Valerie Mayor Sotto: How to be a model pastry chef

WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo - The Philippine Star
Valerie Mayor Sotto: How to be a model pastry chef
Pastry chef Valerie Mayor Sotto.

While she was growing up, Valerie Sotto, founder of Valerie’s Kitchen, would enjoy watching her mom Sonia Mayor bake family favorites like pineapple upside down cake, apple pie, pumpkin pie, bread pudding and sponge cakes for Sunday reunions and other special occasions.

Val started baking as a hobby with her sisters Joanne, Mary Mae and Geraldine. They would bake cookies and brownies during weekends.

In the beginning, Val was the observer. But what a keen observer she was! Now she is the pastry chef in the clan.

When Valerie got married to then Shell executive Ping Sotto, she started experimenting with different recipes and took short courses on baking and cake decorating. Soon, she was baking her children Miguel and Patricia’s birthday cakes and desserts for family get togethers. Encouraged by the positive response from her family and friends, she decided to start her home business selling her cakes and pastries in 1999, starting with Food for the Gods. From then on, there was no turning back for this former Camay and Close-Up girl and commercial model.

‘My husband Ping, son Miguel and daughter Trish are my trusted R&D team! Anything that comes out of my kitchen must earn their seal of approval first,’ says Valerie.

Valerie shares with us that her first teacher was her mom. She also enjoyed watching her Auntie Nellie (Loleng) , a Home Economics teacher, bake and decorate cakes in her kitchen. In high school at the Assumption Convent, her baking teacher Del Carrion taught her the fundamentals of baking while always reminding her students to “clean while you cook.”

After years of self-taught baking, Valerie decided to take short courses to learn more and improve her skills. She first enrolled in a breadmaking class under chef Myrna Pratts, followed by several baking and cake decorating classes from chef Heny Sison. Most of her products now were inspired by what she learned from them.

“My latest lesson is about Chocolate Sculpture painting, which I took in Bangkok under cake artist Kwun. Another skill I am excitedly working on,” says Valerie.

When asked which among her cakes are her favorites, her reply was, “It’s so hard to choose among my ‘babies’ — but favorites are my cakes with fruits, like the Strawberry Dream Cake, Strawberry Pie, Mango Dream Cake, Apple Pie, Banana Cream Pie and Pavlova. My award-winning desserts, which were included in Manila’s Best Desserts in 2018, are Rum Cake with Salted Caramel Glaze and Apple Pie.”

The scrumptious cakes and pies of Valerie’s Kitchen.

Here are Valerie’s top 10 tips for those who are interested in baking and/or opening a pastry store.

1. Love what you do.

2. Invest in the right equipment, such as durable stand mixers, large capacity ovens, digital weighing scale, stainless mixing bowls, to name a few.

3. Never compromise on the quality of your ingredients. I use butter and heavy cream a lot, so these are two ingredients that my pantry is well-stocked with.

4. Find reliable suppliers, both primary and backup. I have a reliable bakery supply store that I go to for my baking needs.

5. Be disciplined about record keeping and administrative work — like labeling expiry dates, maintaining a periodic inventory of ingredients and packaging, etc.

6. Come up with fresh and exciting recipes as often as you can — getting inspiration from everything like your daily life, to past or recent travels, and even your favorite Netflix shows!

7. Be open to suggestions and feedback from customers.

8. Practice food safety diligently and without fail.

• Practice personal hygiene.

• Always wear an apron and hair net while in the kitchen.

• Wash hands before and after baking and after handling raw eggs.

• Follow the “First in, first out” rule

• Check the temperature of your refrigerators, chillers and freezers regularly.

9. Train your staff well and don’t gatekeep any skills! Train them as extensions of yourself and trust them.

10. Never stop honing your craft! Continue to study and learn new techniques from experts. In the late ’90s, when I was just starting, I took several short courses under chefs Myrna Pratts and Heny Sison. Just recently, I took a cake-decorating course in Thailand. There are also a lot of online baking and cake-decorating demos available that I also watch and learn from.



We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.

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