My Second Act (Part 5) - Dedet Dela Fuente – From Taking Photographs To Roasting Stuffed Pigs

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Dedet Dela Fuente – From Taking Photographs To Roasting Stuffed Pigs

Description: Mrs. Dedet dela Fuente & her daughter

Mrs. Dedet dela Fuente & her daughter

Photography has been Dedet dela Fuente’s longtime hobby, but it took a trip to the US for her to finally turn it into a business. “We went to a mall one weekend and there was this photography studio called Rita’s Photography, which took photos of kids. We set up a session for our four-month-old daughter Lauren, and they took shots of her dressed as an angel. I gave copies as gifts to friends, including her pediatrician, who placed it behind her desk. Many of her patients asked where it was taken. That’s when I thought of opening a similar studio.” It was named Sweet Dreams Photography and it was located at Madison Square Building in San Juan. Dedet took portraits of babies and infants inside flower pots or hanging on a clothesline, a la Anne Geddes. It became a smash hit, until competition from un-mall studios forced Sweet Dreams to close after just five years.

Unemployed and with plenty of time on her hands, Dedet took the opportunity to focus on her other loves – her children and food. “When I was in high school, I would bake desserts and sell them during Christmas. I’d also enroll every summer in Sylvia Reynoso Gala’s classes.” As a self-proclaimes lechon lover, it was natural for her to want to master the art of roasting pigs. So in 2009, Dedet attended a class taught by Reggie Aspiras. Everything fell into place after that. “To make good lechon, I would need a special pugon, and according to Reggie, it usually takes months to get one because the pugon maker has a backlog of orders. I took my chance and called them right there and then. True enough, they said it would take three months.” She inquired further and found out that there was one available that was reserved for another client. They gave it to her anyway and she claimed it on the same day.

Description: Lechon degustacion

Lechon degustacion

It didn’t take long before Dedet began experimenting. “The stuffing was purely my thing. I started with binagoongan rice and then I invited friends – my happy gang, I call them – to have a taste. They loved it so much that they asked me to join Anton Diaz’s Ultimate Taste Test. I did and got one of the top marks. That started Pepita’s Kitchen.” And from simply throwing tasting parties at home, Dedet’s venture turned into a thriving private dining business. “I would just invent things like Balut Salpicao and Balut Pâté and serve it to friends. They then suggested that I offer it to people. Since Claude Tayag is one of my idols, I gave it a try.” Not long after, food bloggers wrote and raved about her lechon degustacion, consequently triggering the curiosity of many. Orders started pouring in. even her daughters caught the cooking bug and began selling food items on their own – 13-year-old Lileya with her Butter Beer (think butterball candy turned into a drink) and nine-year-old Leyora’s Chocolate Happiness (choco sticks dunked in warm milk to make instant hot chocolate). It seems like Dedet has made a mission out of making everyone happy. Years ago, she did it by capturing special moments. This time, she does so by creating them over good food.

Dedet dela Fuente opens her house in Magallanes, Makati City, to people who want to sample her Pinoy-with-a-twist dishes, such as Rellenong Bulaklak, Alimango in Thick Gata Sauce, Pork Binagoongan, Dayap Cheesecake, and Guinataang Halo-Halo. For inquiries and reservations, call 425-4605 or 0917-8660662. Orders for Pepita’s Kitchen stuffed lechon are also accepted at those numbers.

Hosting 101

Dedet de la Fuente talks about what it takes to host private dinners successfully.

  • Work on your menu

“Make sure you have a good mix of food. It can’t be all meat or all rich, heavy dishes. You should have a complete and well-balanced menu to guarantee that there’s something for everyone.”

  • Take suggestions

“Be open to suggestions on improving the dining experience. I had my happy gang with me throughout my tasting period and I considered all their opinions. Once everyone’s happy, make sure  you are consistent with the food you serve.”

  • Do what you love

“Enjoy the company you have for the evening and, more importantly, enjoy what you are doing. I love entertaining and love being able to bring a smile to people’s faces with my food. It’s all a labor of love.”

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