“We should never see ourselves at the top, always in the middle,” says Filipino-American chocolatier Daniel Corpuz. “There should always be someone or something above us that we want to aspire for. It could be a skill we want to learn. And there should always be someone under us like a student that we are sharing our knowledge with.”
It’s this way of thinking that brought Corpuz to the Philippines earlier this year when he partnered with Auro Chocolate for a string of workshops and classes teaching students how to make bonbons. It was also in this class that he was able to meet Half Saints co-founder Christine Roque.
“I was going to visit my uncle in Cubao and when Christine gave me her card, I said, ‘Perfect! We’ll eat at Half Saints tomorrow!’” Corpuz remembers enjoying the meal with his family and loving the Blackout Bowl (black rice and wagyu with calamansi koshō) in particular. “I remember Christine coming to the table to explain the story behind every dish, which is a very big part of what we do—storytelling.”
Fast forward to several months later, Corpuz and Half Saints concluded their collaboration of six Paris-Brest (a fancy donut ring made with choux pastry and filled with cream flavors), marking Half Saints’ first ever collaboration. “Working on this collaboration reminded me of the time when we had Afternoon Bakes during the pandemic. We would offer a new product weekly and it would only be available for that week. After that we had to think of something new,” Half Saints co-founder Jo Arciaga says.
“Obviously since this is our first collaboration, we were outside our comfort zone. The challenge was creating that ease of space for the three of us to work together,” Christine Roque says. “I love how we were able to connect with Daniel in terms of our mission to make innovative gastronomy accessible to as many people as possible.”
“Obviously since this is our first collaboration, we were outside our comfort zone. The challenge was creating that ease of space for the three of us to work together,” Roque adds. “I love how we were able to connect with Daniel in terms of our mission to make innovative gastronomy accessible to as many people as possible.”
For Roque and Arciaga, it’s a whole lot more than just the food. “Over the pandemic, it was important for us to help make our customers feel happy and nourished. So though we’re offering out-of-the-box flavors in this collaboration, we still wanted them to feel nourished and brighten up their day,” Roque points out.
A reality check
Many may know Corpuz from the Netflix show “School Of Chocolate” with world-renowned chocolatier Amaury Guichon as the mentor. Prior to participating in the show, Corpuz took up baking and pastry at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and worked at several Michelin-star restaurants like The Modern, The Clocktower, and One White Street.
“When COVID hit, I lost my job like most people in the food industry. I still remember to this day when I came in that morning and made my production. The chef was like, ‘We’re going to close for a week.’ And that week never ended,” Corpuz recalls.
“If COVID didn’t happen, I’ll be honest, the way this trajectory would have gone would be very traditional where you grind away and try to prove yourself to your chef and work your way up. COVID plus the show, plus me opening my own shop—the fact that this all happened in the span of two and a half years, this hyper growth is unseen. It’s quite exciting but also quite scary in the very back of my mind.”
A passion for Paris-Brest
The Paris-Brest collection that Corpuz and Half Saints came up with features three unusual flavor combinations. The Pistachio, Cardamom, Bergamot Paris-Brest has the beautiful profile of the pistachio in the cream and is finished with a fine mist of bergamot to tickle the senses when you open the box.
Another uses espresso, azuki beans, and almonds, a clear inspiration from Half Saints’ recent exploration in Tokyo. But one Paris-Brest illustrates a clear Filipino classic in Corpuz’s mind.
“Sans rival is a classic dessert here. It has sheets of meringue, cake, buttercream, and cashew. The reason why it resonates with me growing up is that every year for my birthday, I would have a sans rival. It got to the point I would make my own sans rival. Even up to this day, I have a sans rival bonbon. When we were making this Paris-Brest, Christine suggested using pili nuts, which have a fatty and smooth flavor. So it has a caramelized white chocolate loaded with cashew and pili nuts on the side. It looks like a sans rival only in a round form,” Corpuz recounts.
“Each Paris-Brest reflects our personalities,” Roque chimes in.
Corpuz, at 24 years old and speaking beyond his years, says, “At the end of the day, the market is Darwin-esque where only the strong will survive. Putting it in terms of collaboration, both parties are invested to both grow and share ideas. Each person of course has a different experience and a different specialty. So we’re all able to learn from each other. And that’s how you really grow.”
And if this first collaboration already yielded a strong statement, imagine where they’ll transport you next with their future joint creations.