Chef prodigy bakes to success


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Mikaylah Cayanan (center) and nine classmates were awarded a scholarship that funds a culinary trip to Italy this summer. Culinary arts majors Elizabeth Clay (left) and Ronaldo De La Cruz (right) celebrate Cayanan as she is announced as one of the scholarship winners during the Food and Wine event on Sunday.

By Jenna Husic, Advocate Staff

Culinary arts student Mikaylah Cayanan is a force to be reckoned with when she settles into a kitchen.

Before joining the culinary arts department at Contra Costa College, she had overcome many potential setbacks since arriving n the Bay Area in 2010 from the Philippines.

Her difficulty began before leaving for America when her parents split up and it was even harder to leave her life behind and move across the Pacific Ocean with just her mom and brother after the divorce.

She left her father and most of her family back in the Philippines.

Cayanan said it took about two years before she was fully adjusted to living in this country.

She said, “I set daily goals. That’s what helped me get through school and life.”

Her most difficult adaptation to make was to the people and culture.

She said there are many cultures and a more diverse population in comparison with the Philippines.

Another difficulty that she had to overcome was the distance from her family back home.

She said, “I often get homesick. I have not been back since I first came out here in 2010.”

Cayanan is a sophomore this year and is looking forward to graduating at the end of this semester.

She came to CCC almost two years ago with the intention of majoring in business.

The culinary arts major settled on that for her major up until the last day before school started.

She said, “Something told me to just follow my gut and change all of my classes to culinary. I have loved it since.”

She enjoys baking and hopes to take that as far as she can. Her dream job would be to open up a cafe where can sell homemade cakes and pastries, but feels blessed to be in the culinary department.

The department really focuses on the importance of running a restaurant, serving, busing and dish washing, she said.

The courses and internships brought out a side of Cayanan that even she wasn’t familiar with.

She said, “I used to be super shy and now I can speak to anyone. The key is patience. Always being patient and setting small daily goals helped me out a lot.”

The two biggest agendas on her list include the annual Food and Wine event and the Italy Scholarship announcement. The annual Food and Wine event occurred on Sunday.

The culinary department hosts it every year in order to raise funds and donations for the 10 student scholarships funding their travel and study abroad in Italy this summer.

Ten culinary students are awarded study-abroad scholarships every year.

They receive a two-week trip to Italy where they get to study and practice their culinary craft in a foreign country.

Requirements for the scholarship include an essay and interview with the department faculty, along with other qualifications.

Working the Food and Wine event is also a part of the qualifications.

During the event, culinary students cater to restaurants and vendors in hopes of raising money through donations to the department.

At the event Sunday, Cayanan was awarded one of the scholarships for this year, so she will be venturing to Italy this summer.

Based on her leadership and baking skills, she will be attending the summer trip and experiencing new cooking styles in Italy.

“I am very excited; still in awe, but also happy all the hard work paid off,” Cayanan said of winning the scholarship.

The sophomore spends a lot of her time in the kitchen.

“I love to bake. I come to school and I stay here all day. I’m here almost 12 hours every day,” she said.

She does a lot for the culinary arts department including helping with the Pronto and the Aqua Terra Grill.

Culinary arts major Christine Sanok said Cayanan was entrusted with prepping all the trays with the measured ingredients for culinary arts department Chairperson Nader Sharkes by her third semester here.

“The thing that sticks out to Sanok is the patience and respect that Cayanan carries.

She said, “Mikaylah has been an inspiration to me, personally. I believe she can be successful in just about anything in life.”

Cayanan said since her passion for baking is there, it makes it more fun to be in the kitchen all day. That is pretty much all she does right now.

“I don’t have any hobbies outside of culinary (efforts). I am in pursuit of graduating and hopefully traveling,” Cayanan said.

She would like to get a job as a flight attendant where she can travel the world and see life from a different perspective.