Everyone, it seems, is into baking these days. The enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) — or lockdown — that was enforced in the entire island of Luzon and certain parts of the Visayas and Mindanao since March made everyone leave work and stay at home indefinitely. Used to the hustle and bustle of metro living and the amount of work that has to be done day in and day out, most people have found it a little uncomfortable to be suddenly doing nothing. Even chefs who run their own restaurants and face crazy work schedules every day had no choice but come to a halt and obey ECQ rules set by the government in response to the covid-19 pandemic.
Trying to find a diversion during the dire situation, people have turned to many activities to keep themselves productive. Baking presented itself as the perfect diversionary tactic in these troubled times. Not part of a grand masterplan. Not a sinister plot to wipe out the flour, yeast, food colors and flavorings and chocolates from the supermarket shelves. People just randomly picked up the hobby and came alive with Facebook and Instagram posts of what they have made. Even I have managed to squeeze some baking time into the tight caregiving schedule that I have to follow every day to keep my husband Raff properly nourished and healthy despite his condition after suffering a second stroke in mid-2019.
Chef Sau del Rosario happens to be one of us. A well-accomplished chef who runs his own restaurants, Café Fleur and 25 Seeds, in his home province of Pampanga, he also had to deal with the lockdown. Like everyone else, he picked up baking. After doing quite a few food vlogs featuring recipes that can be done by viewers with limited ingredients and little knowledge on cooking, he got bored and started baking.
“I challenged myself to do baking because this way, time would pass and I wouldn’t even notice. Baking has also always been my weakness because I am not very patient and I hate having to follow recipes religiously, especially with measurements,” Del Rosario says.
But instead of bothering with new trends such as ube-cheese pandesal like everyone else, the bored chef decided to go classic. He chose to focus on the egg pie and the buko pie, two classic Pinoy pies that have withstood the test of time.
“I grew up eating egg pie made by my mother, and buko pie is my absolute favorite! Both pies remind me of my childhood. You see, I got stuck in our ancestral house and, home alone, I felt that I was in the company of my mom and my dad,” says he.
So he started experimenting with the egg pie. Since he did not have his mom’s recipe, he researched (read: YouTube-d and Googled) for egg pie recipes and looked for those which came closest to his mom’s recipe, then he added more milk and eggs and made a very flaky crust for it. He settled on a nine-inch diameter, with 10 whole eggs in each buttery delicious pie.
Next, he worked on his buko pie. Not one to be content with what he sees, he made his version double the size of the buko pie that people buy from Los Baños, Laguna, and Tagaytay City, Cavite.
Happy with a 7.5-diameter buko pie, Del Rosario gave it height, 4.5 inches to be exact, which is perfect because he needed space to stuff the meat of eight to 10 young coconuts in it.
After 10 to 12 trials, he finally decided that he had the perfect formula for both pies. He posted their photos on FB. He playfully christened his egg pie with the name Heg Fye and made his buko pie “answers” to the name Vuco Fye.
“In Pampanga, we have this habit of adding H to any word that starts with a vowel, and Kapampangans interchangeably pronounce p as f and f as p. Thus, the names Heg Fye and Vuco Fye,” he explains.
Apparently, the names stuck in the minds of his FB friends, and the images of the two pies made such a mark on them that before long, people were asking Del Rosario how they could order.
The demand was so high that he had to give in to the challenge, catering to orders in his home province and attending to customers in Metro Manila. He accepted orders for Heg Fye and Vuco Fye and the orders kept coming and even growing in number. Before long, he had to set up a bakery, seek the help of his long-time friend Chef Jerry Dellomes, call back six chefs from his two restaurants (which had to close down temporarily due to the ECQ), turn the place into a commissary, and start regular pie production. The kitchen produced a minimum of 25 pies on lean days and as much as 100 to 150 pies on busy days.
“The main reason why I decided to do this was my staff. They suffered and struggled because of the covid-19 crisis when we had to close down the two restaurants. I felt sorry for them, and I wanted to do something for them,” says Del Rosario, who prioritized supplying Pampanga but had to allot at least a day or two in a week to deliver to Metro Manila as well.
To streamline business operations, Del Rosario asked his kitchen manager to work from home in collecting all orders and coordinating with production and delivery. In Pampanga, he tied up with delivery companies, while in Manila, two vehicles are used to deliver all over Metro Manila. The thriving business, born during the ECQ, is expected to fuel Del Rosario’s new-found love for baking further and spawn a new brand called Pan de Sau by Café Fleur.
“These are uncertain times, and we don’t know what is going to happen, say, next month,” says he.
For now, the Heg Fye and the Vuco Fye put some semblance of normalcy in Del Rosario’s life. Orders have to be made at least two days prior to delivery, which is Monday, Tuesday and Friday in Pampanga and Thursday and Sunday in Manila. Orders may be placed via 0917-1928343, with payment made through Chef Sau’s BDO bank account 2340102673 (Rosauro del Rosario).
Enjoy the two awesome pies baked personally by chef extraordinaire Sau del Rosario!