Meg Ruiz Agunod’s year so far, like many in the country and around the world, has not been as good as she hoped. On top of dealing with a life-disrupting pandemic like everyone else, she is one of the thousands of employees let go due to the non-renewal of a TV network’s franchise.
When one door closes, however, another one opens. Coping with job insecurity and the threat of a disease-causing virus has led Meg to discover a new hobby—baking cheesecakes.
“It was a hobby on the side to divert negativity, turn it around, and make something better out of it,” she tells MB Life. “I baked for family and friends only and saw how much they liked it. They believed in the cheesecakes and encouraged me to let others experience it, too.”
Enter Leon and Luna Cheesecakes, Meg’s way to share her take on cheesecakes. The online shop offers distinctly Filipino flavors that promise the taste of nostalgia in a cheesecake tub—ube, which capitalizes on the winning combination of rich purple yam and creamy cheese; and bibingka, a twist to the classsic kakanin that’s coconut flavor-infused, and topped with salted egg and more toasted coconut.
“I chose these particular flavors because they’re different from the usual cheesecake toppings and they cater to titos and titas of Manila, which is currently my circle due to my age,” the 35-year-old baker jokes. “Even senior citizens approve, too, because they’re not too sweet and the flavors are reminiscent of the good ol’ holidays.”
Meg herself says these flavors are not unique to Leon and Luna, but the quality and taste of its cheesecakes that feel like home could well be its advantage among others as the marketing manager-turned-entrepreneur only bakes small batches every weekend using her trusty 32 liter oven.
“When I opened up [the shop] to others, it wasn’t my intention to produce massively or commercially. As cliché as it sounds, it wasn’t about selling a lot for the money but really more of the enjoyment I got from seeing and hearing how others love our products,” she says. “I wanted to stay true to baking a limited number of cheesecakes with a mindset that I’m baking for a close friend or a family member. It meant giving time and focus on each cheesecakes that eventually become part of our customer’s intimate gatherings.”
The result is a community of ambassadors for the brand as Meg lets “their experience speak for our cheesecakes.” She says feedback from customers also give her ideas on what to tweak in her products.
“Our cheesecakes are what they are right now because it involved a lot of trial and errors,” she adds. “We genuinely listen and take into account customer feedbacks to keep on improving.”
On what flavors customers can look forward to, Meg says she’ll stay true to nostalgic flavors. “We’ll walk down memory lane for you,” she says. “[We will] bring up childhood favorites. Just wait for it.”
For now, Meg hopes their cheesecakes “bring you to a happy place, a place that lets you forget all that worry for a while and savor that moment” and “memories of family and love through bibingkas eaten during Christmas or ube halaya eaten during summers spent in the province.”
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