May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, an annual celebration of Asian culture and history in the United States. Despite becoming an officially acknowledged month in the late 1970s, observance of AAPI Heritage Month has been less common than other moments of national cultural reflection.
When we reached out to our community to connect with folks about AAPI Heritage Month, one of our members said, “I did not know this month existed. What is it and how do people celebrate it?” AAPI heritage is not just lived experience but living history. And, after a year of increased anti-Asian violence and the current COVID crisis in India, this AAPI Heritage Month we feel it is vital to demonstrate our solidarity with Asian American Pacific Islander communities and uplift the AAPI folks we are lucky enough to have as part of the Hot Bread Kitchen community.
One of those people is Jesebel Gumogda, the founder and owner of Pure Confections and a member of Hot Bread Kitchen’s small business community. Jesebel shared with us her experience of being a Filipina immigrant entrepreneur and creating a family legacy through her business, which recently launched on delivery platform Shef! Read Jesebel’s story below and click here to order desserts for delivery in NYC.
“When I was in college and high school, I had entrepreneurship in my system. I came to the U.S. right after I graduated from college. It was bittersweet. I only had a month before I had to leave. I didn’t have time to absorb it and say farewells. I thought I would just come here for a little while and go back to the Philippines, and I’ve been here for ten years.
It was shocking when I first got here, a big adjustment for me to live in a totally different culture. But working in the restaurant industry was not culture shock because I studied culinary arts in school. When I moved to NYC I got assigned to a pastry department. I think pastry has worked out because I have such a creative mind. Pastry has a delicate aspect, and I have a lot of patience.
“This AAPI Heritage Month, I want to see how people represent themselves authentically. In my case, I’m in the food industry, so I want people to know what is really authentic Asian food.”Jesebel Gumogda, Pure Confections
Five years into working in the restaurant industry, my coworker asked me to make a cake for his son’s birthday. I did it, and word spread and I kept getting new orders. I juggled that for five years on top of my restaurant job. I would go home after work and bake. After I got 300 cake orders in a year, that’s the time that I realized I was ready to start my own business. I felt done learning in the restaurant industry and like I had reached the highest level I could. And when I did something [in the restaurant industry], I didn’t really get the credit for it. I wanted people to know that a Filipina girl made this—a Filipina pastry chef made this.
“I want to see people celebrated through food. Food is really the highlight of any celebration.”Jesebel Gumogda, Pure Confections
I felt like the only way I could take back lost time I missed spending with friends and family was to run my own business. For me, owning a business is something that I wanted to start as a legacy for my family. We never really owned anything. I wanted to start something that I could own–not only for my future children, but for my siblings and nieces and nephews. I wanted to inspire them that they can do more; you don’t have to work for somebody else your whole life.
When I moved here, as an immigrant, I felt small at the beginning. I do speak English, but nobody really gets you. I think AAPI Heritage Month—well, I never really noticed it before, to be honest. But now, with everything going on, I think it’s very important to highlight it. It’s going to create some support and awareness for the community. The Filipino community here can be very quiet and subtle, but when things like [recent anti-Asian attacks] happen, people know how to speak up and stand up for each other and support each other.
This AAPI Heritage Month, I want to see how people represent themselves authentically. In my case, I’m in the food industry, so I want people to know what is really authentic Asian food. It can also be integrated with American food, but with a twist of my own heritage. I want to see people celebrated through food. Food is really the highlight of any celebration.”