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A Semester of Eating and Learning

Posted Oct 27 2010 5:18pm

For the past few months, I’ve been occupied with my job in school. I’ve been handling breakfast service, teaching nutrition class and assisting in culinary classes. There’s only less than one month left before the semester is over. So far, it has been a great experience. Of course, it was nerve wracking and yes, I did made a lot of embarrassing mistakes in front of my colleagues and my students but I did it anyway. There were many days of desperation and dissatisfaction not knowing if I made a difference in this school. The mind is always in conflict with your true self but I’m reminded that I can always contribute something special because I am specially, wonderfully and uniquely made.

On Taste and Palate 

I am also pondering about the direction of my blog (as well as my job) as I want to focus more on health and nutrition more than gourmet food and culinary arts. Even if I could do both, my inner voice is directing me more on the healing side of the food.  But then again, I’m still confused.  I’ve seen how students eat when they have breakfast in school. Although I don’t blame them for having an affection for bacon, corned beef, hotdogs and sausages, their palate can truly be awaken to a cleaner and fresher tasting pure, whole and natural foods. The taming of the taste buds can be an inconsiderate exercise for them. And I did mention that in my nutrition class when I discussed about cooking with whole foods. Some students also find it strange when they saw me eating dragon fruit, refusing to drink sodas and declining to eat foods that are highly processed and refined. But a few of them are also aware that there are days that I have an appetite for three people and I have a love affair for sweets.

A Banquet of Pates and Terrines, Cold Cuts and Cheeses

On Teaching Nutrition

I’ve learned something while teaching nutrition class and I knew from the very start that I have to abide to what I believe in. And I know teaching nutrition the conventional way is not going to be as exciting as I want it to be. And if I continue discussing vitamins and minerals one at a time, I will definitely bore them to death. When you buy carrots or leafy green vegetables, for instance, you don’t tell the vendor that you want to buy a kilo of beta-carotone or magnesium. I know how important nutrients are but if I focus more of the food itself and what it does to the body and so much more, they will change the way they think about food and nutrition and their relationship with each other. But as culinary students, they don’t have this initiative yet but I do hope that they will realize that in the future. As simple as oatmeal made from rolled or steel cut oats (not instant) can make a huge impact if they include that as part of their lifestyle. It could also mean including more fruits and vegetables in their diet. There is an effort involved and if you ask me, it’s really challenging to eat healthy in a culinary school. And yes, I do get strange reactions from other people about what I eat and I think I should show more of that. I could have started my food revolution years ago when my father was diagnosed with cancer but I’m not Jamie Oliver who has direct access to the media. But then again, I’ll stand by my food philosophy but it’s never going to be perfect when you’re surrounded with people who have the belief system that what I’m eating is not part of the norm or even unacceptable to society. (Even some classical nutritionist might be against for what I believe in). That’s because majority are exposed to the manipulation of the media and going back to the very, very basics of food is something people whine about because it involves change. 
Salad Nicoise
Honestly, I haven’t been eating the way I used to ever since I came here.. And yes, I do have desserts, pastries and ice cream once in a while and continuous eating of butter and animal protein every single day for the past 16 weeks. And I need to remind myself how I feel and how my body reacts after eating a certain foods that are really heavy to the digestive system. You truly are what you eat, digest and absorb and the foods that we absorb are the raw materials for what we’re made of inside and out. I was off track with my eating habits and I need to find my ground center and my true self to rediscover what my body really needs. The profound sense of well being is evident with abundance of vitality in one’s body, mind (your mental and emotional health is definitely included) and soul. The key words well being and vitality in our body and life is what makes holistic nutrition interesting to talk about. And when we talk about our well being and how vibrant we want to be, do and have, it boils down to this… you are worth it.
Filipino Night: 8 dishes of Pork with Chef Richard and the second year students

I am still in the process of changing my lectures and the way I teach nutrition but in the end, what I’m after is the result of how the students become aware and conscious about what I’ve discussed. What I want to offer after teaching each class is to inspire them to work with whole foods and their natural flavours so they will become future ambassadors of pure food. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  Although professional chefs are stimulating each other to create gourmet food to excite the palates of their guests, future chefs are also educators in terms of agriculture and sustainability while supporting local farmers and being the voice and the guide against false information from the media regarding food and nutrition. Future chefs are not only people who can cook, but they are cooks who can make a difference in our community, in our society and eventually, the world. If you look at the bigger picture, everything is interconnected, including agriculture, nutrition, history, politics, religion and economics. Food has a broader origin than just mere ingredients.

Chefs Jeremy Young, Fatima Tan-Young and Justin Mechill of International Culinary Arts Academy Cebu

Tasting Menu at Salle a Manger

The school has undergone improvement since I published my blog post last June but there are still a lot of constructions that needs to be done. In my opinion (not because I work here but because I know the people behind it.), the International Culinary Arts Academy Cebu is one of the best culinary schools in the Philippines. I also had the chance to dine at the Salle a Manger, the school’s training restaurant, where Chef Jeremy Young showcases his creative tasting menu, along with his wife Chef Fatima Tan-Young, who is in charge of the wonderful desserts. The tasting menu is also changing every week to expose the students to different ingredients and various cooking techniques to cook foods. This is also a great way to educate their palate to a broader perspective of flavors. And I’ve seen some students react negatively to certain ingredients but once they try it again and again, they will have an appreciation for it. But there will always be an ingredient that they will never like just as much as I dislike certain ingredients as well. Here are a few photos of the tasting menus. I am used to take pictures with natural light and when I started taking photos in low light situation, I have to use the other features of the camera without using flash and although they’re not picture perfect, I am still happy with the results.
Mixed Lettuce Salad with Parma Ham and Deviled Eggs; Coquilles St. Jacques; Pan Roasted Fillet of Halibut with Potato Scales, Asparagus and Sauce Maltaise or Pork Tenderloin Medallion with Cabbage and Bacon and Dijon Mustard Butter; Red Wine Poached Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Sauce; Frozen Cranberry Nougat with Poached Cranberries on a Bed of Poppy Seed Tuile Seared Tuna Salad with Mango Vinaigrette; Potato and Leek Soup; Parma Ham Wrapped Jumbo Prawns with Sage served with Saffron Risotto & Asparagus; Organic Chicken Ravioli with Tomato and Fresh Mushroom Sauce; Lamb Chops with Lamb Jus served with Potatoes and Vegetable; Green Tea Mochi with Chocolate Truffle on Strawberry Gel

Roasted Potato Cups with Créme Fraiche and Ossetra Caviar: Beef Cobb Salad With Mustard Vinaigrette; Asparagus Cream Soup; Seafood with Coconut Curry Sauce and Basmati Rice; Magret de Canard with Cranberry Sauce, Pommes Lyonniaase and Haricot Vert; Medallions of Pork Tenderloin with Poached Apples and Apple and Green Peppercorn Sauce; Citrus Sampler Cured Salmon; Foie Gras with Green Mango Relish & Pate Campangolla; Pan Seared Filet of Salmon with Saffron Sauce; Duck Confit; Cheese & Fruit Plate; Brown Beef Stew with Glazed Vegetables; Apple and Blueberry Cobler with Apple and Lychee Ice Cream
Pickled Pear; Duck Confit Salad; Warm Fresh Crab Cakes with Red Pepper Vinaigrette; Potato Wrapped Jumbo Prawns with Sage & Spicy Mango Yoghurt Sauce; Pancetta wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple Relish and Potato of the Day; Herb Crusted Lamb Cutlet with Lamb Jus, Haricot Vert and Rigatoni Lasagna; White Chocolate & Passion Fruit Souffle with Cacao Nibs
On Learning the Basics  
The basic are the very basics; it’s the foundation where students lean on to something until they’ve mastered the fundamentals.  They always start with knife skills and vegetable cuts, and then move on to learning the different cooking techniques through a demonstration of a recipe. I still have a lot of things to learn and I know I also need to improve and practice my basic knife skills. I don’t really do knife cuts on a daily basis. But practice is what makes a cook a better cook. But in order to become a better cook, you need to learn the basics first. I assume that most students would want to jump into more advanced cooking and would always be frustrated because they always skip the basics.  Three Bean Salad with Pork Belly 
Another misconception that students perceive is that they can be called chefs once they’ve graduated from culinary schools which are not true. But with celebrity chefs nowadays convincing many people on how popular and how exciting it is to become a chef gives new students misunderstanding about the real world of culinary arts. I don’t consider myself a chef and I don’t aspire to become one anymore (that happened when my father was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a few years after).  But the bottom line is, my profession as a cook will not change. I will always be a cook but it’s important to become a better cook than to be called a chef. A chef is just a title although an important hard-earned position in the food industry. But to become a better cook is what culinary students should focus and aspire for before they reach the very position they ever dreamed of. Like I’ve mentioned on my previous posts back in 2009, I think I have found my niche in the food industry and culinary arts doesn’t have to be limited in the hotel and restaurant profession. But these students will find their own way as they go through their journey as I am right now, which is a never ending process of finding your purpose and calling in life through the work that you do. But by the end of the semester I hope that the first batch of students I’ve handled learned something from me, whether in food/cooking or in nutrition.

Speaking of learning about the basics, Sense and Serendipity is pleased to sponsor your student tuition for the next 14 days to the Rouxbe Cooking School . Happy Learning. Click here to redeem your free trial.   
 On Going Home

I am also looking forward to go home this December for a break. But on the first week of November, I am going to Zamboanga to relax and unwind. Maybe for that time being, I’ll stop worrying about my studies in Advanced Nutrition, the lessons and lectures that needs to be revised and many other concerns on how to do better at my job. And maybe I could also reflect and ponder where my direction in life is really heading….whether teaching is really my calling or should try something else… and also to contemplate why sometimes I feel more alive holding a camera than handling a knife. Now, that is something I need to reflect on.  I hope this post is worth waiting for.  Until next time. Love and light,

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