For Eton International School founder and president Jacqueline Marzan-Tolentino, food means family.
“My grandma Josefina Velasco Marzan was one of the best cooks and bakers in town,” recalls Tolentino. “She would make cakes from scratch by hand. For all the weddings and celebrations of the family, she did everything. That’s why we grew up loving food. I appreciate all the work she did in the kitchen, every little thing. She would source ingredients from the provinces and she took us along when we were kids. That was our adventure.”
Because of her grandmother’s influence, Tolentino opened the Eton Global Institute Center for Culinary and Hospitality Management.
“It inspired me to create this school as a tribute to her,” said Tolentino. “We have diploma courses in culinary, bread and pastry, F&B, bar and mixology, events management and banquet.”
Her first batch of students will start their diploma courses in January 2018, but the school has already been offering lifestyle courses.
“We want people to experience our program, from baking to different kinds of cuisine,” she added. “We do Arabic, Italian, Spanish, French, Filipino and baking for all levels.”
The short courses usually last three-and-a-half hours, in which “you learn skills that you need for life,” said Tolentino.
Exciting courses scheduled in the coming weeks are Santa’s Kitchen (learn how to make Christmas giveaways) on Oct. 21; Trick or Treat (Halloween specialties and desserts), Oct. 28; Food for the Seoul (Korean dishes for the family), Nov. 11; Appe-Thai-zing (Thai delicacies),
Nov. 18; and Noche Buena Feast (Spanish dishes for the Yuletide season), Nov. 25.
And the best part? “We have a Christmas gift for parents this quarter,” said Tolentino. “A course costs P3,000. But parents can join classes with their kids for free, they just have to pay for ingredients and book in advance.”
So, instead of paying P6,000 for two people, parents just need to pay P3,500 for one parent and one kid to join a class.
And if you think your kids are too young to learn how to cook, last week, a little boy went to Eton to learn about Chinese cuisine with his sister. They made birthday noodles, siopao, siomai, and, for dessert, almond lychee.
The boy said, “I can now do it on my own. I will make this for my mom.” He’s just five years old.
Tolentino pointed out: “We have recipes for kids as young as two years old. It’s a great bonding activity for families. We want that community feel. We also have a halal kitchen for Muslim students.”
She added: “These are skills for self-reliance, independent living… Kids feel proud. They did pizza and pasta, they made their own dough and they were saying, ‘It tastes differently.’ Some kids say, ‘I want to stay here for 24 hours, I want to learn some more.’”
There have been mommy (or daddy)-and-me classes in Japanese food art (yes, you can make bento with your kids, not just for them).
Some parents have sent their kids’ yaya to learn how to cook, too. “The guardians are sent so they won’t just feed the kids junk food,” explained Tolentino.
There are likewise customized classes for private groups. “We offer bake, wine and dine or cook, wine and dine sessions,” said Tolentino. “People or organizations can book. This can be your Christmas party, your bridal shower, your team-building activity.”
Last weekend, Lifestyle joined Eton Global Institute’s World of Breads course, learning how to make different kinds of bread from scratch—floss bun, cinnamon roll, focaccia, challah—with chef Kazzie Sy.
The group was a mix of bakers of all levels—some with zero experience—but by the end of the class, everyone was answering questions about baking with ease.
I’d like to think I was already a decent baker before the course, but the hours spent at Eton taught me the importance of patience and perseverance, along with newly acquired technical skills. I always thought kneading would feel like playing but it’s hard work—one that I am glad I have finally learned.
People can also order ready-to-eat treats from the online store Pili+Pinas Gourmet Inc. Some of the must-order products include the crispy lechon belly (so, so good!), gourmet sardines, Asian chili and more.
Long before farm-to-table became a movement, Tolentino was already practicing it with her family, thanks to her grandmother.
“When we were kids, we had bahay-kubo, that was our bonding,” she recalled. “We would pick things from our farm and cook our food. It was play for us. My grandmother’s been gone for a long time but that’s what we want to pass on to the next generation.”
She continues the same practice at Eton: “We want to share the same thing, that you can have the best ingredients in the Philippines. We have our own farm in Pangasinan. It’s farm to school to market. Our ingredients are fresh.”
For Tolentino and her family, food and wellness go hand in hand. “If my lola was into food, my grandfather Jesus Marzan was into fitness and wellness. He was a basketball Olympian in 1936. As a tribute to him, we have a sports center. We merged what we know in one place.”
People can sign up to become members but, Tolentino said, “once you are part of the Eton Club, that’s part of your benefit. We want to give you the holistic package. We teach you end to end.”
For her, the school is not just a business, but a mission: “We want to make culinary education affordable in the Philippines. We want to share our knowledge. We can teach at all levels. All our equipment are top of the line, so they can cook better. Our chefs are internationally trained, our head chef was trained at Le Cordon Bleu London and Australia.”
Next month, Eton will promote wellness and education.
“November is nutrition month and we will launch our Malunggay Cupcake Challenge open to students of public and private schools from grade school to college,” she said. “We will visit different schools and give talks on healthy eating and healthy living.”
The winners will be given study grants at Eton Global Institute. Tolentino said, “There’s power in education. If you ignite that passion for cooking, the love of baking, food will change your life.”
Eton Global Institute,
R.V. Marzan Bldg., 1633
Makiling cor. Dimasalang St., Sampaloc, Manila;
tel. 9540662 or 09988643977. Visit www.etonglobal