carmen loves baking! She always wants to bake cookies and cupcakes with me. We probably have experimented on more than a dozen chocolate chip cookies recipes together
Chef Michelle baking cookies with Vito, 13 and Carmen, 10
Roselyn: Since I’m used to teaching and training my staff, I apply the same in raising my children. I teach them routines and apply time management little by little. I am able to show them the importance of being hard working and to give their best always in everything they do.
Jac: Moms are very compassionate and empathetic mostly. We are more understanding and this makes us better equipped with handling the different facets of working in a restaurant, from attending to guest complaints and accolades, up to motivating and disciplining staff.
Did the possibility of having children in the future influence your decision to being a chef?
Celina: Yes, I have been in the industry for 8 years. Prior to being in the kitchen, I was in the corporate world. I’m glad I made the switch because the flexible schedule in being a chef gives me more quality time with my children.
Sugar Monster goodies by Chef Celina David
Christa: My reason for attending culinary school was more of having something to do besides taking care of the family. When I had my fourth child, I applied to cooking school abroad. I got accepted but since I had to be away from the family for a year, I didn’t push through with it. I couldn’t sacrifice my family. So my husband and I decided that I should study here in Manila instead. It was the next best idea for us.
Chef Christa Q. Mendiola with her family (Facebook: Christa Q. Mendiola)
Jac: I didn’t plan it as that but both were what I really wanted. I became a chef because I pursued my passion. I became a mom because it was something I wanted for my personal life. I just had to make both work. Luckily, I am married to Chef Lau so we help each other out and it was best for us to have our own food business which eventually grew.
Patisserie Filipino chocolates by Chef Jac Laudico available at OK Café
Any advice for female chefs who plan to have kids?
Roselyn: My advice is to do everything you want to do while single, before having kids. Travel, put up a store, accept consultancy jobs, grab opportunities, because when the kids come, you can already prioritize your children. I had to let go of certain projects and choose what was worth it and worthwhile because I know my priorities, and they are my kids.
Kitchen’s Best by Chef Roselyn Tiangco Siapno
Christa: Being in the food industry is no joke. It takes a lot of time and effort. Having kids in this kind of profession will make you cry because there will be so much sacrifices. But don’t let these words discourage you if you are determined. Just make sure that your family and partner in life are super supportive. There will always be a solution to challenges.
Simply Dark Chocolate Cake by Christa Manila (Facebook: Christa Manila)
The Cookery Gourmet Catering, (02) 635-0351, 631-0541
Christa Manila, FB: Christa Manila, (0917) 890-5747
Sugar Monster Creative Cakes, FB: SugarMonster.CreativeCakes
Kitchen’s Best Home Patisserie, Karrivin Plaza, 2316 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City, (02) 843-3847
Chef Laudico OK Café, Renaissance Towers, Meralco Avenue, Ortigas, Pasig City, (02) 941-8399
Chef Laudico Guevarra’s, 387 P. Guevarra corner Argonne Streets, Addition Hills, San Juan, (0917) 311-2222
Chef Laudico Catering, (0917) 800-2433