As common as this sounds, I grew up around food. My grandmother and mother both played their parts in shaping my interest and love affair with ingredients, techniques, tastes, and the satisfaction of enjoying a meal from start to finish. My grandma, Mamacita, was (and still is at age 91!) an absolute beast in the kitchen. She'd do things old-school too, like from scratch. My mom on the other hand had a knack for baking. She'd make cakes and pastries and on the weekends, we'd literally wake-up to the scent of freshly baked carbs. I joined them both in the kitchen and developed my love for creating dishes.
This then evolved to a serious calling when I really wanted to pursue this professionally. So I went in search for a school and even getting accepted in California Culinary Academy at San Francisco, USA. But due to logistics and financial constraints, I had to go back to the Philippines. Although, while I was in the US, I still managed to complete a Master Chocolatier course. My family loved this because they were my panel of judges every time I had to create something. Man, did we have sugar downs that summer.
Fast forward to college, I signed up for Culinary Arts at the De La Salle - College of Saint Benilde. If there's one bit of wisdom I can share, it’s that take something you're interested in (or at least harness your energy to enjoying what you're taking in college). This didn't feel like studying at all.
I enjoyed the fact that my university books were cookbooks and my college tools were spatulas and knives. I joined competitions and was just very active in most programs. I completed my practicum at The Solomon Guesthouse (for in-house) and Makati Shangri-la Hotel (for off-campus). So I guess I did well overall - I finished 4th in the graduating batch. The sweet victory of it all was seeing my parents' smiles going up the stage with me. (I'm not crying! You're crying!)
After college, I did a few freelance projects. This revolved around producing recipes and products for restaurants, training restaurant staff, reviewing restaurant processes, and assisting in opening new up and coming establishments. Then I decided to take off to Australia. I was accepted at The Meat and Wine, Co. in Sydney. That was fun
! But tiring as hell! I rented a room that was literally an 8-minute walk to work. I was mainly in charge of the cold kitchen - apps and desserts. If there was one holiday I didn't want to work on, it would definitely be Mother's Day (no offence - just all the large tables wanting everything puuurrrfect). Valentine's Day service seemed like a walk in the park. In any case, I worked here for about a year and had to stop because of my back. It got worse so I couldn't go back to working full-time in the kitchen. Good thing I had a back-up plan and I studied Human Resources.
My back didn't stop me from working in the food industry (okay fine, somehow it did). But, if I couldn't do it, I could teach it. And I did. I was the youngest full-time professor teaching theoretical studies (lecture) in my alma mater. I taught until I left for a vacation to Canada, where my then-boyfriend (Carlo) immigrated to. The vacation was supposed to be for 2 weeks only. But then he proposed and I never went back.
Even though I can't professionally work in the kitchen anymore, I still surround myself with the joy food can offer. The tastes, textures, process, time, memories, emotional attachments, and physical reactions. Just the beautiful language of food as a whole.
I cook at home now, where my husband has first dibs on my creations. He's also my number one critique (and I'm sure I'm the one to blame for his growing belly). We go on random food-trip adventures. I'm mainly on a low-carb diet now but I never neglect a craving when it hits.
Through this love affair with food, I'd gone up and down. I even hated it at one time. It just felt all the same to me. Like it didn't excite me anymore. So I broke up with it first and relied on fast-food. Then I went back to the basics. If there's one thing I know that every aspiring culinary student needs to instil in their psyche, it's "master your basics". So I kept things simple and relearned my basics. I explored different ingredients, different dishes, different cuisines, different cultures.
There's a whole world out there to taste. It's a never ending buffet with no time limit too. Let's eat!
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