Ileana Jacquez: I’m Ileana Jacquez, and I’m a pastry chef. What inspired me to become a pastry chef was that at my high school, Incarnate Word Academy, we had a career day and I was actually into the interior designing, but a pastry chef came by and she made a cake for Matthew McConaughey. That really triggered my inspiration to become a pastry chef.
I always liked making 3D items. Ever since I was in high school and middle school included, I would be into sculpting, creating a ballerina from papier-mâché, Dia de Los Muertos mask and I felt as if cakes was another challenge to add. It was adding edibles to that 3D experience. If it doesn’t turn out well, you know it.
There’s science behind it and math. I’m actually dyslexic, so cake has actually brought me out of that shell to become better at my math. I had a hard time in school with dyslexia. What really helped me was the fractions behind it, the cups, the teaspoons, the ounces, the fluid ounces, and in school, they really pushed you to know these fractions because everything, there is a science and math behind it.
The teachers were fantastic and the teacher that taught us was Chef Eddy van Damme. It’s actually one of the pastry books that I have right now. He was the best pastry chef that you could possibly have in Houston.
The first pastry class that I took was Basic Fundamentals of Baking and the first pastry that I ever made was cookies and I burned those to a crisp. The best pastry I ever made was a crème brûlée. It was amazing and to die for.
Actually, funny story was, I took it home that day. I was living with my parents, my brother and my sister, and I let my parents have the whole pie except for one little slice. I decided to save that for at that time, my boyfriend, which is my husband now, and as soon as I went to take a nap, I woke up and the whole pie, plus the slice I cut, was gone. I thought I was losing my mind. Three months later, my brother admitted that he finished the whole entire thing. I [chuckles] was so livid but laughing at the same time.
When I make cakes, it’s actually for family members, friends of friends, referrals, weddings, birthdays, baby showers, all of the parties you can imagine that I can make cakes for.
The largest order that I ever had was feeding 300 people. It was actually right out of pastry school. I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t go to bed until 6:00 AM that day, because I was hustling to make that cake, and it turned out beautiful. It was a three-tier cake and it was pretty huge. That time I had an oven that’s made in the 1930s. That’s what I was baking from and the oven is literally this small. That oven couldn’t fit a 16-inch cake pan so I had to drive all the way to my grandmother’s house just to make that cake fit. That was my first wedding cake.
In my future, I really want to open up my own pastry shop called Jacquez’s Cafe and I actually want to have cakes, cupcakes, cake pops there, but also alongside lemon cake rolls or even pumpkin rolls. That’s really my goal in life. In our plan in future is to actually live in France or even Rome, so I can study there for a couple of months as a pastry chef.