This Leyte-Born, Canada-Trained Pastry Chef Is Serving the Cakes and Pastries of Your Dreams
Chef Ely Salar was born in Leyte but spent 14 years working as a chef in restaurants in Canada. Life was good overseas, but unlike many other OFWs, Salar says the plan was always to return home to the motherland and start his own business.
In 2019, he finally packed his bags and flew back to the Philippines. It helped that he had a girlfriend waiting for him here.
Chef Ely Salar with his wife Jiannina
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“Umuwi ako para pakasalan siya,” he says half-jokingly while gesturing to his then-girlfriend-now-wife Jiannina sitting beside him at the small dining area of Patisserie Le Choux Colat. The couple’s fine pastry shop is located at the second level of The Podium Mall in Mandaluyong.
“I felt much more confident about starting a business in the Philippines than overseas because I felt like I could relate more to my customers here,” he says more seriously. “That’s why I wanted to move back and try different things.”
The first thing he did almost as soon as he got home was to buy a two-hectare fruit farm in Dulag, Leyte. It had a few cacao trees, some coconut trees, and about 3,000 calamansi trees. For a time, he found himself at the local market selling the citrus fruit to the local townsfolk. People who knew him did a double-take when they saw him under his makeshift tent and behind his bamboo table stacked with calamansi.
“’Bakit ka nagbebenta ng calamansi dito,’ they would tell me,” he says smiling. “‘Di ba nasa Canada ka?’”
But selling fruit was actually not a bad business idea as he says he would earn as much as P20,000 daily.
Salar did other things, too. He became an instructor at a local university in Leyte and even taught some classes at a school in Manila. He also did a consultancy job with a chocolate company in Mindanao. And, putting his pastry training to good use, he started selling his cakes at his brother’s cake shopin his home province. But the initial feedback about his cakes back then wasn’t quite what he expected.
Strawberry Dark Chocolate entremet
“Here, when we started, we sold our six-inch cakes at P1,500 each,” he says. “But back then, in Leyte, we sold the same cake but slightly bigger, about eight inches, for only P900, and everyone was saying they were too expensive. Gusto lang daw nila mga P200 na cakes.”
Eventually he went back to his farm and added more cacao trees so he could try perfecting the process of harvesting, fermenting, and roasting the cacao beans and turning them into rich, dark chocolate. He created simple bonbons out of the chocolate and planned on supplying them to hotels and restaurants in Manila.
But then COVID-19 hit and everything shut down.
Chef Salar and Jiannina kicked around in Manila for a few months as health restrictions seesawed between being heightened and then eased for a few months. Eventually, they decided to try selling cakes and pastries online. Within a week, the couple bought the equipment and supplies they needed and started messaging friends and family to try their sweet treats.
They launched the home-based business in February 2021 with mainly friends and families as their first buyers. By March they were getting up to 10 orders of their cakes per day, which went up to about 30 orders by August, and then 60 by November. Eventually they were working on up to 100 cake orders per day. Once, during the busy holiday season, they scrambled to deliver a whopping 240 cakes.
Gateaux de Voyage Season 1 - Chocolate Rocher, Almond Praline, and Banana Chocolate
About a year since they first started their business, the couple received a proposal from a mall leasing manager to open a physical store of their thriving business. By that time, restrictions had started to ease and people started going out more. The couple felt it was time to take the plunge, but the initial space and location didn’t quite work for them as it was too small and wouldn’t be able to accommodate their vision of an open-plan layout that would showcase the cakes and how they were made.
Slices of Pâtisserie Le Choux-Colat's Chocolate, Mango Magnifique, Coffee Crème Brûlée
But, about a month later, the same mall representative came back with another offer. This time, it was a much better space that fit everything they were looking for. Patisserie Le Choux Colat’s first store opened at The Podium in July 2022 and they’ve been churning out the delicate cakes and pastries to waiting customers ever since.
Patisserie Le Choux Colat is located at the second level of The Podium Mall, Mandaluyong. You can check out the shop on Instagram.