SWEET PURSUIT: ACTRESS MELA HABIJAN ON THE RISE OF THE FOOD ARTISANS
Ube cheese pandesal, baked sushi, homemade peanut butter. The quarantine sure led us to a sweet pursuit of passion and taste. Learn how actress Mela Habijan started her own food business during quarantine
Putting the pan in pandemic through the ube cheese pandesal trend, a lot of people started to turn their sweet tooth and culinary skills to work out to their advantage. The economy may be down for now but through food businesses, we keep it rolling and helping out different sectors of the society from the ingredients stores to the riders, and to the craving consumer market. And the fun twist to it? Everyone’s up to take their cooking as the next big thing.
Everyone’s got their guilty pleasure and for one, food is a common denominator. Putting a lot of creativity to the kitchen serves as both a boost in morale and a way to feed our cravings. Finding solace in our homes due to the lockdown, people began to find ways not just to earn money, but to feed their pleasures.
But it’s a tough competition when it comes to marketing your own brand. What makes it stand out? What’s the secret ingredient? So, this takes the market into a cooking battle on who leads and creates the trends—thus the sudden rise of artisanal products in the market.
We’ve had a taste of past food trends like yema cubes which sells for at least a peso or two, chili garlic which is easy to cook but irresistibly appetizing, Filipino street-staple scramble elevated to sweet proportions, and buko shakes on bottles that ultimately became a massive hit! All these are very simple to make in the kitchen but are all so fast-selling in the market. It’s quite a stretch to call Filipinos for love for food, but seriously, everyone just loves quick and delicious treats every now and then.
Now, a new influx of artisanal products has come this quarantine. Ube Cheese Pandesal already bred different varieties from the matcha pan, red velvet cheese pan, buko pandan macapuno pan, and more.
Old and new varieties of chicken wings in tubs also came flying over our radars such as Honey Sriracha, Hickory BBQ, Salted Egg and more. There’s also the trend of the baked sushi that took us on a whole new dining experience of this supposedly cooked raw dish. Papi Paul’s Pantry makes cheesecakes in different flavors from his sweet selection of avocado, matcha, ube, and more. All these, heightened by this pervading sense of isolation, led us to get more creative in our kitchens and find ways to elevate a seemingly normal dish.
So, what are you bringing to the table? For actress Mela Habijan, her gigs were put to a halt and instead of staying anxious, she pushed for proactive ways to survive. “As I was crying my heart out due to frustration—that for a freelancer like me, it will be hard to face this new normal without a stable job,” she shares. “Then, I saw my favorite peanut butter brand,” the Manillenials actress relates on the birth of Mela’s Peanut Butter.
A very personal product, she shares that she was hands-on in every aspect of its production from preparation, mixing, to grinding and in jarring, labelling, and sealing with the help of her siblings and angels at home, and also with promotions. But even with her background in entrepreneurship, she wasn’t really interested in it.
“The only thing that I know how to sell is myself—that’s the only business that I know,” she quips. But even with the lack of interest, her devotion to keep grinding and her love for peanut butter goes beyond.
Be good at what you’re doing
Whether it be your passion or not, do it with so much love and passion. If you’re new to it, learn the skills needed. If you’re used to it, be more and be better. I’ve learned that we always have to put our A-Game because that’s how we establish credibility and work ethics. As you build yourself, your skills, and your network, you’ll earn trust that will take you to places you’d never expect.
Keep learning and be patient with it.
When I was younger, I easily gave up on things that I found hard to learn. But learning is a process and takes time to progress and be better. This peanut butter put me through a long process of trials and errors. Had I given up, I might have not seen Miss Mela’s Peanut Butter in its actual form and won’t be experiencing the fulfillment I’m feeling now because of the good reactions it has been receiving so far. Kung mag-fail, go back to 0, hindi kabawasan yun sa pagkatao natin.
Be kind and honest.
Mahirap itong panindigan everyday, but I always remind myself everyday, especially during bad days, that kindness and honesty are the primary measures of our character. Mas maraming magtitiwala sa’yo kung sinisikap mong maging mabuting tao.
Before I start, I clean and sanitize my production house.
I’m very sensitive with cleanliness because it’s food. I wash my equipment before using them. I take a bath and wear my mask, hairnet, apron before I produce. I wash my hands every now and then. When producing, I do it alone, or I’m accompanied by our house angel.