Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What's Cookin'

I love food. I adore eating. I live to eat (as opposed to The Hubby, who usually eats to live). Consequently, I enjoy cooking and baking. Most times anyway.
So this love affair with food got me out of bed at 5AM last Saturday, and out of the house by 7AM, for a cross country trek to the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) on Katipunan. My friend Ruby invited me to join her and a group of her friends for a Kitchen Discovery Class (KDC). Supposedly for cooking and baking enthusiasts and those who want to check out what happens in a professional kitchen or those who are thinking of going into Culinary Arts, the KDC is a 6-hour course that "introduces you to the exciting foodservice and hospitality industry".

As far as introductions go, it was like being introduced to a prince. Or maybe some mid-level duke (is there such a thing?). I mean, at the end of the day, we were supposed to have learned to make Caramelized Salmon with Orange-Shoyu Glaze with Sauteed Mixed Vegetables, Soba Noodles, Lemongrass Beurre Blanc and Balsamic-Soy Reduction; plus Saffron Panna Cotta with Citrus Caramel Sauce and Almond Tuile. As our chef-instructor Menoy Gimenez said, quite a mouthful. Then again, I don't suppose you'd pay P3,800 (the cost of the KDC, if I paid for it myself) to learn how to cook sinigang or fried chicken.

Speaking of the chef-instructor, I was hoping for Chef Rob from QTV's Chef to Go. Yummy! Unfortunately, he doesn't teach at CCA. Ruby said that Chef Tristan Encarnacion, he of the countless Alaska and pots-and-pans print ads, could be teaching (pretty acceptable). But we ended up with Chef Menoy, and I loved him. Just like our balsamic-soy reduction, he managed to reduce what felt like 20 pages of recipe ingredients and instructions into its simple, palatable essence.

For someone who is one of the founders of the first (I think) culinary school in the country, Chef Menoy reminds me of a big bowl of sundried-tomato-and-broccoli pasta: slightly exotic but very comforting; intimidating at first, but once you get used to him, very encouraging. He broke down the complex instructions into easy-to-digest steps, punctuated every now and then by "Does that make sense?" Explained the way he did, things did make more sense.

I won't go into a blow-by-blow (or bleu by bleu, if you prefer) account of our three cooking hours. But at the end, we had a fantastic tasting, beautifully plated salmon.
Fine, I'm not the best food photographer, but our salmon really did look nice. And it was yummy. As Chef Menoy says, the test to see if the dish is any good: would I pay for it? Hmm. If I weren't such a chennybopper, yes, I would.
I didn't stay for the afternoon Panna Cotta session (I heard that it was a blast) since I promised Raine I'd take her swimming in the afternoon. Would have been nice to learn how to make those fancy tuiles (can't even pronounce it).
I wish I was able to take home what we prepared though (each group of five had two salmon pieces--not enough to go around, especially if you eat the way I do). Oh, and I wanted to take home their knives! Such joy chopping up things with a sharp knife. What I did get to take home was my CCA shirt, a nice apron (perfect, as Ruby says, for preparing instant noodle soup), a hand towel and a skull cap (I guess you get the toque when you're seriously cooking). And I got a CCA certificate. Will have it framed and hung in my kitchen.
I am looking forward to their classes in Serendra though, mainly because it's so much nearer (I can't imagine getting up and making the cross country trek on a regular basis). JB, who's on CCA's marketing team described some pretty interesting courses called "Chefs and the (Global) City". It isn't hands on, more like a cooking show type of thing--but you get to eat whatever's prepared. Oh joy.
I do hope CCA has more hands on classes somewhere closer to home. Here in my house, preferably. Their Kitchen Discovery Class has sure whet my appetite for more.

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