The comeback of Michelle Hugo: Using her voice to speak for women

Tickets available at

Tickets available at

red line

Finding her courage as a ‘resilient Filipina.’

Finding her courage as a ‘resilient Filipina.’

By Cristina DC Pastor

It has been over a year since the closing of the Park Avenue modern French brasserie, Maison Hugo, owned by the culinary couple Michelle and Florian V. Hugo.

Michelle is finally opening up, ready to address the curious questions. How the business – and a nearly 20-year relationship — went down was a story only a brave and stubborn spirit dare share. She said she is finding her courage being a “resilient Filipina.”

“The closing was not a failure,” said Michelle, 48, in an interview with The FilAm. “We were successful and loved by so many, the only bad choice we made was going for a very expensive spot. That is the sad reality we small business owners face in the current real estate climate in NYC.”

She said further, “The business took a toll on our marriage.”

When the business shuttered, Michelle said she found inner strenghth in how she was raised by her parents. Her stay-at-home mom Rose Patiño Consing devoted herself to raising all nine children. Her father, former Manila Bulletin journalist Ralph G. Consing, had his indiscretions not uncommon among Filipino men of his generation. He became a speechwriter for the late Fer-dinand Marcos and joined him as a political exile. Michelle saw in them this ability to bounce back amid setbacks, and transform.

“How I was raised is to come right back up when problems weigh you down,” she said. “I was determined to face the challenges with my head up high and always reminded myself that my family and faith would be my guiding light. With the pain, comes strength, the harder you fall, the stronger you rise.”

True calling
Michelle has returned to her true love and passion, “my work and love for the humanities.” She was a women’s rights activist at 18 and joined Gabriela when it was just being formed by former political prisoner Nelia Sancho.

With daughter Ella, the ‘love of my life.’

With daughter Ella, the ‘love of my life.’

“My friend Nelia has touched my life in so many ways,” she said. “Being an activist has taught me how to use my voice for the right causes. To speak for those unheard and forgotten. Though women have come far, there is still a lot of work to be done and that will include men and wom-en working together.”

In New York, Michelle is a member of the Women’s International Forum formed by United Na-tion Ambassador spouses to shed light on critical global crisis. She is currently on the advisory board of Jimbere Fund, a non-profit organization that advocates for women and girls used as weapons of war in Congo. On her own, she is set to launch a non-for-profit introducing culinary arts programs for public school youth.

Paris in 1999
Michelle and Florian met in Paris in 1999, and envisioned themselves opening their own restau-rant one day. When they met, Florian was already a distinguished chef of the Alain Ducasse chain of international restaurants, while Michelle worked at a Saudi investment firm. “I’ve al-ways been in business, in corporate.” Famed “Les Miserables” novelist Victor Hugo is Florian’s great-great grandfather.

They married three years later. After the birth of their daughter, they laid the groundwork for Maison Hugo, a restaurant that buzzed with excitement when it opened on Park Avenue and Lexington in 2016 because it combined competitive pricing and a classy vibe.

“Everyone’s perception of French food is that it’s fancy and it breaks the bank,” she said. “I always believed that food is the one thing that unites people, when everyone is gathered on the table, everyone is equal regardless of status. Providing fine quality French food to the majority and not just the elite was my goal. Inclusivity always brings the best result.”

Moving forward
What she has learned from the past year, according to Michelle, is how Filipino women have this ability to get back up from swift, unforeseen challenges. She has launched Event by Hugo, a ca-tering and event planning service, shortly before closing Maison Hugo.

“This is when I’m really thankful to be Filipina,” she said. “It all goes back to how you lived your life in the early days, the foundation that was built, instilled in you, the culture, the manners. I have never been more proud of my roots.”

© The FilAm 2019

At Maison Hugo on Park Avenue: ‘The closing was not a failure.’

At Maison Hugo on Park Avenue: ‘The closing was not a failure.’

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: