The truffle burger and fries were plated nicely.

Kids these days
THE BACONMAN COMETH - Sharwin Tee (The Philippine Star) - March 8, 2018 - 12:00am

If there’s one thing I have a hard time saying “no” to, it’s a request to give a talk to students; well, that and bacon, of course. When I got a call from Raffy, the sous chef who works with me on my local pop-up events, to conduct a seminar for his students at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Senior High School, I immediately agreed to do it.

The students used wonton wrappers and made them into crunchy taco shells.

Last weekend, I headed to UST to give a talk about the “Back of the House” — what restaurant and hospitality professionals call the work done behind the scenes. The senior high students are all a part of the Hotel and Restaurant Management strand. As part of their senior high curriculum, students choose which profession they want to “specialize” in, giving them a first look at possible careers they might be interested in pursuing.  With this in mind, I talked to them about the things many people may miss out on when considering becoming a chef or hospitality professional. I may have scared some of the kids when I talked about the long hours or physical and mental challenges the job entails, but seeing their intent and eager looks, I knew I had just given them something to think about; these kids have already set their goals, and I can see some of them working in the kitchens of our favorite restaurants in the very near future. One of the things I spent a lot of time discussing with them was the importance of keeping standards. The power of social media (undoubtedly a power the millennials I was speaking to fully understand) is never felt as strongly as in the restaurant and hotel field, so I underscored the importance of keeping high standards with every single dish and service they are providing. My favorite part of any talk or seminar I give is the open forum and I’m glad the students were able to ask specific questions about things they had been wondering about for a while now.

After the talk, I was asked to judge a culinary competition between the three HRM sections. I was completely surprised when I learned that each group of seven students was expected to produce five courses — a soup, a salad, an appetizer, an entree and a dessert for three judges — all in under 90 minutes! Fifteen plates in an hour and a half is no small task, even for professional chefs, let alone 18 year olds. There was a little nervousness in me as I wanted the students to do well, but then again, it’s these types of challenges that help them come up with their best work, so I was also a little excited. The results truly astounded me. These 18 year olds obviously came prepared. Each group had clearly divided the kitchen responsibilities early on, and each of them attacked their task with gusto. Amazingly, as the 90-minute time limit was a few minutes from expiring, each of the groups were dutifully plating already.

The salmon with garlic thyme butter is one of the judges’ favorites.

I have to say, all three groups produced some pretty amazing food! Of course the dishes were not perfect, but most of the improvements that could have been made will come about by having more experience. Some of the highlights for me were the taquitos, which featured nicely seasoned ground beef and the students’ fried-up wonton wrappers shaped like crunchy taco shells. My fellow judges raved to me about the pan-fried salmon with garlic thyme butter, which was nicely cooked; I explained to them that the fish was flavorful and moist as I noticed the students remembered to baste the fish constantly with the butter while it was frying. The other group presented a beautifully plated truffle burger and fries, which I told them was as good a burger as I’ve had in some burger joints here in Manila. The third group’s entree, while it looked simple, was pretty impressive to chefs like me. They presented a classic fish and chips platter and both the fish and the chips were impressively crisp. While others may pooh-pooh frying as a simple technique, you will know how tremendously difficult it is to produce a nice plate of crisp, fried food if you’ve spent a significant amount of time in the kitchen.

With some of UST Senior High students

Dessert was also impressive, with groups presenting cups made with churros, no-bake cheesecakes and yema tarts. They were all ambitious desserts to present within a 90-minute time limit, but I guess when you’re young, nothing scares you. At the end of the meal, I was glad the students put their best foot forward. I was also glad they did their research. Each group made sure to include bacon in one of their dishes. Clearly, they know what I love! After the awards were presented and pictures were taken, I stood off to the side to observe. There was one final test the students had to pass and I wanted to check if the students would pass. I smiled as I saw each group begin washing dishes and tidying up the kitchen. Many people concentrate too much on the glory of cooking and presenting dishes, but forget about one of the most important kitchen duties, which is to clean. These kids have been trained well; UST Senior High principal Pilar Romero has much to be proud of.

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with