10 Things to Know about Manila’s Fast-Rising Pastry Master, Chef Miko Aspiras
1. How did you discover your passion for desserts?
“The first time that I saw someone baking inside the kitchen was when I was 6 and it was my tita making a cheesecake. I knew the process of baking a cheesecake but I didn’t know how to bake it yet. I just loved eating and I loved it even more because I saw how it was made. Then I went to college and I really thought I was meant for the hot kitchen.
One time, I joined a best cheesecake competition in Benilde because there weren’t any slots left for the hot kitchen. I didn’t have any baking lessons or experience yet but I won that competition.
One thing that really pushed me to pursue and develop my passion for pastry is having no stable mentor. I had to learn on my own and I’m super lucky that people are responding to my methods.”
2. What do you consider your signature dessert?
“My strength is plated desserts. I’m very passionate about it because it’s very detailed. There are so many aspects to pastry that not a lot of people realize. I compete under that category the most.”
3. What’s one memorable competition you joined?
“During my first international competition, there was a judge who was known to be strict, hard to please and by the book. She’s the president of the Hong Kong Bakery and Pastry Association. What I made for that contest was kind of weird because it was a lemon dessert but it wasn’t a lemon tart but I still won with 97 points. I approached her and said “Hi, chef. I competed earlier today and I wanted to hear your opinion about my dessert” and she said “That is the only one I remember.”
More than seeing my name on top, it was those words that made it so memorable. Now we’re friends and she would take me to hole-in-the-wall places whenever I’m in Hong Kong.”
4. You were at Madrid Fusion recently. What did you prepare for that event?
“I made a polvoron with ingredients I sourced from different regions in the Philippines. I made strawberry and goat’s milk polvoron, sweet corn and pili butter, adlai and sweet sorghum, ube and coconut butter, pumpkin seed flour and orange tuyo flour and squid ink, and corn and pili flavors.
For the plated dessert, the flavors were inspired by things that I unintentionally tasted when I was a kid growing up. I tasted my sweat, a santan flower’s nectar, the rust in the playground swing. These are things that brought me back to my childhood. I extracted all these flavors using this machine. It mimics the flavor of whatever you put inside it. It’s all food safe and food grade and it will tell you which natural elements to put together. I made a Santan Frozen Meringue, a dulce de leche chocolate sheet that looked and tasted a bit like rust and sweat. Those weren’t my best but those were my most artistic.”
5. What was your motivation for creating these unusual desserts?
“Like what I did with the polvoron, I’m taking it further and hoping that some buko pie vendor will think “Maybe I can do this with my buko pie because he did that with the polvoron.”
6. What projects are you currently working on?
“We’re opening a new concept called Freezer Burn in BGC that will have ice cream and hot desserts. For Scout’s Honor, we’re branching out in Alabang.”
7. Where did you go on your last trip?
“I had a short trip to Singapore for Food and Hotel Asia. Before that, I was in Madrid. I learned they have very simple flavors. They make dishes with just 2 ingredients like foie gras with oil or foie gras with salt from the Mediterranean Sea.”
8. Where are you going next?
“I’m going back to Malaysia because I’m still in charge of Magnum Café Malaysia. Now, we have 3 branches – one in KL, one in Putrajaya and one in Penang – and introduce an entirely new promotion.”
9. What’s a good dessert destination?
“I would say Tokyo. It’s a melting pot of desserts. I also love the café culture in Sydney and Melbourne.”
10. What’s a memorable dessert you had in Japan?
“I studied at École Valrhona in Japan and it was 6 days of eating the best quality chocolate!”
+1: What’s your most cherished dessert memory?
“My aunt’s cheesecake. That really sparked my curiosity.”