Some weeks ago, a friend in the food industry shared with me a controversy that’s gone viral. I expected to be amused, entertained at the least but when I visited the Facebook thread, I was turned off by the vicious exchange. I don’t understand why it even started. Unnecessary, really.
In the middle of it all was this lady I had never heard of. I found her daring on many levels. Her audacity caught my attention.
Watch my cooking tutorial on how to master a basic Risotto. Using the right tools and great quality ingredients is important in making this dish. If you're new to cooking Risotto, I will be glad to answer all your questions! 😇
Posted by Chef Sheilla on Friday, October 6, 2017
Who is this Chef Sheilla?!
I thought I’d find out for myself. A few days after sending her a message, I was sitting across her at a Café in Greenhillls.
Sharing with you what I learned about Sheilla Lopez on our first meeting.
She loves to talk. We spent more than three hours chatting.
“This is the way I talk. I’ve been talking like this since college,” she explained the way she talks in her videos. “I was in theater, I was doing isahang pagbigkas. Kung sobrang exaggeration yung sa phonetics ko, it’s because hindi lang naman mga Filipinos ang iniitindi ko eh. Gusto ko yung maiintindihan talaga, kaya talagang every word I have to pronounce with exaggeration so that people globally can understand what I’m saying. Akala nila I’m putting twang, akala nila inaartehan ko.”
She graduated at the top of her class at Le Cordon Bleu in London.
“I went to Cordon Bleu in 2003 to finish my Cuisine Diploma. And then I signed up for Basic Pastry, I was a scholar for that one. I was just challenged because everyone was applying for a scholarship. The school will just grant to two and if you’re chosen, it means you’re a good student. So I thought, why not try? I went back in 2007 because I wanted to finish my Pastry Diploma. I finished at the top of my class. I got two medals.”
She is hardworking.
“People don’t know how much effort I put into my videos. As early as 4:30am, I am already at Farmer’s. When I formulate my recipe, I make sure that all the measurements are perfect so that when they do it, the recipe is dependable, tested, and doable.”
She shared a few occasions when they had to reshoot more than once. Like when her videographer accidentally erased the file. While it frustrated her a bit, she soldiered on thinking “there’s always a reason why we have to do it again. Maybe God wants me to be better. I’m like that.”
While she has hired experts to help her, she can function as a one-man team. She writes her own scripts, can take food shots and videos. And edit! All these, she learned on her own.
“Mahilig ako eh. Self-taught lang ako lahat talaga. Tinitingnan ko sa YouTube. Yung mga food videos ko na hand lang, ako lang ‘yun, meron lang akong screen na titingnan ko lang. Pag tapos na, edit ko na ‘yan.
She is not afraid of bullies.
“My attitude is like this – you push me, I push harder. I’m kind if you’re kind. Kung tarantado ka, mas tarantado ako sa ‘yo. Ganu’n talaga ko. You insult my skills, I’m gonna insult whatever I can find in you. Kasi ako, hindi ako nang-aaway pero ‘wag mo akong awayin kasi aawayin talaga kita. That’s my mantra, I don’t start a fight but I know how to end it. Among the 12 siblings, ako talaga ang pinakamatapang. Ask my college friends, if someone bullies them, they’d call me. Sumbungan ako ng na-bully. Sabi ng friend ko, nung nagsabog si God ng tapang ng Katipunera, kinuha ko daw lahat.”
But she is afraid of ghosts. Aside from homesickness, she had to battle a bigger fear while living independently in London.
“I would sleep at 6am kasi takot ako sa multo. I was renting my own apartment pero natutulog ako sa couch para walang space yung multo na tabihan ako! I refused to sleep on my bed. Naka-on ang ilaw sa kitchen, naka-on yung ilaw sa banyo, naka-on yung TV. Dilat yung mata ko hanggang umaraw. Pag may araw na, matutulog na ako. Then I’d have to be up at 8am. Tagal ko bago na-get over ‘yun.
She is not fond of going out and doesn’t like attending parties.
“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. Ayoko ng mga gown. I love dressing up when I go out and see my friends, kahit nasa bahay ako gusto ko nakabihis nang maayos. But I don’t like attending parties, having to say hello to everyone. I like to stay at home. I like to go to the mall and shop, that’s it. I meet my friends for breakfast or dinner pero ayoko nang maingay. Anti-social talaga ako. I can watch movies alone.
She likes working out. She goes to the gym five times a week and spends two hours per day cycling or boxing.
“Kasi athlete talaga ako. I played volleyball, I was a varsity member in school. Sobrang active ako sa extra curricular activities. I sing, I dance.”
She can’t resist junk food.
“Hirap akong i-give up ang junk food. Chips! Sobra! I eat everything. Malakas akong kumain, hindi ako health-conscious. Isaw, diosco ‘day! Balat, betamax! Scramble. Pumupunta talaga akong UP. Basta maghahanap ako. Minsan yung driver, pinapahanap ko ng mga naglalako. Pero now I’m being careful”.
She likes to extend a helping hand. She got it from her parents. When her mom passed away, the family was surprised to find so many people joining them in their grief. Unknown to them, their mother, who was a public school guidance counselor for 35 years had been supporting so many students. Throughout the conversation, she has referred to her dad as extremely generous.
“Mabait ako sa tao, sa staff ko. Pag kaibigan kita and you need help, I’m there for you, that’s my attitude eh”.
She comes from a family of lawyers but was never interested in becoming one. Though out of curiosity, she visited a law school.
“I sat down there sa quadrangle nila, after 30 minutes, ayoko talaga. It didn’t feel right. My dad said he will buy me a new car if I enroll in law school. I told him kahit mag-tricycle na lang ako, hindi ako maglo-law, no way!”
It was during a stint at the Cost Control Department of Dusit Hotel that she discovered her passion. And it wasn’t the glam that attracted her to it.
“During the monthly inventory of the kitchen, I saw the chefs. Napatingin ako sa kanila. That gave me an idea. I want to be there. That is my character, nakatayo, nagcha-chop, nagbubuhat. That’s me, I love lifting, tawag nga nila sa akin kargador eh.”
But now it is the process of creating that she loves most about kitchen work.
“Being creative, playing with different flavors, balancing and combining. I think that’s what challenged me, yung balancing flavors and combining. But I don’t like fusion. Fusion is confusion”.
She started her www.chefsheilla.com site in 2013 but only started actively creating and posting content again this year after a brief hiatus.
“I have so much bigger plans for my chefsheilla.com. I shelved everything last year because my mother and my brother passed away. This is like the comeback. I want to be like Donna Hay. This is my food media and my advocacy. For those people who want to learn and want to share their recipes and teach me as well, in a good way, you’re welcome. But if you’re gonna bash me, get out. I’m not trying to please you. If you don’t like me, no problem. There are billions of people in this planet. I’m trying to share my passion and my knowledge here. The internet is becoming evil for everyone. For me kasi, I use internet to my own advantage. For learning. Connect with your friends. People are using this for hatred, doon ako naiinis.”
Her website has opened many doors for her.
“Nafi-feature ang website ko sa Buzzfeed. I was invited to the Collision Conference, one of the biggest technology conferences in the world, through my website. Now I’m partnered with Berghoff. Ishu-shoot ko yung products nila, yung usage, benefits. I have been the brand ambassador of Sapporo for three years. Now I’m working with chef Boy Logro and Baguio Oil, we’re building a cooking community called the Delightful Cooking Community.
Aside from her website, she is busy with several other things.
“I do consulting, recipe development. I have a partner in New York and I do recipe development for him from here. I do food costing, which is my forte. I do some PR and Marketing Strategies for companies.”
And she is building her studio kitchen in Antipolo which she expects to be ready by June 2018.
“It’s going to be a place for my food media. My studio kitchen is going to be there. I will have a test kitchen for my consulting firm. I’m going to make it a destination with private dining for a maximum of 20 people.”
With all these things going on. She does not have room for negativity in her life. “Love never fails,” she kept saying again and again. Asked what she meant, she said “People who know me well, love me because I’m a good person. People who love you genuinely will defend you, stand by you, and would even take a bullet for you. One of the best possessions that I have is the love of my family and friends.”