Netflix’s School of Chocolate breakout chocolatier talks about how he’s navigating the world of desserts and helping define Filipino chocolate as a confectioner.
Despite having just taught a two-hour chocolate truffle-making class, piping rum-infused ganache into dozens of dark chocolate shells, Daniel Corpuz’s chef’s jacket remains a pristine white. A sign of a true pro.
He moved through the kitchen with ease and assuredness, guiding me and my classmates-for-the-day as we fumbled with the piping bag. It was clear that though he’s only 23, the Filipino-American chocolatier’s skill, talent, and professional demeanor mimic those of culinary experts beyond his years.
Corpuz has been busy. After his stint on Netflix’s School of Chocolate, the chocolatier opened his own storefront in New York City’s Canal Street Market in June. And the shop has been operating in full swing since.
Aside from the hectic holiday season being just around the corner (with many seeking out unique gifts such as Corpuz’s sweet offerings), October was Filipino American History Month. In honor of the occasion, he created an array of sweet treats inspired by his culture to celebrate the occasion including brilliantly purple ube bonbons, turon bonbons made with caramelized bananas, and a unique piece he calls the “Philippine Araw”—shaped like the sun on the Filipino flag, and filled with 42 percent Philippine milk chocolate-rum ganache and calamansi caramel.
“Adding to that legacy of what Filipino food or Filipino cuisine or Filipino culture can be is something that I’m quite proud of, which is why I try my best to highlight it as much as I can,” Corpuz tells Vogue Philippines.
The cake person
But working in the culinary field didn’t always seem to be in the cards for the chef. He was born and raised in Staten Island, a borough of New York City mainly accessible by ferry. While his Filipino parents exposed him to the cuisine of his motherland, they describe Daniel as a boy as “one of the pickiest eaters you might have ever met.”
Up until he was around 12 years old, he recalls that his diet was limited, to say the least. “I only ate white rice, and that was it,” Corpuz admits. He refused to eat anything else as a young boy. “I jokingly say that I should be dead, considering that I [did not have] the correct amount of vitamins or nutrients growing up.”
One thing turned the tide for Corpuz and changed his perspective forever: the Food Network.
While channel surfing—though he can’t quite recall which show, specifically—a switch inside him just flipped. It all began with cupcakes, then eventually he made simple cakes, with his specialties being a decadent Devil’s Food cake and what he calls a “white cake” which is a vanilla cake with a hint of almond flavor. His creations then progressed to highly intricate cakes for weddings and special occasions.
“That was throughout high school. Most people kind of knew me as the cake person,” he says. For projects, instead of making a presentation with cardboard or foam, he’d use cake as his medium of choice. “It was nice, it was interactive. It was still to the theme of whatever the project was, but the class ultimately was able to then eat cake.”
Eventually, he worked for a local bakery while also participating in baking and cake decorating competitions. Soon enough, he found himself fully-immersed in the industry. He shares, “People that I used to watch on Food Network ultimately became kind of like friends of mine.”
While attending the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), Corpuz leaned into pastry. He did an externship at two-Michelin-star-awarded restaurant, The Modern, and fell in love with the fast-paced world of fine dining restaurant kitchens.
But, ultimately, the budding pastry chef was drawn to chocolate. The main draw for him is just how creative a medium the ingredient can be. He’s still in awe of how it’s able to transfigure by the work of his hands. Sometimes, he forgets himself. “When I make my chocolate bonbons when I pop it out of the mold and it’s super shiny, you’re just like, ‘Holy shit! This is chocolate, right?
His final showpiece for culinary school was something no one at the CIA had ever seen before. It was a seven-foot-tall Ikebana-inspired chocolate sculpture—taller than the artist himself, Corpuz is quick to point out—made of 350 pounds of milk, dark, and white chocolate. The base was made to look like a slab of granite, and placed above were five fairly large stones. Two tree branches, adorned with leaves, flowers, and realistic edible moss were stacked on top as the main attraction.
All of this was made in his own dorm room, for fear that if he began to build the piece in the kitchens one of the chefs or deans would disapprove and think that it was far too ambitious for a student to try to accomplish. The big surprise paid off. “They were absolutely dumbfounded at the fact that I was wheeling this in,” he recalls.
Still, after getting his Associates Degree in Baking and Pastry and his Bachelor’s Degree in Food Business Administration, Corpuz went on to work as a pastry chef for Michelin-recognized restaurant The Clocktower, and later critically-acclaimed Manhatta. But once the pandemic hit and work at Manhatta had ceased, he chose to return to chocolate. From March to October in 2020, he began his own business and made bonbons and mini showpieces from home. That was when he got the call to do School of Chocolate.
As the youngest contestant on the show at then-21 years old, he was lauded for the breadth of his knowledge and excellent performance. From the experience, he gained the respect of his colleagues who have been working in the industry for years and has also gained a larger following. He hasn’t looked back since.
Just the beginning
More than recognition and respect from fans of his work, the most important takeaway Corpuz was able to get from the past couple of years has been learning to acknowledge his own worth as a chef.
“I think because I was able to prove myself [on School of Chocolate], it gave me a sense of competence that like, I can do what I do,” he says. “Despite having not gone through the traditional route, which is climbing the ladder, grinding away at restaurants or hotels, it is definitely something that has changed my life.”
Today, the Daniel Corpuz Chocolatier brand is growing. Corpuz has enlisted some extra hands to help him handle holiday prep and production. Still, standing in front of his booth at Canal Street Market and watching him move around behind the counter, it’s clear that he’s not using that as an excuse to slow down.
Corpuz has also been working on more partnerships with brands such as renowned French premium luxury chocolate producer Valrhona. But, more importantly, he’s been finding ways to put Filipino food at the forefront and has been teaming up with other prominent Pinoys in the U.S.
He’s worked on dessert tastings, high tea, and other events with Filipino rum brand Kasama, local bean-to-bar chocolate producers Auro, the famous New York City-based homegrown Filipino donut bakery Kora, culinary collective Barkada Market Market, and more. And he’s hoping to do more.
Bright-eyed and youthful, Corpuz still has many plans and dreams for the future. He wants to explore other culinary concepts outside of chocolate, compete in the Coupe du Monde patisserie, and at the end of it all, inspire others to do the same.
He says, “One day, I’d like to transition to teaching to also inspire the next generation of chefs to also do great, like the chefs I’ve had who’ve inspired me to be at where I’m at right now.”