In the sleek food hub of Ayala Triangle is a small patisserie that bears the slogan “The World’s Most Affordable Luxury Good.” Melc Patisserie isn’t an established international food chain but it bears all the hallmarks of a cohesive and solid brand.
A look at the colorful, shiny pastries displayed by the window will lead you to believe that the owner must have studied in the most expensive pastry schools abroad.
“As far as my journey is concerned, it is not a conventional path,” Melc Patisserie chef and founder Melissa Lim says. Lim was born and raised in Singapore and graduated from an accountancy program in Singapore Management University. Her first big job after graduation was with Bloomberg. “I already had my whole career mapped out for me.”
She moved to Manila initially to help with the family business in the Philippines. But how did she pivot from a predestined corporate woman to a food entrepreneur baking edible works of art? “As far as food is concerned, all my life I’ve been privileged to develop a palate by traveling and visiting different places, but I never put that into use until COVID-19 happened. I found myself very much interested in food.”
“That was when pastries were getting a lot of traction internationally. I told myself if I were to open my own business, I would want to come up with a concept that was hard to replicate, very technical in nature, and one that taps into my OC side,” Lim says.
“I wanted to do something that I can say is truly mine as opposed to having people having to say that I was just in this privileged position because your parents or family have set this up for me already. So I wanted to do this and go all in,” says Melissa Lim of Melc Patisserie.
With a career shift, she would be able to pursue a path that she can say she chose all her own. “I wanted to do something that I can say is truly mine as opposed to having people having to say that I was just in this privileged position because your parents or family have set this up for me already. So I wanted to do this and go all in. During COVID-19, I studied quite intensely. I never went to culinary school but I attended a lot of master classes to get started in pastry.”
Lim is a fan of growth hacking—a marketing principle in which creative, low-cost strategies are used to help gain clients. “I kind of use the term metaphorically. It refers to being able to learn a skill that others may take, let’s say 10 years to learn. You need to be resourceful about your learning journey so you can acquire the same amount of information or techniques in a shorter period of time. I applied that kind of philosophy to my learning journey when it came to laminated pastries as well as all those modern cakes you see,” Lim explains.
There was a time when Lim applied to work as a barista for two months to gain insight she wouldn’t learn anywhere else. She joined MasterChef Singapore and was one of the top 10 finalists. “Through MasterChef, I was able to get connected with several Michelin-starred pastry chefs in Singapore. They were very kind and provided a lot of mentorship.”
Being a MasterChef Singapore alum taught her many valuable lessons she uses to this day. “It was very eye-opening. Translating what I learned on MasterChef to the business, it taught me how to think on my feet and also troubleshoot on the spot. It helped me to handle stress a lot better in the kitchen,” she reveals.
Lim tells of one episode where they were tasked to cook afternoon tea for 70 people in only three hours. Another task had them cooking in a hotel with industrial cooking machines she hadn’t used before. “Just dive deep and do not be afraid. Learn all that you can.”
Her pastries reflect this tenacity and passion to learn. Her croissants are perfect with what seems like a thousand flaky layers that’s so satisfying to look at and even more satisfying to bite into. She uses Echiré butter, which is considered the world’s most expensive and exclusive (the French keep 85 percent of it for themselves) as it is handmade in a small pocket of Western France.
The Dalandan is a small, shiny cake topped with a white chocolate crown, grapefruit flesh, and tiny gold balls. Inside you’ll find smooth dalandan and pomelo whipped ganache, Speculoos sable, and a black tea and citrus compote. The Shine Muscat Dacquoise is an homage to the fruit, using it with a whipped ganache. Lim applies dill with the dacquoise lending a hint of licorice.
There are also savory pastries such as the Mentaiko Tart, which has shrimp and crab stick in a shrimp bisque and topped with a torched secret mentaiko sauce. “I dreamed this one up while I was in the shower,” Lim says enthusiastically. “This type of sauce is made up of seven different elements. The team doesn’t know what’s inside, so I have to make it myself.”
Customers can easily purchase a pastry and drink (the Arabica cold brew with Valencia orange is a harmonious mix of citrus notes with your coffee) and enjoy them at the amphitheater seats inside the store or step outside in the park where there are many built-in benches. The store’s stone blue- gray and taupe colors are calming and Instagram-ready.
“To be very honest, some aspects of fine dining are pretentious, but I still feel there are techniques and flavor pairings that we can draw from fine dining. What I want to do is draw from these fine dining experiences and very interesting, exotic flavor combinations and put it in the pastries.”
The flavor combinations at Melc Patisserie are fresh and complex. “Not everyone in the Philippines has the opportunity to eat at Michelin-starred places. To be very honest, some aspects of fine dining are pretentious, but I still feel there are techniques and flavor pairings that we can draw from fine dining. What I want to do is draw from these fine dining experiences and very interesting, exotic flavor combinations and put it in the pastries.”
“We want to educate our consumers to not view luxury only as going to a store and splurging on a bag. They can still treat themselves in everyday moments. I know our price point is higher than other places but it’s intentional and it’s also because we are not compromising on our ingredients.”