Ever heard of Hood Famous Bakeshops’s ube cheesecake from a friend or neighbor? If so, you know you have to check it out.
Chera Amlag’s Hood Famous Bakeshop creates a unique take on a Filipino quintessential sweet delicacy loved by many— ube halaya made from purple yam. She uses ube as her key, or standout, ingredient and makes it into cheesecake. No one would have thought that her ube cheesecake would garner high reception from customers, including Chera, but it did.
Though not professionally trained, Chera has baked since she was a kid. She would bake desserts for herself when she was hungry or had a craving. Her family was not the type to buy packed sweets from grocery stores so she learned to bake them on her own. She has loved whipping up desserts ever since. It was not just her passion for baking that eventually drove her to do a pop-up called Food and Sh*t (where her small business path started) with her husband, Geo Quibuyen. It was also her desire to represent her heritage in her work and business. Though she has lived in the United States of America since she was a young child, she embraces where she migrated from, the Philippines. Being Filipino is a huge part of who she is. Because of this it has been important for Chera to give people the chance to get to know and taste Filipino flavors, be curious about Filipino cuisine, and just begin a conversation about the Philippines. This is true for a lot of immigrants in America. They want their neighbors—the community they belong to—to recognize their home countries and be open to diverse traditions, foods, etc.
Food and Sh*t, which was about “creatively present[ing] Filipino flavors and Filipino food without necessarily trying to change it,” was born. Chera and Geo did their first pop-up in Inay’s Asian Pacific Cuisine, a Filipino restaurant on Beacon Hill. People took to it, they liked what they saw, so the owners of Inay’s invited Chera and Geo to do another pop-up. On their second pop-up Chera included ube cheesecake in their menu list. To Chera and Geo’s surprise customers were fascinated by the purple dessert she had prepared. It’s purple, and it’s good! The word about it spread like wildfire: from neighbor to neighbor, from friend to friend, and from cousin to cousin. The demand was so high that they started wholesaling it to grocery stores and restaurants. One thing led to another and soon her ube cheesecake became a hit in Seattle. After only three years of baking and selling her ube cheesecake and other specialties, she now owns a bakeshop. It has a production kitchen and sweets-to-go counter where people can come in and buy desserts whenever they feel like it.
Her passion for baking as well as her desire and the purpose she found in sharing her Filipino heritage encouraged her to create a meaningful business. We are grateful to have shared with her the joys of starting Hood Famous Bakeshop. She tells of her experience (in getting a loan) with us: “It was amazing. The difference was I felt like I didn’t have a loan officer. I felt like I had an advocate. Kevin (former loan officer in Business Impact NW) just made me feel like we’re going to do this. It was very assuring. It is going to take a long time, but I felt like they were really pushing for us. They were making sure that we got it, as long as we were patient and did everything we could.” Chera’s words were unexpected, but this is exactly why we do what we do. We love supporting small business owners and seeing them and their businesses grow. Chera’s words touched our hearts.
It is inspiring to see small business owners step up in establishing enterprises that do not only produce great products or services but also have social impact. Through Food and Sh*t and Hood Famous Bakeshop Chera has gradually and happily introduced Filipino culture and history to Seattleites. She is glad she could have conversations about the Philippines with people and exchange stories about it. This is what her business is really about: she is proud to be Filipino.