Meet the Chocolate Girls
Every day, around 8,000 to 10,000 pieces of at least 17 types of exquisite, handmade chocolate confections roll out of the Chocolate Room at the famed Peninsula Boutique at the lower level of The Peninsula Manila.
With flavors such as milk, white and dark ganache, vanilla, raspberry, caramel mocha, milk honey, white honey, hazelnut ganache and honey truffle, the handmade chocolates are sure to satisfy the most discerning of tastes and the most discriminating of chocoholics.
No surprise then that for many hotel guests of The Peninsula, a stay is never complete without a taste of these delectable goodies that provide a natural, calorific high. Many Japanese guests, for example, even make it a point to bring back home a box of the exquisite chocolate pralines – the perfect present for family and friends.
Chocoholics may not be aware of it, but these perfect confections are produced by the hotel’s famous Chocolate Girls who have less than perfect hearing. Parcenet Llaet and Estelita Marcial, both of them deaf, allow their creamy creations to speak for them and proclaim their unique abilities.
Llaet and Marcial are skilled graduates of the Philippine School for the Deaf and the National Education Center. The two have reached their status as master chocolatiers because of their passion to learn from the best pastry chefs of the hotel. As most of the hotel guests can attest, being hearing-impaired has not prevented these girls from becoming the best chocolate artisans around.
The Peninsula Manila GM Sonja F. Vodusek reveals that the Chocolate Girls have become synonymous with the hotel since they have been part of it since it opened its doors 35 years ago in 1976.
“From the day we opened our doors, The Peninsula has made it its policy to seek affirmative action and hire the differently-abled,” says Vodusek, adding that many of the other employees of the five-star hotel have learned basic sign language because of the Chocolate Girls.
The Chocolate Girls quietly go about their work in the Chocolate Room to meet the hotel guests’ incessant demand for a sugar rush. Other diners meanwhile want a sweet ending to their meals, adding to the demand for the excellent goodies.
The Peninsula earns an average of P30,000 a day from the sweet confections, each done by hand by the Chocolate Girls who have learned from the best but have also been able to put their own stamp on their creations, which include the chocolate art pieces that go on top of cakes and pastries.
The bestselling chocolate flavors, says Vodusek, are dark, milk and white truffles, the rum and Cointreau truffles, and the crème de banana, strawberry, caramel and hazelnut pralines.
Of the hotel’s 830 employees, only the two Chocolate Girls are differently-abled, although The Peninsula Manila remains the only hotel in the city that has maintained its time-honored tradition of hiring the differently-abled among its staff.
Photographs courtesy of The Peninsula Manila