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Women of Pearls: MIko Calo, Chef of Metronome

It was only recently when women chefs began to take over the world’s most renowned restaurants. When Metronome’s Chef Miko Calo decided that a career in the food business was her calling, female chefs helming the kitchen was not very common. “Pursuing this career and really dedicating myself to learning and gaining experience, being able to carve my own space in a place dominated by men was my way of breaking the mold,” shares Miko.


After working at la table de Joël Robuchon in France, Miko is now back home. Menus she creates for Manila’s hippest fine dining concept, Metronome, are elevated culinary experiences not to be missed when in town. She also recently launched a takeaway food brand, Lazy Oeuf, which reimagines French flavors within the context of at home dining. Whether whipping up Truffle and Brie burger to-go or plating a gorgeous Boeuf Bourguignon, Miko’s take on food can be likened to pearls—decidedly simple, elegant and enduringly beautiful.



What keeps you busy these days?


Mostly work. Metronome is open five days a week. We also have a take away brand, Lazy Oeuf by Metronome, which was launched at the start of the pandemic.


How did you come to find your current career or life’s work?


Being a chef was not a conscious choice when I entered college. It was pretty serendipitous. I didn’t get into the university I applied for nor did I really know what I wanted to do. I got into St. Scholastica's Hotel and Restaurant Management Course and this was when I realized that I could make a career out of cooking. I was most comfortable, excited and interested during my kitchen lab classes.        



What is it about your work or career that you enjoy most? 


I love feeding people and seeing people enjoy my cooking. I also love the buzz of a restaurant full of people enjoying their meal 


What do you consider to be “hazards of the job?”


Aside from the obvious physical hazards of working in the kitchen (like burning yourself on an almost regular basis, or cutting yourself), there are other hazards like back problems from standing all day. There is also mental and emotional stress from having to meet “deadlines” by the minute or second. if you don’t take care of yourself, you can get burned out quickly.



For women who aspire for similar careers, what would be your advice?


Never be afraid to speak up and claim your space. If you think you deserve that promotion, say it. Being tough in the kitchen doesn't mean you can't embrace your femininity. And being a woman should limit you to doing 'lighter' work in the kitchen.




What are the career milestones that inspire you to break the glass or mold?


When I was younger, there weren’t a lot of women chefs I could look up to. Pursuing this career and really dedicating myself to learning and gaining my experience, being able to carve my own space in a place dominated by men, was my way of breaking the mold.


As for career milestones, there are probably two instances. When I joined the pre opening team of a hotel here in the Philippines my sous chef was a woman. She was so strong, so smart and knew how to manage a male-dominated kitchen. Plus, she was actually still working until the third trimester of her pregnancy!  Second is when I did my stage (internship) at la table de Joël Robuchon. This was where I saw all the possibilities and opportunities I had. On my first week, most of the stagiaires were women, and they were not limited to pastry or the cold kitchen. These are the two stark instances that encouraged me to push on



How do you balance work and family life? What are activities that enable you to bond with family?


If by family you mean my own children and a husband, I don’t have any of those. My fiancé and I are very supportive of each other’s careers and life goals. And we value each other’s autonomy. As for my family, parents, siblings, cousins, we’re very close and we communicate constantly.



How do you unwind or rewind? Any favorite spots in your current city that you consider as your me-time haven?


I usually stay in bed longer on the days when I don’t have work. I also make sure that I work out at least three-four times a week. When I can, I go home to Butuan and plan a beach trip with my cousins. We usually go to Surigao or to beaches that are not so touristy. As for a favorite spot in the city, it's probably a nail salon for an all out mani pedi, or just my room—on my bed with my cats! 



How would you describe your personal style? What are three your wardrobe essentials? 


I like to be comfortable. Most of my clothes are basic, black and functional. Wardrobe essentials would be a nice black shirt, black trousers, a big bag and a nice pair of brogues/sandals or pointed flats and my favorite perfume.


What makes for a good investment piece? Kindly cite examples of pieces in your current wardrobe.


A pair of Lanvin loafers, which I bought from an online vintage store. I don’t really spend much on clothes. My knives are more expensive than my clothes. 



What do pearls mean to you? 


Pearls are such a classic. For me it encompasses trends. Since most of my clothes are black and basic, a nice pair of pearl earrings are a perfect way to dress it up. I like pearls because they look so simple and classy but it takes so much to create a single pearl. 


In a way, it's like the food I make for Metronome, on the plate, it looks simple, straight forward and pretty, but for us to be able to get to that point, its takes a whole lot of production, balance and discipline in cooking.