She may have been number two in Pinoy Masterchef, but in the eyes of her family, 40-year old Carla Marcaida has come out a winner.
Her audition dish has since become the "carrier single," so to speak, in her one-year old business, Cyv's Gourmet Chicken, named after her youngest child.
For people living in Bulacan or nearby, they can get a taste of this very special dish, roasted chicken gourmet, as the business is located right under her house.
Pinoy Masterchef has given her 500,000-peso cash prize and a culinary scholarship at Center of Asian Culinary Studies, aside from the recognition of forever forming part of the first top four in Pinoy Masterchef.
Right now, she is looking at the option of Cyv's Gourmet Chicken for franchising or expanding it some more.
The venture is in partnership with her husband, who handles the front-end (store, accounting, administration) while she takes care of the kitchen.
She tells PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) during the show's press conference for the winners on February 14:
"Ang gusto niya, mag-open kami ng stores na puro maliliit, with roasted chicken, lechon kawali, crispy pata, and crispy chicken na parang Max's. 'Tapos, kapag may mas malaki na puhunan, bakeshop na."
She started cooking at the age of 9. And by age 11, she had learned how to cook spaghetti.
"Yung edad na abot ko na yung kalan, gagawin ng daddy ko, kukuha na siya na silya 'tapos ako na, andoon siya sa sala, ganoon ang training," recalling how her father would instruct her on getting garlic to a crispy brown, for starters.
The show has given Carla exposure for her business, "Mas makilala siya, yung mga suki ko sa village, na-prove nila na kaya pala masarap kasi mayroon talagang something."
She says that now, "Lalo nila hinahabol."
One other thing that the show has taught her is to be able to discriminate the others' cooking, to identify what goes into each dish, and to appreciate the preparation process.
WHEN SHE'S NOT COOKING... Carla watches cooking shows, and is an avid food magazine collector.
These "teachers" have helped her hone her skills, encouraging her to experiment with dishes, and try new things in her home kitchen.
She reveals that Heny Sison is a huge inspiration also, "Kasi, may baking siya, may cooking din, at maganda yung show niya dati sa IBC13. Nakadalawang notebook ako ha dahil sa show niya."
WHEN ASKED TO DESCRIBE THE FINALISTS. Of her fellow top four finalists, Carla shares that while people may see Myra Santos as demure, "Demure lang ang dating, tahimik pero loka-loka din 'yan. Kay Ivory [Yat], talagang loka-loka na 'eto, e. Siya yung paalaga. Ang kalat niya sa bahay," she chuckles, within earshot of said Ivory who couldn't help but nod heartily in agreement.
Her closest competition, grand winner JR Royol, is someone she can joke around with, easily swapping quips and jokes with him.
This hip, food-loving mom can't resist "yung tamang luto ng kare-kare, yung kahit walang ngipin, makakain mo, 'tapos may bagoong, all natural."
She reveals that she makes these all on her own, even crushing the peanut that is used to add texture and depth to this signature Filipino dish. For her, "walang shortcut."