The French Pastry School: What was your background previous to pastry and what led you to pursue a pastry education?
Aaron Manuyag: I have loved to cook since I was a kid, I would always cook dinner for my family and try to plate everyone's food and make it look nice like a restaurant would. Food is a very important part of my family, it brings us together and helps to keep us bonded at every gathering. I even grew up in a bakery. My mother had her own bakery when I was growing up and still continues to make cakes and other pastries; that is where I was first really exposed to pastry. I can remember being four or five years old and sneaking croissants out of the cases and dipping them into the buckets of butter cream my mother kept in the kitchen. Even though I had been around pastry my whole life, it had never even occurred to me how much I loved baking and cooking for others until about a year and a half ago.
Before coming to The French Pastry School, I was going to school for theatre arts. I had been working at my college doing anything I could get my hands on: acting, directing, costume design, technical work. But I had grown tired of working in theatre and was searching for some new path in my life; I even tried training as an officer for the US Air Force at UCLA for a while. Then someone suggested to me that I go to culinary school, and I knew I could never be a great savory chef because I am too picky of an eater, but how about pastry? I loved sweets! So I began my journey into pastry and eventually found The French Pastry School.
FPS: What has been the most surprising or eye-opening moment for you so far in the program?
AM: Every time I made a new recipe in the program, my first thought was always, "Oh wow, that's how you make that?!" It really was amazing how so many incredible desserts people see all the time are just so simple to make from scratch. When I was in the sugar candies class, I had such a blast making every single recipe and I couldn't believe I was making them. While making my first batch of marshmallows, I couldn't stop smiling because I had just created something I have enjoyed so much since I was a kid. You could only imagine how excited I was when I turned some of my marshmallows into little birds and teddy bears.
FPS: What are your plans following graduation?
AM: Upon graduation, I will be returning to California and finding my place in a great restaurant kitchen hopefully working under one of the great pastry chefs that inspire me. I have a lot of respect for the work that goes into a restaurant menu, and I have a love for everything California has to offer.
FPS: Where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you hope to be?
AM: Down the road, maybe longer than five years, I would like to be a restaurateur. I have so many great ideas for restaurants that are personal to me. But until then I would like to work my way around the pastry industry: restaurants, bakeries, big hotels. I really just love being a part of everything because I think it really keeps you on your toes and things never get boring. I will absolutely own a pastry shop one day. I don't need to change the face of pastry, but I sure hope that one day people will remember the work I did.
FPS: In the future, what will you look back on and remember most vividly about your time as a student at The French Pastry School?
AM: When I look back, I will remember every single chef that I had the privilege to work with; they have truly inspired me and taught me so much. It started with the For the Love of Chocolate Scholarship making my education a possibility to begin with. Once in the doors of The French Pastry School, each chef has their own little saying or piece of advice that they have imparted to me. I've never really felt like anyone has inspired me until I began the program here. All the chef instructors are so genuine and truly have guided me, which I think is invaluable.