by Connie Macatula-DeLeon, ABS-CBN News
CHICAGO, IL — As a child, Jen Vailoces looked up to her mother, who spent most of her time in their kitchen, cooking and baking.
Although she is a physical therapist by profession, Jen says she is a baker by passion.
“This has been a long time dream. I’ve always had a passion for baking and desserts and I finally made this happen,” she told BA.
What was just a dream became a reality last Sunday, when Jennivee’s Bakery officially opened.
Strategically located in the heart of Chicago, just walking distance to Wrigley Field and Boystown — Chicago’s active gay and lesbian community — Jennivee’s Bakery is the first bakery in Chicago owned by a transgender Filipina.
34-year old Jen had several friends in the LGBTQ community who were denied when they tried to order wedding cakes. This triggered her desire to open her own bakery.
“I know what it feels like to be discriminated against,” she said. “And I want bring that message of hope to everyone that everyone deserves love, acceptance, and everybody deserves desserts!”
Jen’s mother, Zenas Vailoces, was initially skeptical of Jen’s bakeshop dream until she saw the 800-sq-ft, French-inspired bakeshop herself.
“I never believed that she can do it. She was so persistent, and so motivated,” Vailoces said. “When they have an ambition that they are really focused on doing, you really have to support them. Don’t just make your own judgment.”
Among Jennivee’s Bakery’s Philippine-inspired best-sellers: the ube cake, mango cake, and moist chocolate cake.
Customers say delicious is an understatement.
“I love the Nutella [cupcake,” said Nnenna Iheme, a customer. “It’s very creamy and moist — it has a little bit of hazelnut on it and it’s really delicious.”
“People need to go outside of their comfort zone and try the purple velvet. Because this is the one place in the city that has it and it’s her signature cake,” said customer Rachel Robianes.
Getting out of her comfort zone is exactly what Jen did. Despite the challenges that she’s facing, she remains calm and hopeful.
“As a minority and as a small business owner, I want to do my best,” she shared. “I’m so thankful that in this neighborhood, people have been so accepting and welcoming, and they’re happy to support my business.”
For more information about the business, and to make an order, visit jenniveesbakery.com.