Farah’s gourmet canteen, degustation menu and teatime in Australia
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - August 8, 2019 - 12:00am

Travel time for tourists in Europe and the Americas takes place in the summer months of June, July and August. But “down under” in Australia that’s chilly winter.  Late June to July I traveled in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra at the freezing weather of 17 degree Centigrade to - 6 degree Centigrade. Luckily I have friends and relatives who gave me, and my secretary Olive a warm welcome. This was frequently accompanied by a variety of dining. 

Serving tradesmen, executives and boardroom lunches

When I found out that my former OB Montessori student Farah Tolentino Ylagan was running the Kensington Canteen at the business estate of Melbourne I eagerly looked her up. Since Farah graduated from our professional high school, which specializes in food service in 1994, her culinary interest never waned. While her mother Ambassador Aurora Navarro Tolentino was assigned to Paris, she went to L’Institut Maxim’s in Paris to train and get a degree in International Hotel Management. For culinary studies, she went to Ferrandi – Ecole Supérieure de Cuisine Française (the school of the Paris Chamber of Commerce). From there, she obtained her professional license and certificate. She did several “stage” (traineeship) in different hotels and restaurants but remained the longest at Pavillon Ledoyen (2 ½ years) where she worked in administration, cost control and the kitchen. Then she worked in different restaurants in Paris and the South of France. By 1999 she returned to the Philippines and started working at the Prince Albert Rotisserie and went into food consulting.

Farah recalled her major decision to bring her family to Australia. “I decided I wanted to operate my own café in Melbourne, and searched through business brokers and independent sellers. I must have inspected 20 or more cafés before deciding on Kensington Canteen.  I hired a café business coach and followed her guidelines on selecting a business.” The canteen was simple with about eight tables. Office workers were lining up to buy the gourmet lunch items costing $5/pc. Swiss Mushroom Croques, Turkey Cream Cheese Cranberry Bagel, Bacon Cheddar Spinach Muffin gluten free, etc. filled up shelves enclosed in glass cases. Together with Olive’s sister Merle and her husband Mon, we chose Chicken Parma with Chips, Salad and Roasted Veggie Pesto Salad with Spanish Sausage. Farah’s other three menus are breakfast, boardroom lunch (mixed party platter, antipasto platter, sushi rolls and dimsums ($6 to $9.50 per person), morning or afternoon tea.

Farah stated, “My prices for coffee and food are mid-range so that our customers can come everyday. Over 80 percent are repeat customers. I come up with meal deals on popular items to keep them coming back. My regular customers are a mix of tradesmen, office workers, managers and executives as well as business owners. Among the many businesses in the area are the Metro Trains Training Academy, Australian Rail Track Corp., Fujitsu, Device Technologies Corp. and The Fruit Box Group. There are smaller office and warehouses in the mix as well. We cater and deliver to offices in the Melbourne Central Business District for meetings. My main barista is Sophie White from Christchurch, New Zealand. My chef is Rencel Teodoro and my floor staff are Jem, Mei and Gaby – all Filipinos.”

Ottoman cuisine and degustation menu

Dr. Don MacDowall, a famous chiropractor, and his family treated us to a degustation dinner at Ottoman Cuisine in Barton, Canberra. Members of Parliament frequent it. Chef and owner Serif Kaya has received awards for his modern day Turkish food. We were a party of five, tasting the $75 four course dinner or $115 paired with the proper Canberra wine: Cicek Dolma – crispy zucchini flower filled with goat’s feta and haloumi cheese served with a light yoghurt sauce and Sis Mantar – char-grilled spicy mushroom with rocket salad paired with 2013 Nick O’Leary Riesling; Mousakka – seared scallops on baby eggplant, tomato relish and tarama-salata and Karides – Queensland king prawn pan sautéed with shitake mushrooms and baby spinach, served with lemon yoghurt sauce paired with 2014 Clonakilla Semillon sauvignon blanc.

The sumptuous high tea at Monet’s Tea Salon

We joined the local Australians at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra to view the exclusive exhibition of 40 paintings of Claude Monet’s “Impression Sunrise” brought from the Musee Marmottan Monet in Paris for the first time to the Southern Australia Hemisphere. The $48 entrance fee included the savory high tea menu, which includes brioche with cured salmon, ribbon sandwich with citrus poached chicken and herb mayonnaise, melted gruyere tart. The sweet treats are freshly baked buttermilk scone with local berry preserve and double crème, strawberry crème profiterole and French caramelized apple tart tatin, espresso coffee, a selection of teas.

Filipino family gathering with 15-k lamb roast

Olivia Amanonce Lumanta, our devoted secretary together with me, were happily met by her relatives in Melbourne and Sydney. It coincided with the grand celebration of Cris and Lydia’s silver wedding anniversary. Cresencio “Cris”, the host, brought out his special rotisserie to cook a 15-kilogram lamb adequately satisfying 30 guests – five Amanonces and one Lumanta. How did these Zambalenos find Australia?

Onofre “Ofre” Amanonce the eldest of the brood was the first to migrate in Australia. A lengthy professional experience in the Middle East oil refinery enabled him and his siblings to acquire a job in the country. He’s married to Esther Narvas from Pangasinan. Frank Amanonce used to work in Cubi Point, Subic and Brunei Airline. He is married to Ofelia Regadio, a public school teacher in Olongapo. They migrated with their three children in Australia. Damiana, married to Rody Ordoñez of Cavite is a nurse and used to work with the Al Gosaibi family in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Julie sponsored to migrate in Australia by her three siblings works as a factory worker. Cris is an aeronautical engineer who worked in the airport facility of Subic Cubi Point and also in Dubai. Matched to Lydia, an Ilongga, who worked in sales at a garment factory by his sister, he went to Australia on a fiancé visa. Wilfredo Lumanta used to work in Ship Repair Facility (SRF) Subic until the base closed, then migrated to Australia. Now works in Woolworth in Sydney. He and Gina, an accountant, have three children.

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