Learning to cook starts at home, but it takes a lot of other things if one wants to work and excel in the food industry.
More so, if one is aiming for a career overseas.
At the media reception organized by the founders and directors of International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management (Iscahm) in Quezon City, executive director Norbert Gandler said the most important factor in becoming a chef is how good one’s teachers are.
Gandler—well known as the former executive chef of Mandarin Oriental Manila and who cofounded Iscahm in 2003—noted that his school’s faculty roster comes from Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Canada, Japan and the Philippines.
Its main faculty boasts more than 20 years of industry experience.
“When it comes to cooking, you need industry experience. It is very easy to study lectures but you have to know the ins and outs,” said Gandler. “Not everything is as easy as what’s written in the book, you really need to know what to do, why you do things, and what do you do when things go wrong.”
Born in Austria, Gandler worked in nine countries before settling in the Philippines in 1989.
Students cook the meals
As part of training, Gandler said, Iscahm students themselves cook the meals for the school’s entire staff and student population of almost 200.
Students prepared the media lunch.
The menu was interesting for its flavorful sauces—the Salad Greens’ Miso Dressing; the Smoked Salmon Rolls’ Horseradish Chive Cream; the Roast Beef Sirloin’s Bearnaise Sauce; the Fish Fillet’s Turmeric Sauce.
Afterward, the media members were led to the school’s industrial-type kitchen where director for Pastry and Bakery Arts Ernie Babaran was getting ready to do a demo on cake decor using pulled sugar.
Babaran—former pastry chef at Mandarin Oriental and who made the wedding cake of King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein and Queen Rania of Jordan—showed his deft skills in making flowers and ribbons.
‘Not cheap, but not expensive’
A diploma course in Culinary Arts or Pastry and Bakery Arts, both with Kitchen Management units, does not come cheap, said Gandler.
“It’s P370,000 for the 14-month diploma courses… But if you compare apples to apples, then it’s not expensive. You have to look at the hours you get, the days you get. We hold classes five days a week. We do a big food production 80 percent of the time, and the students are provided meals.”
He noted: “You don’t become a master chef or a celebrity chef overnight. But if you have a good education from a good school, you will climb much faster.”
The school’s alumni include Jordy Navarra, owner of Toyo Eatery; Rachelle Sarzona and Marge Villena, chef de partie, Shangri-La at the Fort; Ely Aspiras, executive pastry chef, Costa Crociere Cruise Line; Maylene Carpio, chef de partie, Hilton Strand Hotel, Helsinki, Finland; David Brugger, executive chef, Simon Steakhouse, Zurich, Switzerland; and Leslie Maloles Sevilla, senior sous chef Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.
Iscahm has campuses in Quezon City, Pampanga and Cebu; tel. 89268888 or 0917-8368772; email [email protected]; iscahm.com