Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Ex- B and the Perfect Croissant

Too early for the grocery the other day, I sat down for a cup of coffee at my former boss’s café. I have had a few trips to this charming French café/ bakery/ restaurant even way after I was kicked out of his face. Can’t help but reminisce.

Ok, I wasn’t really kicked out. Four years ago, like a black sheep, with a sob and ultra drama, I slammed on the floor a clump of pastry dough and cried, “I want a life that is mine!”

Yeah right!

I worked with Boss Mao (though not his real name, anyone in Manila knows who this man is) for a good five years. Five years in a boot camp. Fresh out of college, I entered his kitchen and bakery with my sleeves all rolled up and dusted with flour. That was when I truly experienced my arms aching with mixing batches of muffins (you know the large wire whip), applying the balm for burns on my arms, and folding the pocket doughs, glazing the tarts and danish pastries, baking the perfect brownie, making crepes impromptu (while the customers wait and- either kill you with their gaze or smile at you sweetly), rising the vol au vent shells, learned of the mother sauces, the bastard sauces, and learned as well to manage the brats who pocketed some money, and bullied the oven technicians… But topping all of these minor things is the fact that I experienced the tutelage of Boss Mao.

Boss Mao, a Chinese Francophile, is a multi- awarded, hardcore businessman counted among the outstanding Asians of the 21st century. He is a no- nonsense perfectionist who has never made a false note with the decisions he makes. A stickler to discipline, Boss Mao speaks like a dragon (i.e, “Hands off my dough!” “Will you put on some lipstick? You’re paler than a butter croissant!”) and works like a dragon – no politics, no walsy- palsy, no cronies, no grapevine rumors, no favorites.

And of course, I have my own share of experiences there. There was this ultra pretty and popular food writer who had complained about my lousy service and wrote Boss Mao about my demeanor, yada..yada..yada… I think she wanted my head on a platter- en gelee! (Hahaha). Of course Boss Mao believed her- she’s in the media. I was 22 years old and stupid.

Then there was Mrs. Boss Mao who I really pissed off, until I got face to face with the dragon himself. I saw the fury of Boss Mao – directed at me! It was a long story- but the case point is, for all that perfection he expected of us, I have failed tremendously. Seriously flawed. Not to mention, he even told my other bosses then (or at least in my own perception) – that I needed psychiatric help. Oh yeah.

Still I don’t understand, maybe Boss Mao was just ultra generous (or made a big mistake on this), but he promoted me three times in five years, and doubled my pay within five years from when I first came. I have had that reputation of being his headache and causing unforgiveable troubles in the company. A black sheep indeed! Eventually when his wrath simmered, he sat down with me and the jury board and said, “You’re smart, you’re pretty… if you can’t invest your career with us, you can always find the job you want.” Either he meant it or it was his way of kicking me out- the soft- sell technique, you know :)

Boss Mao is the undisputed leader in the artisan bakery business in the country. Even when I went to Hong Kong two years ago, cafes remind me of Boss Mao’s- and still I believe he is highly competitive and classy. Even the Portuguese tarts in Macau nor the profiteroles in Kowloon, Boss Mao’s are much better. There is no other bakeshop in Manila who does a more perfect croissant nor baguette nor bagels than Boss Mao. I can say it because I’ve tried looking around for my restaurant today. Hunted, tasted, dissected – nothing compares.

Hell, yes, I love this Boss Mao. I wouldn’t have reached where I am now if my foundation wasn’t built firmly with that inspiration.
Good morning! (no croissant yet during my visit. Too early- they were still in the oven).

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