It had been a while since Chef Miko Aspiras started to sculpt chocolate. The last time he did was for a similar project was for a competition in 2013. Though he did not bring home the bacon, a first for Chef Miko as he had always ranked a place for every competition he joined, he did gain a much deeper perspective on the value of winning, and what it took to get there.
A Beginning to Everything
His storied love and career in the world of sweets began in serendipity. In De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, where Chef Miko studied culinary arts, students were given a platform titled Young Hoteliers Exposition, which served as an avenue for budding chefs and hoteliers to showcase what they’ve learned and practiced through a series of competitions.
Since winning his first event, Chef Miko has participated in over sixteen Young Hoteliers Exposition contests. But it wasn’t until the fourth one that he was pushed by circumstances to sign up for a pastry challenge.
As luck would have it, the only event left for him to sign up for was a cheesecake-making contest. This he took as an unprecedented challenge; little did he know that that very detour would be the push he needed to discover his raw talent, and would pave the way to his whole career.
With a Grain of Salt
Ever since he began competing, Chef Miko has taken to heart the growing pains that come with practicing his craft: the number of failed attempts; humbling himself to sharp criticism; even the politics that comes with working in a big kitchen; and knowing when to turn his back when it’s the best thing to do.
Being openly gay and comfortable with his sexuality hasn’t always sat well with everyone that he’s worked with in the past. The immensity of his talent was not attributed to his dedication to pastry but was more often than not credited to his sexuality.
This sort of workplace discrimination may have stung, but chef Miko was not going to let a few slurs set him off course. He took it with a grain of salt and proved to them that he was great at his job, not because of his flamboyance, but rather his ferventness and passion.
His partner, now husband, JV San Juan has been a testament to his love for his expertise. For the past 11 years, he has seen Chef Miko’s decade-long career unfold: from their practicum days at EDSA Shangri-La to the number of hotels and restaurants that he has been a part of, even their time as business partners at a now-defunct home-based baking venture, and of course, the numerous dessert spots that Chef Miko handles to this day.
The Mileage of Passion
Ever since his first pastry competition in culinary school, Chef Miko has been pushing the boundaries of what a dessert is expected to be like. His restaurants and dessert spots are a testament to this continuous push for excellence and ingenuity. Through the years, Chef Miko has learned that though passion may have been his kickstarter, one ingredient does not make a cake.
His colorful journey has shown him that though his innate fervor for sweet confections has been his career’s meal ticket, he cannot dismiss how without raw talent, his passion would have been in vain; or if not drive, he would not have been a competitive and excellent pastry chef; and if not for understanding the necessity of rediscovery and redeveloping passion for what one does, he would have given up when things became rough.
You would think that a competitive and dedicated craftsman like he is would be caught up by the high of winning but amongst all of these wins, he values what he learned at that singular loss in 2013 the most.
Excerpt from Breakfast Magazine February-March 2018