Cooking up imagination and empowerment with kids

EAT’S EASY - Ernest Reynoso Gala (The Philippine Star) - April 10, 2014 - 12:00am

The mind of a child is like a sponge: it will absorb everything quickly. Learning a lifetime skill like cooking will boost a young person’s self-confidence. World-renowned chefs of today like Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali, Todd English, Daniel Boulud were allowed to help their mothers and grandmothers prepare the family meals as toddlers. A kitchen is a wonderland for the avid cook and for me it was simply paradise. There I honed my skills and at age six was taught how to operate in the area using the proper gadgets and kitchen tools. I also learned the technical details needed to prepare a dish and also the artistic side of how to plate and decorate.

It was 1963 when the Reynoso Cooking and Baking School was established by my Pampangueña aunties. Mom taught the children’s class during summer until she left for Spain and Switzerland the following year. She did so until she put up her own school in 1970 at my grandparent’s home in Forbes Park. Children from prominent families flocked to Ipil Rd. to join either Group I (six to nine years old) or Group II (10 to 16 years old), cooking being a part of our culture and of the “cultured.” Mom, Morella and I devised a lesson plan that would fire up the interest and enthusiasm of the attendees, their parents, and guardians who we follow to this day. The children’s summer classes instilled a chef’s approach towards cuisine and offered insights to get them started in the right direction. Here are some of them.

For the first hour of the three-day session (from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.) we:

1. Show and identify the different ingredients (by smelling and touching) and the utensils necessary for baking and cooking.

2. Demonstrate and guide the participants on the proper stance while chopping, slicing and cooking as professional chefs do in the kitchen, techniques we learned in Europe.

3. The correct way of preparing, measuring and cooking the four to five recipes per lesson they and their families love.  One hundred percent hands-on attention is a must.

4. The proper and safe way to use kitchen knives (small, serrated knives are used since children have tiny fingers and physiques).

5. Sanitation in food handling and keeping the kitchen premises clean.

6. Advice is given that a responsible adult must be present at all times when they cook or bake at home.

Parents are invited in the classroom to monitor the progress of their children so that they, too, can help when recipes are done at home. They are encouraged to bring them to the supermarket and markets to choose the ingredients, and open a whole world of healthy choices and expand their knowledge in the culinary arts. Certainly anyone can cook or at least attempt to but it takes a true chef instructor to get the best out of the dish and make it work. It goes to show that culinary creativity works best when the chef has got his foundation right.

Children’s Class Group I starts on April 22, 24, 29 (Tuesday, Thursday, Tuesday).  Group II (junior chefs, 10 to 16 years old) starts April 23, 25, 28 (Monday, Wednesday, Monday) or May 12, 14, 16 (Monday, Wednesday, Monday) all from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visit www/facebook/galastarsculinary.com or call 671-4498, 671-4472, or 671-4489.


Butterscotch bars

Preheat oven to 350°F or 175°C. Line an 8”x8”x2” pan with bake paper or 7”x11” pan.



1/2 cup Magnolia Gold Butter Salted or Dari Cream Classic

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

2 whole eggs (to measure ½ cup)

1 1/4 cups Magnolia all-purpose flour

1/4 cup chopped nuts (casuy or walnuts) for topping


In a 12” frying pan over low heat, melt butter.  Remove from heat. With a wooden spoon, stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Lastly, add flour. Stir until just combined. Spread on pan. Top with nuts.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. When cold, cut lengthwise into 4 strips, then crosswise into 6 strips. Serve on 24 tiny muffin papers.


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