Moms and Dads

Rebecca Disini: Going After What You Want Despite Obstacles

Rebecca Disini made a name for herself by creating Artisanal mirror cakes. She proved to everyone she can do it despite obstacles.

There was a time when men dominated the culinary and pastry world. But over the years, this has slowly changed. More women are now getting into the industry, with some even opening their own pastry businesses. One of them is Rebecca Disini, who is known for creating Artisanal mirror cakes.

But long before Rebecca Disini earned the recognition, she also went through challenges, which she shared with Modern Parenting.

rebecca disini
Photo by Joseph Pascual

Rebecca Disini on the changes in the culinary industry

Rebecca said that so much has definitely changed since she started back in 1999. ” It’s a consumer-oriented industry, so you have to be able to adapt quickly, to address changing tastes and preferences. Right now, for instance, people look for healthier options. And the way they spend has been affected by both economic forces and growing awareness about sustainability.”

“On the other side of the table, the use of technology has reinvented the dining landscape. So chefs need to continuously innovate and evolve, to strategize and compete in this challenging, yet ultimately fun environment,” she said.

Why choose artisanal cakes from all the pastries to make?

“The first time I tried an entremets – what we call a ‘mirror cake’, so customers don’t have to memorize the fancy French – was in Paris, in 1999,” Rebecca shared. “I just fell in love with the complexity and delicacy of it. And I remember thinking, ‘How can I share this with my loved ones, back home?'”

“At a certain point in my life, I had been studying and working in seven countries, which was not actually as fun as it sounds. Because I’d been devising recipes and savory products for some of the world’s biggest food chains for over a decade. I even hurt my wrist, badly. It still gives me problems from time to time. I needed a change, and I wanted something with more flexibility. So I could devote more of my time and energy at home, with my daughter,” she said.

Rebecca added: “The upside of my long and varied career was that I made many friends, in both the culinary and pastry worlds. So I decided to focus my pastry studies on the many, many techniques needed to master mirror cakes, to avoid having to compete with my friends in the business, as well as to share something delicious that had not been available in Manila, previously.”

Although she focuses on artisanal cakes, Rebecca loves doing other pastries such as tarts, chocolates, and sugar work when she has time.

rebecca disini
Photo by Joseph Pascual

Rebecca Disini on family time and raising her daughter

Although she has been busy with her career, Rebecca also makes sure to spend time with her husband and daughter. In fact, her daughter Natalia has been helping her in the business.

“When she started eating solid food, she would dip her spoon into my plate and just try whatever was in front of her. So she was a six-month-old who loved gruyere, caviar, and foie gras pate!” Rebecca said. “When we moved back to Manila, from my work in Bangkok, I remember her tasting a dish that was prepared the same way we made it in Thailand. She could tell the garlic was different.”

“As she nears her teenage years, she’s still continuing to develop and acquire a growing appetite for new flavors, including, thank goodness, less high-end delights, like pizza.”

To unwind from the busy schedule, Rebecca said she and the family love going out on trips.

“I take as many trips as I can to the beach. The water has a way of calming me, and it’s also a source of inspiration.” 

Rebecca Disini: “Just go for it!”

As women earn recognition in the culinary and pastry world, Rebecca said that she is already at the stage where she no longer needs to prove herself to people.

“I like to think it’s a sign of maturity that I no longer feel the need to prove myself to anyone,” she said. “I just do what I do. Because I love it and I’m passionate about it. As long as I know that I’m doing and giving my best, how people choose to perceive that isn’t something I worry about anymore.”

If there is any particular advice she can give to women out there in starting their careers in the culinary pastry world, Rebecca says to listen to their own voices.

“When I first decided to study abroad, an education agent told me I would never get accepted. But I just went for it and applied on my own. When I came back from my studies in the UK, in 2001, one of the biggest hotels in Makati told me they could never hire me. Because I was female.”

“So I pivoted and decided to teach, which led to the British ambassador, who hired me as his executive chef in Singapore, cooking for the likes of the Queen Mother and the late Lee Kwan Yew. At an interview with Unilever, their Regional HR told me I was too young for the role and to call them back in ten years. But in less than four months, she called me back. And I eventually ended up working as their regional chef in Malaysia, handling accounts for Asia, Africa, and the Middle East,” she said.

 Photo by Niccolo Cosme

Never too old, too young, or too female to do what you want

“When I came back home to Manila, big names in the local industry told me, ‘We can’t hire you, because your ex is one of the higher-ups for a big food chain – there’s a conflict of interest.’ So I found work in Thailand, making food products for supermarkets in the UK, EU, North America, and Asia. By the time I was 37, I’d decided to shift gears and learn patisserie. But they said I was too old to be a student again. Yet here I am!”

“What I’ve learned from all that is that people always try to put obstacles in your way. But you’re never really too young, too old, too female, or too anything. As long as you’re willing to work for and go after what you want. So that’s my advice for everyone out there, whether she, he, or they. Just go for it. Follow your passion, match it with determination, and be willing to adjust if things don’t turn out exactly as you planned. If you put in the work, you can make it work.”

Check out more inspiring moms who ventured into the culinary and food industry on Modern Parenting:

Bambi del Rosario: Sweet Flavors Of Resilience

Florabel Co Yatco: Gratitude In Her Recipes

Eat, Pray, and Love at Chefmom’s Table

Shop for Modern Parenting's print issues through these platforms.
Download this month's Modern Parenting magazine digital copy from:
Subscribe via [email protected]