Fascinating Women 2023: Ingga Cabangon Chua
"Everybody gets 24 hours in a day and it’s what you do in those 24 hours that matters."
Underneath Ingga Cabangon Chua’s disarming confidence and amiability is a will of steel. Make no mistake about it. The co-owner of Crosta Pizzeria does not mess around. When she sets out to do something, she will put in all the work until she accomplishes it, paying no mind to naysayers — even if they’re someone she really respects, like her dad.
“My dad hated the idea of me going into F&B,” she shared candidly, recalling the days when she branched out from banking and the family’s real estate business to pursue pizza making in earnest. “‘Don’t go into F&B,’ he said. ‘There is no money in F&B. Do not do it. Drop it!’” Ingga grinned. “But I was stubborn, so I kept on doing it.” And how she did it!
Even if her father did not approve of Ingga’s venture into the food business at first, his influence shaped her work ethic. “Everybody gets 24 hours in a day and it’s what you do in those 24 hours that matters,” he told her.
She kept his advice close to her heart and made her hours count into making the best pizza in the country.
Secret’s in the crust
When Ingga started Crosta with her now-husband Thomas Woudwyk, it was a literal one woman show. She not only made the dough, stretched it, topped the pizza, cooked the pizza; she did Crosta’s marketing too. She had an assistant who she trained in the early iteration of Crosta in Tagaytay and he is now their head dough stretcher — something Ingga is particularly proud of. Both of them have come a long way.
Ingga is the first to admit that she doesn’t have any formal training in making pizza dough. “I learned it from Google University,” she quipped.
She made up for the lack of training with tenacity and hard work, “It was a lot of trial error. And the thing about dough making is that it never ends. Up until now, we’re still tweaking our recipe. We’re still learning. After all these years, we can see the micro changes we made along the way added up to a big change later on.”
All that focus and innovation into creating the perfect dough resulted in a unique, soft, crunchy-chewy crust that was the backbone of one of the most sought-after pizzas in the Philippines. Crosta was eventually recognized as the best pizzeria in the Philippines, and 32nd out of the 50 Top Pizzas in the Asia-Pacific in 2022.
And to the pizza purists, Ingga just shrugs. She never sold Crosta as “authentic” Italian or “artisanal” in the first place. She coined the term “masstisanal” and unapologetically carved out Crosta’s own place in the world of pizza-making — staying true to the style of pizza that she enjoys and loves to eat.
So what comes after making it to the top? Even with all the success and recognition, Ingga is fully aware of her and her partner’s limitations. They are not chefs, “We could be potentially the bottleneck in the business,” she confessed matter-of-factly. They want to take Crosta to the next level so they brought in new talent to breathe new life to the brand.
And what a talent! They got Chef Yuichi Abellare Ito, Japan’s top pizzaiolo to be Crosta’s head chef. “We’ve never boxed ourselves in as a traditional pizza place. There’s plenty of room for creativity.” Ingga said. “Chef Yuichi is immensely creative, and he’s a proper chef!”
With Chef Yuichi at the helm in Crosta’s kitchen, Ingga can spend her 24 hours per day on other things — like taking care of their new baby (who was born just a few weeks before this shoot and interview) and dreaming up new ways to evolve Crosta.
Whatever it may be, we can trust on one thing, when Ingga wants something done, she does it herself — her way.
Photography by Ria Regino
Sittings Editor: Troy Barrios
Videographer: CJ Reyes
Hair and Makeup retouch: Patty Cristobal
Photographer’s assistants: Warren Diotay and Hipolito Gangani
Special thanks to SmartBite