Words by: Rhea Topacio
We all have dreams. Some about wealth, and others about seeing the world. It differs from what we value the most in our lives. For Aaron Ponce, one of his dreams will impact our society and the Filipino heritage the most.
When I first spoke to Aaron, I immediately realized how interesting and intelligent he is! I haven’t spoken to a real doctorate of anthropology before. I was very curious about why an anthropologist would be interested in baking or cooking. What is the connection? Among all the hobbies, why baking? Slowly, Aaron unraveled his love for food and society.
A native of Antipolo, Rizal, Aaron is a graduate of the University of the Philippines and now currently residing with his partner in Brussels, Belgium. He is a Doctorate-Assistant at the Université libre de Bruxelles and is also a trainee boulanger-pâtissier at the Centre d’Enseignement et Recherche des Industries Alimentaires et Chimiques (CERIA) in Brussels. His love for cooking, not just baking, stems back from his grandmother’s roots in Chinese food and his mother who used to have a fruit-cake business. Naturally, if you are surrounded by food, bakers, and chefs in the family, you would want to try to help them prepare, cook and of course, enjoy the food. This experience influenced him to dream bigger as a Filipino in Europe.
I was curious about him being a man of science, so Aaron began talking about anthropology. He said, “Anthropology is the study of our origins, society, and cultures and there are more emotions on a single relic than you think. Artifacts represent how earlier people lived. How were they used? Why is that pot or vase there, why these are the ones left for us to find? There is always a story behind these. We try to understand what they felt at that time and what they went through,” he explained. According to him, these findings also show where they sourced their food, how they cooked, and how they ate. And in the future, he wants to be a part of that history.
Aaron wants to be known in the baking and food industry with his very creative fusions. He is introducing Filipino flavors in Belgium and to the rest of Europe. According to him,
His first stop: Belgian waffles with Filipino sweets as toppings. Belgians are known for their soft yet crunchy waffles. They are thicker than the usual waffle in other countries and the deep pockets give more space for toppings. Aaron then uses Ube (Purple Yam) halaya, Buko Pandan (Coconut Pandan) cream, and Philippine Mango confit to compliment the taste of these waffles. With these creations, he brought 2 traditional cuisines in one, proving that Filipino and Belgian tastes are compatible.
This could be the beginning of a generation where Belgians or other Europeans can distinctly identify Filipino food from other Asian cuisines, and will know what original Filipino food tastes like. To experience the distinct flavors that, unlike our Asian neighbors, Pinoy dishes are neither too bland, nor too spicy, nor too salty: seasoned just enough to enjoy the natural taste of the ingredients, devour the texture, and satisfy your cravings. We are looking forward to Aaron’s dream coming true and for future anthropologists to find out how Filipino food reached and blended in with native European cuisine. When this happens, Aaron Ponce is a name we will see as one of the pioneers in history.
Currently, Aaron is the proud owner of Purple Waffle in Belgium. Know more about Aaron Ponce and learn more recipes by following him on social media.