A feast with a mission
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - July 7, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - This year’s Philippine International Food and Wine Festival (PIFWF) set on Oct. 10-14 will mark the participation of the first batch of scholars of the Culinary Education Foundation (CEF), the direct beneficiaries of the first food and wine event launched in February 2013.

The 174 scholars who finished their classes and on-the-job training in Manila and Candon, Ilocos Sur – there will be 150 more scholars before the year ends – will be selling their organic food products as their way of helping raise funds to support the educational and scholarship goals of the foundation.

Organized by CEF in partnership with the Department of Tourism, this year’s theme is “From Farm to Fork.” It will start off with a food truck competition among master chefs and will also feature wine tastings, trade exhibits and food bazaars.

While most aspiring students are drawn to culinary careers because of the promising growth prospects, many average-income adults – like Sinagtala Cabrera, a single mom and part-time pub singer – are unable to pay for their culinary education and training. But with the CEF scholarship, she was able to nurture her interest in cooking and explore food-related goals to maximize her entrepreneurial growth.

Currently, Cabrera is starting a food retail business together with fellow Malabon scholars selling bottled vegetable pickles, rice vinegar, as well as cakes and pastries.

“Through CEF’s efforts and the kindness and support of people who believed in us, those who cannot afford to pursue their culinary ambitions like myself have been given that privilege. I was able to pursue my dream and learn to be more confident, career-focused and determined to provide a better life for my family,” she said.

Cabrera is also proud to announce that their products are now sold by local food establishments under the name “Scholars.”

“We couldn’t think of a better word that can best describe our gratitude to the foundation. We are inspired by them,” she added.

Conrad Madarang Jr., a fellow CEF scholar, couldn’t agree more. Aside from joining Cabrera in the “Scholars” business and actively participating in various CEF-initiated outreach and livelihood training programs, Madarang is the first CEF scholar employed by C2, one of Cravings Group’s restaurants.

“Now I’m able to support my family because of this employment opportunity. I’m also excited and inspired to set up my own food business when the right time comes,” he said.

A non-profit institution that highlights the role of food and accessible education in positive societal transformation, CEF, founded and headed by Susana Guerrero, aims to provide students like Cabrera and Madarang the chance to undergo free top-quality culinary education, livelihood and career training. It also involves scholars in social projects and into adapting wholistic industry practices, “Green Chefmanship” and organic composting, among other environment-friendly strategies.

“Last year’s food and wine festival raised an amount big enough to give 500 individuals the opportunity to make meaningful improvements in their lives by pursuing their avocations. Imagine the many others we can help when we do this food and wine festival again this year,” said Roxanne Oquendo, manager of CEF.

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