Everything is a love story—if you believe Pauline Kael, the iconic film critic who famously summed up the formula of movies as “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”—so let’s begin this story with the bang bang of a kiss kiss.
Sheila Salcedo was an immigration officer stationed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport when she noticed that the arrival stamp of a departing passenger carried her signature. “Kuya,” she flashed him a smile, “sa akin ka pala dumaan pagdating mo.”
Miguel Enteria, a Filipino American who had just wrapped up his annual visit to his family in Manila, was disarmed at the stroke of luck—and by her smile. “Pero torpe ako, eh, so ngumiti lang din ako at umalis na.”
The following year, however, luck was on his side once more: Salcedo, with her charming good looks, unforgettable long hair and disarming smile, was the same immigration officer to whom he handed his American passport as he kickstarted his usual Philippine visit.
This time, he did not let the chance slip him by. He scribbled his email address on a slip of paper and handed it to her, mumbling something he himself cannot remember anymore. “Basta binigay ko lang ang email ko sa kanya.”
This was already the time of Yahoo Groups, and soon the two were getting to know each other online. They got married and started their new life together in Silicon Valley in California, where Enteria continues to enjoy a top leadership role in a semiconductor company.
Meanwhile, Salcedo reinvented herself as Mrs. Enteria, a homemaker. “Ang saya! Kasi ang ganda ng bahay namin,” she says with a laugh. Theirs, after all, is a cozy multistory house on a hillock with a panoramic view of verdant greenery fringed by trees in the distance.Soon enough, Salcedo knew what she wanted to do in this new chapter in her life. She got busy in the kitchen and made it her own domain. Don’t look now, but she has become the go-to for people in the know who crave homemade baked goodies that give Filipinos and Filipino Americans a taste of the old country: ensaimada, pan de sal, ube pan de sal, cheese rolls, tablea chocolate cake—you name it, she’ll bake it for you.
Her uncompromising stance when it comes to the best ingredients results in baked goodies that are the talk of the town. The word-of-mouth buzz has namedroppables dropping by to pick up their orders—or stay for the occasional dinner. Such personalities include Filipino politician Gilbert Teodoro, his wife Nikki and their son Jaime, who drove all the way from their digs at Menlo Park.
But then again, namedroppables were at Enteria and Salcedo’s church wedding at Santa Ana in Manila sometime ago: House Speaker Martin Romualdez, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Rep. Jose Aquino II.
They all troop to the Shenteria’s Kitchen in Northern California to have a bite of home. And then some.
California tap water
“She’s been at it since we were children,” her sister Salome Salcedo-Aquino says. “While all four of us sisters learned our mom’s closely guarded recipe for ensaimada while we were growing up, only Sheila had the audacity to experiment on the formula for several years and triumphed with an enhanced recipe.”
Buoyed by this achievement, Salcedo went on to take culinary classes under such masters as Heny Sison and Sylvia Reynoso-Gala.
“Even when I was working in Dubai for seven years, I had a side gig selling my signature tablea chocolate cake,” she recalls with pride.
And now, she finds herself much blessed in California. “California tap water is perfect for my baking,” she says. “I think it’s a key secret to the success of my little goodies.”
She also has easy access to top-of-the-line ingredients such as grass-fed butter and organic eggs and milk. And she’s within driving distance to an assortment of Asian stores that carry familiar Filipino ingredients or their equivalents.
“But as much as possible, I get my ube from the Philippines,” she discloses. INQ