I am Simona Garcia Nera, a widow for a year now, 80 years, with two daughters, four grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.
I am a naturalized US Citizen. I was able to use the skills and knowledge I learned way back in 1991 from The Maya Kitchen. I worked as a cook in a Home Health Care Facility for about 12 years where I prepared desserts and snacks.
On holidays and special occasions, I would always be tasked to bake since our employers preferred my baking over store-bought cakes and pastries.
When I retired, I wanted to bake for my family, but sadly, my two most precious Maya Kitchen baking books were destroyed by Typhoon Ompong. It was such a pleasant surprise when my grandson gave me a new copy of one of my old books, ‘The Complete Guide to Baking with 101 Recipes’.
My son remembered one blue Maya baking book from almost 27 years ago, and after searching the internet, he found The Maya Kitchen website and purchased the book for me. It was accompanied with a sincere note from The Maya Kitchen who heard about my journey into the world of baking thanks to them. I appreciated it so much.
Let me tell you about my journey as one of The Maya Kitchen’s original New Gen Bakers.
After the earthquake in Baguio City in July 1991, I was informed by my friend that there would be a baking seminar from The Maya Kitchen. The seminar was only for two days, but I can still remember receiving my certificate and white Maya Apron. After the seminar, I practiced almost everyday — sometimes with my grandson who was still 5 or 6 years old at the time.
When I arrived in America, I was eventually hired at the facility and baked a variety of recipes almost everyday. During Sundays, it was a special day for our patients. They would be granted their requests as long as the ingredients were in the kitchen.
I applied my knowledge and practiced daily in order to enhance my skills. I was able to use those two books abroad, which became my solid reference. My daughter was also a regular customer who would always request for me to bake for her and her friends during holidays.
My baking inspiration is God, my family, and my customers. It gives me so much joy when I see the delight and eagerness on their faces as they eat. After a long, hard day of baking, seeing their satisfied and contented smiles would be enough reward.
I’ve baked different kinds of pie like Apple, Strawberry, and Fruit Cocktail. My Brazo de Mercedes is the number one choice of my daughter’s colleagues. Our patients, on the other hand, can’t get enough of my Bread Pudding. But Fruit Cake is definitely my best signature recipe.
As a baker, you must be a keen observer. Every mistake is crucial, and sometimes irreversible. It is important to understand the baking process by using your empirical senses, which helps you discover and master your own technique.
I have to admit that I find baking Braso de Mercedes difficult because of the steps involved, particularly the egg yolk must be at room temperature. Do not rely solely on what you are reading from a book because you must experience it first and foremost. You should always be resourceful.
My goal is customer satisfaction. It gives me comfort that my food makes people happy despite how tired they are from work, or when my baking picks people up when they’re feeling down. I was encouraged by everyone’s appreciation of my baked products, and it was an art that gave me fulfillment.
My final New Gen Baker tip is that you must complete all your ingredients first. Preparation is more difficult than the baking process. Once everything is prepared correctly, all you need to do is wait for the magic to happen.