Opinion

Brown Belt Baker

By George Pastor

Whenever I am in a job interview, two things usually catch the interviewer’s attention: first would be my being a Judoka who competed in tournaments at the national level, and second would be that I bake. Yes I bake, but more on that later.

In the simplest sense, Judo is a form of martial arts where the objective is to throw, pin, choke or force your opponent to tap out before they can do the same to you. I always include in my resume my time as a Judoka (a practitioner of Judo), who actively competed under the Ateneo Judo Association.  Although   I did well regularly in these competitions, my stints in Judo were not limited to them. I also acted as a student coach in the PE Judo program after the UAAP season, which I did for two seasons. It was during the second season that I was able to coach the team to a championship. Through those experiences, I learned that I thoroughly enjoyed teaching others about the joys of Judo. If you can get college students to start throwing their classmates around without breaking a few bones, then you’ll understand how fulfilling it really is. From this, I found that my calling is towards a career in Human Resources, which would enable me to help others gain the necessary skills to do their tasks well.

In 2009, I tried my hand in baking. I started with my cousin’s recipe for macaroons and used a toaster oven, since I did not yet own a more conventional one for baking. This all happened one Sunday afternoon when I had a lot of free time and a serious craving for something new to eat. Through a lot of product testing, I developed my own secret recipe that others found to be actually quite good. Sensing an opportunity, I started selling them at school at a much lower price than I do now. After a successful holiday selling experience, I decided to experiment more and come up with new flavors, majority of which stayed on to become permanent flavors. After coming up with the name “WTFudge” (which came to me during, I kid you not, a communion service) I started to take baking seriously by marketing my products through Facebook and constantly making the rounds of free samples to attract more buyers. From there, my small business was formed.

How then, does judo relate to baking?

I really wish I could give you some deep and profound answer… “like the practice of baking and different strokes in mixing would help you develop the proper hand techniques in throws, or the act of baking itself will lead to spiritual enlightenment…”  but I can’t. To be honest, I don’t really know how they can be put side by side. What I can tell you is that, I’m glad that I learned those skills. I find that by being able to do such totally unrelated skills, I could expand my ability to learn other things, and not just Judo. Truth be told, I’m not the only one who finds it amusing.

Rewind to my interview at San Miguel Corporation:

Interviewer: So, you do judo AND bake?!

Me: Yes ma’am

Interviewer: What is this, High School Musical?

It’s amusing for me whenever people find out that I can bake. Let’s face it, macaroons, cupcakes and brownies aren’t exactly the manliest things to make. So whenever someone finds out that I can bake a damn good macaroon, they are more often than not, genuinely surprised. Even more so with people who know my background as a judoka. Suddenly, I have this whole new topic that I can discuss that I had no idea about 2-3 years ago! The thing with that though, is that everyone can do it.

Learning a new skill doesn’t really require much, except the ability to accept failure. Yes, failure. Why would I say that? Well, it is no easy task to learn something new, much less something that has no relation whatsoever to your existing skills. You will fail again and again and again, before you get it right. After that, you will fail again, because you try to keep doing it right. Only after some time and enough failures can any skill be used well. Although nobody wants to fail, failure is a stage in learning that everyone goes through.

What are the rewards of learning a new skill? Well that depends entirely on two things: The first would be the practical application of the skill, and the second would be how much value you yourself put into that skill. Let’s take my baking for example. I can earn from my macaroons and brownies. It was surprising how much money I could get from selling my creations. Depending on how much I bake, I could normally earn around 700 pesos a day, at the very least. This helps pay for a number of personal expenses. As for the value that I put into it, I get to experience some financial independence from my parents. It has also become a good conversational starter for me, as people are often surprised to find out that I now know not just martial arts, but culinary arts as well. Baking has also become a stress reliever during those times when I get frustrated. Nothing calms me down and clears my head like the times I spend alone in the kitchen, whisking away for whatever new pastry I want to try.

I could probably write more about how a new skill could become a life-changing experience for an individual or how rewarding it may be you, but you may not understand it yet. There are numerous stories out there of people who have achieved success by doing what they were never expected to do, and there are countless more of those who just simply tried. I could never fully explain in words what a new skill will do for you, since your experience will be much different from mine. All I can say is that learning how to bake proved to be quite useful for me. There’s no other way to experience something new but to simply do it – it’s the only way you’ll ever find out if it works for you.