Once upon a time in the remote town of Oroquieta in Misamis Occidental, there lived a simple family like everyone else’s. But unlike everyone else’s, this family experienced misfortunes and those eventually brought about the separation of the primary members. Left with three young boys to raise and feed on her own, the mother used her baking skills to make the ends meet. She employed her three sons as her assistants. The eldest was in-charge of kneading dough. The other son took the responsibility of taking orders and accounting profit and expenses. The remaining son, young Hasset, stood by his mother’s side and did with her the nitty-gritty of baking: from preparation to decoration.
Past high-school, the then teenage Hasset was determined to finish schooling as soon as he can so he can help his mother with the family’s expenses. Instead of pursuing a degree in the field of arts– in which he was inclined to, a short diploma course in Heny Sison Culinary School proved to be the more practical choice. His extensive background in the kitchen gave him an edge, of course. At seventeen, while all the boys his age were busy wooing girls and partying all night, Hasset was hailed as one of the country’s youngest professional pastry chefs. He landed several jobs, shifted from one kitchen to another and accepted consultancies and food styling gigs. “Name it. Basta food related, nagawa ko na lahat,” Chef Hasset told me with a shy smile on his face, while we were seated one sunny afternoon at his fruit of labor: MedChef Cakes Pastries and Desserts.
Chef Hasset Go
MedChef Cafe is right across ABS-CBN with a black signage that is impossible to miss. The outdoor cafe is tiny—- just enough to hold three tables, chillers, and a counter. Since the heat during these days is unforgiving, be wary of dining-in from noon-time until the sun sets. Most people take the cakes out and eat them elsewhere during this time. As for the rest of the cooler parts of the day, enjoying a cup of coffee and a slice of cake is not a problem in this 24-hour cafe.
A long selection of homemade cakes is available at MedChef but since they cannot house everything, some require advanced notice. All the cheesecakes, mousses, meringue, and graham based desserts available on that day are neatly stocked in the chillers.
Among all his creations, his Bread Pudding Creme Brulee (P200 small, P490 large) is still the most recommended. “Dito talaga ako nakilala,” Chef Hasset beamed as he torched the dessert.
Bread Pudding Creme Brulee
From a butter-yellow block, the top of the pudding turned into a beautiful and glossy hard caramel. It was lovely to watch the fragile caramel break upon slicing; it was even lovelier upon its entrance to the mouth. The texture of the soft, smooth and extra sweet custard complements the compact, firmer, more porous lower layer of pudding. It’s the best of both worlds, especially for those who can easily tolerate extra sweetness.
But despite the pride evident from his face as he showcased the pudding, it’s the H Cake(P95 per slice; P920 per whole) that he’s most proud of. He had to name it after him.
The “Hasset Cake,” at a glance looks like a wooden fortress– with uneven sized little logs lined up along the perimeter as barrier.
But those logs are no hard wafer. They’re super soft, sticky, and very chocolatey. You don’t have to be a culinary erudite to appreciate the effort put into making this cake. The body of the cake is made up of chocolate meringue sandwiched in between thin layers of chocolate mousse. These crumble and melt one after the other.
Another delight for chocolate lovers is the Cake ‘til You Drop (P75 per slice; P690 per whole).
In contrast to the elaborate H Cake, the Cake ‘til You Drop is made up of moist chocolate cake, dark chocolate mousse, diced brownies, and a generous dusting of cocoa. Light, just properly sweet, and simple, this cake is meant to please those who veer away from cloying desserts.
The same could be said for its white counterpart, the For Goodness Cake (P75 per slice; P690 per whole). This white chocolate fondue cheesecake is so loved for its subtlety.
For Goodness Cake
The Knight S’ans Day (P95 per slice; P890 per whole) on the other hand would appeal to those who are fans of fruits in their meal-enders.
Knight S’ans Day
Comprised of cashew meringue, butter cream, custard, graham, and sweet mango slices, this is a cake of contrasting flavors and textures. The sweet, crunchy and chewy meringue, plays well with the slithery mango slices. The sightly bitter, and burnt flavor of the nut makes it even more interesting.
But one of the more recent desserts to generate buzz for MedChef is the Pastry Tower (P350)— one of Chef Hasset’s playful experimentations.
The ten-tier dessert, made up of stacked sylvanas, chocolate cake, revel bar, brownies, banana bread, walnut brownie, butter scotch, among others, is best served to a group of ten people and above. Any less than that and a long-running sugar-high is unavoidable.
Unlike in other restaurants where the spotlight is usually aimed at the food, it is impossible to feature MedChef without talking about its pastry chef, part-owner, and endorser, Chef Hasset Go. To say that this humble and proud mama’s boy went a long way is an understatement. On top of overseeing MedChef and their numerous booths in bazaars all over the metro, Chef Hasset still makes time to teach aspiring chefs back in Mindanao– inspiring them through his example that hard work pays off extra sweetly. That’s of course, not to mention his slowly-but-surely rise to popularity as guest chef in morning cooking shows every now and then– as evidenced by messages on his Facebook wall like “Gwapo naman ni chef!” “Chef, thank you sa autograph and picture”. What a sweet reward for all the toiling, indeed.
As for the mother who raised her kids through baking earlier in the story? She’ll soon get to run her own business– a gift from her once little kitchen sidekick. I guess this is the part where I need to write “and they lived happily ever after.”