TACLOBAN CITY (Philippines) -A native of this city is slowly making waves in New York and as they say, “when you make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.”
This could appear to be the trajectory of Jesuit Paul Nugas, a registered nurse by profession but is engaging in cake decoration in his new adopted city of New York.
During the 3rd Annual New York Cake Show held on May 3, this year, the 31-year old Nugas bested 40 others in clinching the grand prize, which has a cash prize of USD1,000 and the pride of being recognized in the field, at least even for a year.
“I am always a silver medalist in the competitions I joined in the Philippines, but I am overwhelmed as my wedding cake was adjudged as the best in the recent New York Cake Show,” Nugas said excitedly over the phone.
His wedding cake design won the top plum as Best of New York Cake Show and Gold Medal.
Nugas was the first Filipino to top the competition, which is now on its third year running. It was held at the Radisson Hotel in Rochelle, NY and hosted by Lisa Mansour under the flagship of her cake supplies store, the NY Cake Store.
NY Cake Store is the pioneer in the cake ingredients and cake decorating supply business in New York. The event was co-sponsored by Satin Ice, a big producer of ready to use fondant and gum paste.
“I got the highest point grade across all levels and categories that’s why they gave me the best of the show award,” said Nugas.
The winning cake
Nugas described his creation as a four-tier cake decorated with run out icing, delicate filigree, pailettes and the fine extension string work.
“The highlights of the cake are the sugar flowers which I handcrafted individually. I thinned out each petal and arranged it to mimic the botanically correct flowers, then dried and dusted them to achieve its natural colors,” he said.
The cake was so intricate that it took him two months just to finish the flowers that bedecked the cake.
For the topper design, he did a bird’s nest adorned with lily of the valley flowers, which symbolizes purity and a vine of stephanotis flowers which symbolizes marital happiness.
Nugas spent a lot in attending classes, getting the supplies together and in practices.
While he is working as a nurse at the Albany Medical Center, he still finds time to study cake making as he enrolled in a pastry school owned by renowned Ron Ben Israel.
Saying cake making is his “passion,” it was his friend Joanne Weineke, a baker based in Connecticut, who encouraged him to continue the art.
Nugas said that what makes his winning in New York more sweeter (pun intended) was, he won the first prize compared to his runner ups in the competitions he joined in the Philippines.
“I only got the silver medals in the four competitions I joined in the Philippines. This time, I won the gold medal and in a foreign land. I am overwhelmed. Never give up on your dreams,” Nugas said.
The judges were Betty Van Norstrand – a gold medalist in the World Pastry Olympics and hailed as the queen of sugar flowers; Joelle Mahoney, a multi-awarded cake designer and one of the top decorators in the US and Lisa Mansour, co-founder of New York Cake Academy.
Nugas took up nursing at St. Scholastica’s College in Tacloban City. After passing the nursing board examination, he attended the baking and pastry classes at Heny Sison in Manila.
“My winning opened doors for me. I am offered teaching opportunities and working with a cake decorator who caters to the higher-end clients of Manhattan,” Nugas happily shared.
He said part of his plan is to join the cake international show in London.
“I am also planning to put up my shop in the future but that’s not coming along soon. I will be in the nurse practitioner program this Fall,” Nugas said.
He went to New York in 2012 and now works as clinical nurse specialist in a surgical unit at Albany Medical Center.
BY VICKY ARNAIZ/PNA
About the author:
Tacloban-based journalist Vicky Arnaiz writes mainly at Philippine Daily Inquirer, Leyte Samar Daily Express, Philippine News Agency and Eastern Visayas (EV)-Mail.