WATERFRONT Cebu City Hotel and Casino executive pastry chef Xavier Vandeweghe brings new flavors to the table, as he shows guests there’s more to sweets than the typical desserts we know.
In the hotel’s patisserie and boulangerie, Madeleine, he emerges from the kitchen holding out a plate of Belgian macaroons, a staple in his side of the world, made with buttercream and almond flakes on top for that toasty flavor. It’s well received by guests at the hotel and will soon be available at Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao and Waterfront Airport Hotel & Casino Mactan.
“You will love that more,” he jokingly said, referring to the writer’s previous remark for her love for French macarons (no disrespect, of course).
Apart from that confection, Vandeweghe intends to bring to Cebu City what Belgium is known for: Chocolate.
“I’m Belgian. Chocolate runs through my veins,” he said, adding that in the near future, he’s hoping to showcase Belgian chocolate at the hotel.
He began his craft at the age of 12, studying at pastry school for six years while working at a bakery during holidays and weekends. He recalled starting out just peeling apples and mandarins to the point that his thumb went sore. After a year of military service, he became head baker at 18 and spent the next 10 years moving from one bakery to another, gaining knowledge and a higher sense of quality decorating pastries, especially with chocolate.
But there’s more to his mission than merely introducing something new. He wishes to introduce new flavors, without taking out the Filipino factor to it. “We cannot take that completely out. There needs to be that remembrance of how Filipinos used to taste something. But it doesn’t mean you can’t use better quality products to elevate the flavor,” he said.
Funny enough when asked what his go-to dessert was, he said it was the Kopiko 3inONE instant coffee and a bag of peanuts.
“I’ve worked in Indonesia on and off, and funny enough I fell in love with Kopiko in the Philippines,” he shared. “Usually when I create something new, I will taste it and I will know if it’s good or not. But if it doesn’t please me, I’d rather go to someone else’s pastry shop and buy something there. That will bring me more joy than eating my own creation.”
Prior to working at Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino, he was doing short term consultancy projects as a way to take a break from his previous venture. It lead him to different parts of the world including Indonesia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
He then traveled to the Philippines with his friends where he met his wife who was then working for a hotel in Manila, and with whom he has a son with born last year. He shared this was the number one reason why he stayed in the country—his family. And the rest is history.
More than making sure to provide for his family, there was a sense of nostalgia to his reason for working in Cebu.
“This is an iconic hotel. This was the first hotel I ever stayed at in the Philippines. It was like a trip back to memory lane,” Vandeweghe said. “Also, the potential is here. Everything can be elevated to the next level and that’s what I’m slowly working toward right now—extensive training with all my guys.”
How is he as a chef to his team? “Patient,” he said. “I’m not a bully. I never had any feeling of having to be a bully to teach someone. It doesn’t mean when you’re shouting, they’re going to learn faster. I’m quite patient with that,” as he shared that he makes it a point to demonstrate to them and watch as they perform the task themselves.
“Even a simple éclair—just to make the shell—you need to be careful. One small mistake can ruin the whole thing,” he said, having known so well that this wasn’t something one learned overnight. More than skill, the craft required patience. “The knowledge needs to be learned over the years. You need to be passionate about it. If not, there’s no point,” he advised.
Through his introduction of diverse selections, he hopes to elevate pastries and at the same time, bring out the adventurous side of the guests through his masterpieces.