Layers of love

Kaisha Araneta-Pacaña gets hands-on with matters delis

By Deneb Batucan

 

FOUR years ago, Matlin Kaisha “Shing” Araneta-Pacaña felt lost. She was stuck at a job she didn’t like at all and was itching to do something — anything — other than work for someone else. All she knew she was not contented at just showing up at work, mindlessly doing her job, with no fulfillment whatsoever.

ONE-WOMAN SHOW. Shing Pacaña takes pride at being a one-woman show at her kitchen where she bakes her lasagna fresh every day. The reason she’s not too keen on having extra pairs of hands? She wants to keep the family recipe as it is: a closely guarded secret.

Something was bothering Shing at that time and that something was that she wanted to open up a business. She didn’t know what to sell at first, but it was a risk she was willing to take, lest she be in a rut and unhappy all her life at a dead-end job.

She stopped coming to work for two weeks. In these two weeks, she found that something she has been looking for: lasagna.

Growing up, her mom’s lasagna has been the star of every party. Family friends and visitors always rave about it, asking for the recipe. Shing thought of starting a business solely on selling her mom’s signature dish.

“I asked permission from my mom to use the recipe for me to start a business,” she said.

AT HOME. Realizing she didn’t fit in the workplace, Matlin Kaisha “Shing” Araneta-Pacaña found happiness closer to home: the recipe of her mom’s signature dish that started a business.

Starting a journey

Shing was dead set on creating a business that she quit her job, perfected the lasagna and started a journey with tons of uncertainty. But she followed her heart. “I felt like I was in the right place and the right time,” she said.

But before she opened up business, she sent small slices of lasagna to friends, friends of friends and some local food bloggers for a taste test. To her delight, the feedback was almost a hundred percent positive.

The following day, she already received her first orders. “It was overwhelming. I didn’t expect to be that busy that soon. But I was happy,” she said. After that, she made a social media account to sell her lasagna online, called it Lasagna Que, and that was what started the whole craze.

She called it Lasagna Que after a friend told her to own up the idea of having a queue of people lining up for a slice of her scrumptious lasagna.

Béchamel mucho

Over the years, a lot of people have tasted Lasagna Que through online orders, her booths in Sugbo Mercado and at Ahooy Makan Food Kiosk. One would think that maybe Shing would have some help in making all those lasagna trays every day.

But up until now, she’s a one-woman show at her kitchen where she bakes her lasagna fresh every day. She does everything from cooking the pasta at a perfect al dente to making the ragu (meat sauce) and the béchamel (white sauce). One good reason for this is that Shing doesn’t want anyone to know the secret to her delicious lasagna.

When asked what the secret is, Shing just smiled knowingly and said, “It’s in the béchamel. It’s not just in the ingredients but how it is made.”

Shing is very particular with food quality. She wants to keep the level of quality high because she never wants to disappoint her customers. That’s why even though she spends about five to six hours laboring in the kitchen to produce a quality product, she still never gets tired of it.

“When I look back over the years, it makes me want to challenge myself to venture on different kinds of food or maybe make another kind of lasagna that hasn’t been introduced in Cebu,” Shing said.

NEXT LAYER. What’s next for Shing? A small café that offers her famous lasagna and many other dishes is in the works.

Owning her time

What she loves most about having her own business is that she owns her time. As a doting hands-on mom to two daughters, she loves how her job keeps her close to home and allots her some time to spend on her children to do homework, play time, and among others. But her favorite part of all is not having to answer to anyone but herself. “I am my own boss!” she quipped.

Today, Shing is looking to open up a small café where she could also dish out other delicious eats aside from the lasagna. From her consistent kitchen experiments, Shing has already tons of delicious food on her menu and she can’t wait to offer it to her patrons. She also accepts bulk orders for food bundles — five different viands — for parties of thirty people, which are perfect for small parties at home or at the office.

Photographer: Alfred Gregory E. Bartolome
Make-up Artist: Carlo Damolo
Hair Stylist: Jerwin Bastatas
Locale: Pillows Hotel

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