From Classroom to Culinary Success: Pong and Gia’s Love Story


At CCA Manila, culinary dreams are nurtured into reality, the story of Pong and Gia beautifully illustrates how the school is more than just a place for culinary education—it’s a venue where lasting relationships are formed. Here’s their journey, in their exact words, reflecting the unique blend of personal and professional growth that CCA Manila fosters.


Meeting at CCA Manila

Gia: Pong and I met during his first day welcoming the new students. He was the new student and I was the student body president welcoming them into the new year and school year. This was January 2018.

Pong: My initial impression of Gia was fun, outgoing, and responsible.

Gia: My initial impression of Pong was that he was smart, a bad boy type, and for sure to excel in his classes.


A Moment That Brought Them Closer

Both: We got closer during our culinary field trip to Ilocos.


Supporting Each Other Academically and Personally

Pong: Since Gia was the higher batch I would ask her questions and tips on how to do better in my class since she experienced it already. I would also wait for her after her classes or comprehensive (final exam) practices and ask if she would like to have dinner with me.


The Impact of CCA Manila on Their Relationship

Gia: It shaped us both to create a friendship we formed during our time in CCA. It helped us grow as chefs individually and as a couple. He became my best friend.




Inspiration Behind Starting a Food Business

Gia: We started our food business in 2020 during the pandemic then took a break and worked in the restaurant business for 2 years being mentored by Chef Sau Del Rosario to hone our skills more. So we’re back and we’ve rebranded our business for 2024, we wanted to do something that we both enjoy doing and that is feeding people. CCA taught us how to start your business from scratch— from costing, ingredients, supplies, quality, and food safety.


Balancing Their Professional and Personal Relationship

Both: We don’t take our personal lives in the kitchen. Usually, when we work it’s only work. If we have a problem with service we talk about it afterwards. We learned not to take it against each other since it is just work.



Advice for Couples Starting a Food Business

Gia: Play to your strengths. Usually, in a relationship, one is better at something than the other. That is what we did with our food venture since he is better with the creative and food side and I am better with the management and marketing side. So we both focused on those roles in the business, but of course, we still helped each other in the kitchen with preparing the ingredients and cooking. We are still one team.


Evolution from Students to Business Partners

Both: Food is our love language and most things we do involve food and revolve around food. When we were students we enjoyed creating food for our instructors, friends, and family but as we matured and got married we focused more on the business side of food which made our bond stronger with the challenges we encountered.



Memorable Meals

Pong: It wasn’t any dish made in class but the pancit canton with a soft-boiled egg that Gia made for me when my class and I set up and prepared for the grand buffet while she practiced for her comprehensive. It made me realize she kind of likes me.

Gia: It was our sushi date after classes because I realized he wanted to try to court me.


Future Plans and Dreams

Both: Our goal was always our very own restaurant, not just running as executive chefs but owning it. We were able to realize our culinary goals and dreams with CCA. So we owe it a lot to the school.



Soy Miso Salmon Recipe

Pong and Gia also shared a favorite recipe they offer in their business!

Soy Miso Salmon


Salmon Fillet, clean, with skin: 1 whole side (approximately 2.2 pounds or 1000g)

Soy Sauce: 9 tablespoons (135g)

Miso Paste: 3.5 tablespoons (50g)

Japanese Mayo: 2/3 tablespoon (10g)

Sugar: 2.5 teaspoons (10g)

Ginger, grated: 2.5 tablespoons (40g)

Leeks, thinly sliced: 1/4 cup (30g)

Spring Onions, chopped: 1/2 Cup (125g)



  1. Preheat oven to 150°C or 302°F.
  2. Prepare the Salmon: Lay the salmon flat and optionally cure it with equal parts of salt and sugar. Leave it on for 4 to 6 hours, then wash it thoroughly. This step is optional but recommended for added flavor.
  3. Make the Glaze: In a bowl, mix the soy sauce, miso paste, Japanese mayo, grated ginger, and sugar until well combined.
  4. Glaze the Salmon: Apply the soy mixture generously over the salmon. Place it on a flat pan lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake: Cook the salmon in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 125°F or 50°C then rest for 5 minutes. The carry-over heat will make the internal temperature to 130°F or 54°C.
  6. Garnish: After baking, garnish the salmon with thinly sliced leeks and chopped spring onions. Optional garnishes like bonito flakes and nori powder can also be added for extra flavor and presentation.


Does Pong and Gia’s story inspire you? Do you dream of transforming your culinary passion into a successful career or starting your own food business? CCA Manila’s Diploma in Culinary Arts & Technology Management could be your first step towards making those dreams a reality. Learn from the best, experience real-world culinary challenges, and build a strong foundation for your future.


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