Laid-off Filipina five-star pastry chef launches dessert venture amid pandemic

Life is no piece of cake

RESILIENT CHEF Allyza Cepeda in Dubai

Young budding Filipina pastry chef Allyza Cepeda was with the Faena Hotel Miami Beach, a Forbes five-star luxury hotel in Florida, when the pandemic drove everything into a sad halt, including her blooming career.

“I was laid off as most businesses closed,” she recalls. “Luckily I was able to go home to the Philippines despite several flights getting canceled every day.”

With sparse savings and the seemingly fleeting opportunity of a lifetime, she felt hopeless amid the quarantine. “I stopped dreaming,” she admits.

Facing defeat was not easy for Allyza. She grew up striving for her goals.

She comes from a family of medical professionals. Her mom is a nurse and her dad is a veterinarian. While residing in Laguna, she watched her father perform C-section on pets at his clinic. At a young age, she learned how to resuscitate newborn puppies and kittens. Everyone thought she would inherit the clinic, but she had a vision of her own.

DELICATE MERINGUE Jane Dough Desserts Macarons

Fascinated by how a simple meal unites entire families, she knew she wanted to become a chef. She wished to deliver happiness through food. So, Allyza decided to enroll at the School of Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management (SHRIM) of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.

After graduating Culinary Arts as cum laude in 2018, she trained at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management in Dubai. She eventually clinched the Miami post under the J-1 Cultural Exchange Visa Program.

Standing at 4’11, Allyza continued to struggle in the male-dominated industry and it took a while to rekindle the same passion dampened by the pandemic.

‘I almost failed every single time, but that didn't stop me. I had the opportunity to go back to what I love—baking.’

While scrolling through old photos, she realized how much she missed dessert-making. To cope with such emptiness, she challenged herself to bake macarons.

The almond-based meringue cookies brought together by a flavored filling demand great skill and technique. The young culinarian trudged on despite these challenges, as she redefined and reconstructed old beloved recipes into new creations.

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“I almost failed every single time, but that didn't stop me. I had the opportunity to go back to what I love—baking,” she beams. “I likewise needed a source of income. I did not want to burden my parents.”

After numerous attempts, her persistent dedication finally resulted in precious eye-catching and patron-approved desserts. From then on, she knew it was time to move forward.

“Jane Dough was born because I wanted to feel alive again when life lost its meaning and I felt like a nobody—a Jane Doe,” she says. “Now I want to create desserts to celebrate life’s moments and inspire others to never give up. The brand name is a reminder that as long as we persevere, we can be anyone we want to be, no matter how many setbacks we face.”

HEART TO CAKE TALK Budding Pastry Chef Allyza Cepeda with her artisanal flower cakes

Allyza made these treats as a nostalgic throwback to the ’90s. Her unique mouthwatering flavors include Potchi Strawberry Cream, Ovaltine Chocolate, Nips, Haw-Haw Milk Candies, and Choc-Nut Bars.

The baker likewise offers artisanal bespoke cakes, such as Vanilla with Crème Mousseline, Devil’s Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache, Red Velvet with Cream Cheese, Brown Butter Banana with Salted Caramel Buttercream, Carrot Walnut with Cream Cheese, and Vegan Dark Chocolate Cake. 

“Anyone can bake a beautiful cake and learn how to create macarons. But from experience, the essence and purpose, the soul and fulfillment will always be different,” says Allyza.

Today, she is gladly back on track. She plans to expand her business as she finds the time to share her knowledge through hands-on workshops with eager apprentices.