We're all used to hearing stories about the bigwigs, the trailblazers, the who's who. But what about the extraordinary stories of the ordinary people? Most of the time, they get lost in the muddle of all the glitz and glam which is a sad thing because these need to be heard and written about. After all, the everyday people - people like you and me - are the ones who make up majority of humanity's web. So with this blog, I've decided to seek these stories. The ones we can all learn from. The ones that show the rawness, the beauty of human life. Here's my second story:
When Interviewing Mian Dimacali
(production head of Mary Grace Café, cake designer, self-proclaimed peacock, and most importantly, my sister-in-law)...
1. Turn on the recorder of your phone to make her feel even more awkward. 'Seriously? Okay, now I have to watch what I say!'
2. Get deeply surprised when she says, 'I hated baking! I never wanted to fall into the same mold as my mom. When she would ask me to help her out in the kitchen, I would never understand what she was doing.' Note: You're surprised because she's actually really, really good at baking.
3. Get even more surprised when she says she wanted to be the CEO of Unilever and wear high-powered suits because you really can't imagine her as one. And then you give it about 5 seconds and then okay, given her strong will and personality, maybe you can imagine her as one.
4. Listen to her, really listen to her, when she talks about her frustration during her first four years in the family business, because this is where it all begins. 'You know, I'm surprised I was still in the family business because I always thought that this wasn't where I was meant to be. I was just really doing it for my family but I was never really happy and fulfilled.'
5. Remember the important chronology of her job shifts: Sales & Operations - Marketing - Production. 'I ended up in production because I realized that Mary Grace won't be able to grow if none of us heads production.' You got to give it to her: even if she wasn't exactly happy, Mian always thought about the business' needs first. That's one mark of someone who deeply cares.
6. Take note of a significant game changer: 'My dad started to prod me to take further studies in baking. Seeing that I did not understand what was going on in production, I realized I really had to. But the secret is I only said yes to New York because... well, it's New York.'
7. And then brace yourself. Because this is where the magic happens. 'Orientation Day was, hands down, the scariest day of my life. We all had to introduce ourselves and while everyone was saying they were there because they loved baking, I couldn't say the same thing. I was just really there to learn.' Note: Dear Mian, tell your past self that's where everything begins. That it's in the humble admission where great things take shape. That saying that made you the best student in the room.
8. Witness her tell the story of how she fell in love: 'The thing about me is that if you scare me enough, I'll challenge myself to do it. So I did it. And then with every new recipe, every new pastry, and every new learning, I finally understood baking. So I fell madly in love with it.'
9. And how she spread that love: 'I remember every night after school, I would run home and email my parents about what I did that day. I cried tears of joy, a lot, because I was making them proud. And then I realized that in doing it for them, I made myself so much happier, too. Everything came full circle and I was just thanking them all the time.'
10. Dig deep and ask her why she loves baking now. 'I love the formula of it! I love that you know what will happen if you whisk this way, or add this much sugar. It's like a dance: each step has to flow seamlessly into the next in order to get that perfect cake. It's also an art - that's what I love the most about it.' Note: See above photos for proof.
11. Be in awe of her humility. 'I really don't consider myself a chef. I'm still scratching the surface; I'm still a student. And I have to admit, I'll never be like my mom. I don't say that out of resentment but out of deep respect for her and everything that she has done.'
12. Root for her next dreams: 'There are so many more things I could do: make more cake collections, open up new concepts, teach baking, and of course, start my own family. It's really just the beginning of it all.'
13. Don't forget to tell her this (which I should have done): 'You don't need to worry about falling into someone else's mold because you always had your own one. And you're doing a pretty swell job at shaping it.'
14. Most importantly, eat the delicious, beautiful cakes (after taking photos of it, of course) and sneak a lesson or two to inspire yourself to like baking, too.
15. Oh, and keep the things you learned in your heart because, hey, we all need to remind ourselves that a) we have to bloom where we are planted, b) because that's where we are needed, c) and that becomes our deepest calling. Even when it's hard to believe sometimes.
Thanks, dear sister, for teaching me that through your story. And for feeding us all delicious cakes. And for making them beautiful.
Ever since coming home from New York, Mian has given the Mary Grace cakes an elegant lift with interesting new flavors and too-beautiful-to-eat designs. You can always order the classics or have a custom one made from the Garden Collection. The best part is, you know now the story behind it all. Visit their page (or better yet, their cafés!) for more details.
Cakes by Marian Dimacali. Photos by Laurence Perfecto.