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The daughter also rises

Fourteen-year-old Micaela ‘Kylie’ Ang Po surprised everyone last year, including her chef mother Jackie Ang Po, when she launched her own line of pastries. Now, Sweetened PH continues not as a bakery but as a blog that shares recipes.

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Last year, in the thick of the hot and dry season and the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, 14-year-old Micaela “Kylie” Ang Po surprised everyone by launching her own line of pastries called Sweetened PH. It was a dessert shop that produced limited-edition pastries whipped up by Kylie herself. Of course, she got a lot of help from mom, chef Jackie Ang Po, who is one of the country’s most sought-after pastry chefs, but the ideas and combination of ingredients and flavors were her own. Young as she was, Kylie already had such extensive knowledge on baking, amazing not just relatives but her young friends and her mom’s chef friends as well. The result: Orders, orders and more orders!

Watching from the sidelines and assisting only when asked, chef Jackie felt so proud of her daughter, who was growing up to be more and more like her not just in terms of looks but also of her interest in baking and cooking. She never required Kylie to follow in her footsteps and become a chef, but she provided the opportunity — and support both as mother and professional chef — should her mini me choose to do so. She created a healthy environment for Kylie to explore her interests and potential in the kitchen by allowing the child to “play” with her kitchen toys, so that Kylie, at age seven, already knew how to use an infrared thermometer to measure the temperature of the pot of cooking oil on the table in front of her. It was the same with Chef Jackie. Her own mom never really trained her to cook, but she would watch and learn and eventually do it on her own.

Young recipe blogger
Kylie Ang Po with mom, chef Jackie Ang Po and brother, Joaquin.

“It is the same with Kylie. I do not require her to become a professional like me, because it’s really a tough job. All I asked of her was to learn to cook and bake, even if it’s just for her own enjoyment. She is allowed to pursue another career, but she really has the natural hand for baking and cooking,” explains chef Jackie.

And so when Sweetened PH took off last year, chef Jackie was one proud mama. It was Kylie’s summer project for 2020 that went far beyond the summer season.

This summer, Kylie decided to continue baking and cooking — but on a different platform. And so Sweetened PH continues, no longer as a bakery that sells the delicious result of her kitchen experiments but as a blog that shares such recipes.

Milo brioche donuts.

“Every summer, I have at least one major project I require myself to accomplish to keep me productive. Last summer’s was Sweetened Bakery, but I decided to pause selling my baked goods, for I was no longer feeling challenged. Shifting my small business into a recipe blog appeared to be the most appropriate and useful course of action to take. This is because doing so will help me achieve my main goals for this summer, which are to develop my writing skills and put more of myself into the things I post.

Sweetened Bakery limited me from incorporating more of my personality into the content I produce and reaching my creativity’s fullest potential to innovate simple recipes,” explains Kylie, who initially tried to persuade some friends to do something unique with her this summer.

Dark chocolate souffle with caramel sauce.

She listed down possible activities they could engage in, including hosting a podcast and starting a blog. The latter seemed to be the better idea, since she was so fascinated with the idea of being able to create anything she wanted in the kitchen. So she told her mom about it, and chef Jackie was so thrilled to discover that Kylie wanted to spend her summer (she’s on summer break until July) experimenting with food.

Mom, of course, was only too willing to help in ways where she could. She told Kylie to make a list of the “recipes” she wanted to do, and she would help her. To chef Jackie’s surprise, her 15-year-old apprentice came up with a very specific list that looked like a glossary or a pro book. Mother and daughter sat down to discuss those ideas, and chef Jackie opened her treasure trove of tried and tested recipes to Kylie, kept an eye on her especially when baking so that the young lady picked up the right techniques and had fewer chances of committing mistakes. But the most basic — what Kylie really wanted to create — she let Kylie decide for herself.

Crispy Chicken a la King.

The first pastry that she created for her blog was Tiramisu Éclairs, which allowed her to marry French choux pastry with Italian tiramisu. She filled her éclair with cream cheese pastry cream and topped it with chocolate and coffee ganache dusted with cocoa powder. It was a pretty sophisticated piece of pastry, but coming from Kylie, it was not surprising at all. She had a developed taste.

Being the child of a professional chef like chef Jackie, who took her everywhere she went, Kylie has been eating good food, such as foie gras, mostly prepared by chefs, since she was little. She enjoys food prepared by Mom’s chef friends, like Cyrille Soenen and Ariel Manuel. She also gets to travel with Mom, Dad Mitch Po and younger brother Joaquin.

“Kylie enjoys food when we go abroad. She is naturally curious and is an adventurous eater. Part of our trips is enjoying the food of the places we go to,” says chef Jackie.

So, although Kylie is quite young, her culinary influences are quite extensive, and it is from these that she draws inspiration from when thinking up dishes that she wants to do for her blog. This can be seen from her recipe lineup, which includes Thai Basil Chicken, Beef Rendang, Shrimp and Sausage Creamy Tomato Penne Pasta, Ground Beef Bulgogi 2 Ways, Dark Chocolate Soufflé with Caramel Sauce, Crispy Chicken à la King, and Milo Brioche Donuts.

Shrimp and sausage creamy penne pasta. / photographs courtesy of Kylie Ang Po

To be able to post two to three recipes per week on her blog, Kylie and chef Jackie follow a certain schedule. On Mondays, the new blogger with an incredible number of views has to tell Mom what she wants to do for the week so Mom can schedule what she wants to buy from the grocery, and then they schedule when she can use the kitchen. After that, they sit down and discuss the recipe, tweak the ingredients, amount required and methodology. On Kylie’s scheduled day at the kitchen, if she is baking, chef Jackie is personally present to keep an eye on her daughter and lend a hand in case she needs it. Otherwise, if she is cooking, Yaya Yolly can very well assist her.

Working on her dish or baked goodie, Kylie stops only when she has already perfected the recipe and share this with her online viewers. The cardinal rule that her mom set for her when she started her blog: Do not post or share fake and untested recipes. So, the young baker has to actually do everything, then fix the recipe according to her own experience and preference, including procedure, before blogging about it. Kylie just has to be as exact as her mom, who does a lot of cooking demos for sponsoring companies and runs a series of kitchen tests before the actual demo.

photographs courtesy of Kylie Ang Po
Tiramisu eclairs.

Kylie has been doing just that and, in her notes or intro to the recipe that she posts, she includes side stories on what went wrong with her kitchen experiment, plus tips on what to watch out for.

So far, so good, and the number of views on her recipe blog keeps growing. Looks like this summer project is going to go far beyond the summer season as well.

“With my blog, I hope to be able to inspire more of the youth to take initiative to learn how to prepare their own food, because cooking and baking are essential life skills that will help us independently sustain ourselves in the future. Also, with my blog, I hope to be able to enjoy my summer in the kitchen to make up for the time and possible experiences I may have lost not being able to go out due to the pandemic,” says Kylie.

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