On the Table: Chef Cristina Santiago-Rivera

By franco on 1 October, 2007

Maybe culinary talent is in the genes after all? Daughter of Melo Santiago of Melo’s Steakhouse fame, Chef Cristina Santiago-Rivera creates amazing cakes and pastries that hook you from the first bite. After culinary school, Chef Cristina returned to Manila to work at her father’s restaurant, heading Melo’s dessert station. Receiving compliment after compliment, she took it as a sign to introduce her delicious version of the dessert bar with her own business, Sweet Bella.

Who in your life has influenced your cooking/baking the most?

I come from a family who loves to cook and eat. My dad, Melo Santiago of Melo’s Steakhouse loves to cook and my mom loves to bake. They have both inspired me.

Which book has had the biggest impact?

Biggest impact would be training directly under Pastry Chef Bo Friberg at California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. I bought all his books after i graduated.

What was your first job in the food business?

I worked at a Patisserie in San Francisco called Jill’s Cafe.

When did you decide to open Sweet Bella for business?

While I was working at our family business at Melo’s Restaurant, I would get a lot of compliments on the plated desserts that I would create. When I saw that our social society was ready for a Dessert Bar, I took the opportunity.

What is your favorite item on the your menu?

This is a tough question to answer since I love all of them. Chocolate is my first passion, so I would say Raspberry Truffle and Chocolatta.

Which restaurant meal (foreign or local) do you remember the most?

Blowfish at Santana Row in San Jose, California. I love the sushi, maki and the ambiance.

Besides your own place, what’s your favorite restaurant in Manila?

Where else can you get the best steak and Angus Rice but Melo’s. I also like the salads at Tony Romas.

What junk food do you love?

Ice Cream!

Is there a food you just can’t seem to enjoy?

I basically eat everything but I do think I can ever try Durian.

Just between us, what are your future plans?

We are planning to open a Patisserie and Cafe in 2008.

Sweet Bella Cakes & Pastries
1730 Banyan Street

Dasmarinas Village

Makati City

Telephone: (02) 844-0680

Cel Phone: (0928) 5025027

Thank you to Chef Cristina for providing us with her photograph




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  • OCTOBER 1, 2007 10:00 PM

    docchef said... sweet bella a resto.. i mean theres tables and chairs?... whats the opening hours?

  • OCTOBER 1, 2007 10:36 PM

    Franco said...

    Hi docchef,

    Sadly no.

    We will all have to wait until she opens her Patisserie in 2008. :(

  • OCTOBER 2, 2007 4:14 AM

    mtan said...

    Tried some of her pastries during Pink Kitchen; another addition to the growing sweets/cakes/chocolates on offer in Manila.

  • OCTOBER 8, 2007 3:36 PM

    margauxlicious said...

    yeah at pink kitchen her cakes were ... wow ... like ... w-o-w!

  • OCTOBER 8, 2007 3:38 PM

    margauxlicious said...

    docchef you can order from her. i'd put her on speed dial. prozac alternative. ;)