Working from home and living on a reduced income have driven people to plan their meals seriously. It not only saves money and cuts down on food wastage; it also reduces the number of trips to the market or grocery.
Culinary instructor and caterer Sari Reyes Jorge has observed this pattern when more homemakers, affluent women, bloggers and celebrities asked her for meal plans and recipes.
“They were weary of what their helpers were serving. The family wanted variety in their meals,” she says.
Jorge is founder of 25 Mushrooms Kitchen, a culinary school and catering company whose name was derived from her address. Launched in 2009, the school offered basic classes on cooking, kitchen sanitation and table service for helpers in a facility at the village clubhouse. It had since evolved into classes for any beginner who wanted to create thematic or international dishes and entertain at home.
The bulk of its business comes from corporate catering. In this pandemic, it has been offering customized boxes for Zoom events. Jorge was tapped by Philippine Airlines to plan the kiddie meals, including the recipes, for the domestic and international flights.
Jorge looks up to her mother, Martita Reyes, founder of the catering service Partyplatters.com. The matriarch’s salpicao has been a favorite of the Concepcions and the Villars. Jorge studied at the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management and worked as a food and beverage manager at a restaurant in Los Angeles, California.
Jorge’s cookbook “The Tastes of Home” (National Book Store), written in English and Tagalog, had long been sold out. Throughout the pandemic, she received thank-you messages from readers. The cookbook helped them to navigate their financial difficulties by setting up food businesses. Some said her recipes were popular in their restaurants.
Last year, the in-person instructions stopped as her home village imposed restrictions on visitors. Clients instead have been buying booklets of recipes, perfected by Jorge and her chefs, and cooking class kits of thematic cuisines.
Families can enjoy variety at home with such recipes as the mezze platter from the healthy cuisine course, varieties of roast pigs from the lechon bellies class, cochinillo asado from the Spanish cuisine, Greek souvlaki skewers from the Mediterranean cuisine. Some recipes are shared on the 25 Mushrooms Kitchen Facebook page. Jorge notes that the Singaporean chili crab got a lot of likes.
“It’s expensive to depend on takeout and food delivery,” she says. “The clients’ problem is that they don’t know what to cook. We give printed materials and recipes in English and Tagalog for the helpers. We teach menu planning and recommend where to source ingredients. We offer 20 classes, the most popular of which are Japanese, Thai, Korean and Chinese cuisines, kiddie, budget and Christmas treats.”
A P650-package consists of two thematic courses. Each booklet consists of 10 recipes, 25 Mushrooms Kitchen menu planning pad, 25 Mushrooms Kitchen grocery list pad and a helpline for inquiries.
Meal planning begins with a thorough weekly inventory of the refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Jorge maintains the FIFO (first in, first out) standard of putting the older food on the front and using them first to maintain efficiency of resources.
“Use ingredients in the pantry. If there’s a can of coconut milk and you’ve got chicken, eggplant and other vegetables in stock, you can buy the curry mix,” she says.
Homemakers can customize the menu according to the family members’ preferences.
“Wake up in the morning knowing what to prepare,” says Jorge. “Even maids want to know how to plan their day. Strive for variety and balance. Always include vegetables and a side dish. Don’t use the same meat for lunch and dinner,” Jorge advises.
A Sunday menu could have tinapa rice with grilled tomatoes for breakfast, country-style fried chicken with gravy for lunch, and a truffle prawn bisque with shrimp cake and a steak sandwich for dinner. Another day can consist of tuna tartine with grilled tomatoes and olives for breakfast, slow-roasted Italian porchetta with buttered rice for lunch, and a pizza delivery for dinner.
The school interacts with the helpers and homemakers through its Facebook page. Helpers can also consult with the chef-teachers.
The advantage of meal planning is that it diminishes the stress and prevents the maid or homemaker from impulse buying, which could result in stockpiling of unnecessary food. —CONTRIBUTED