Hestia, the Greek goddess of cooking, has found a new home apart from the Mount Olympus. It’s roughly an hour’s drive from Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.
Famous for its wide range of luscious fresh produce and exquisite cuisines, Tagaytay City will house kids who will soon transform the kitchen into their educational playground as the Junior Chef’s Cup Challenge opens this September at Taal Vista Hotel.
Taal Vista is a Henry Sy-owned English Tudor mansion-style hotel built in the ’30s. It boasts of a panoramic view of the world’s smallest—but deadliest—volcano partnered with a heavenly dose of culinary perfection.
The Junior Chef’s Cup Challenge is also up a notch higher than the usual reality cooking shows on commercial television because of its third element, which can be fully achieved by going treading back to the conventional way of cooking food.
“It is not just about the showmanship or the popularity. On TV, I guess the focus of more common shows is the competition and the ability to cook,” said Gigi Teves, vice president for sales and marketing of SM Hotels and Conventions Corp. “But this project has a third dimension, which is the value of healthy living.”
Its aim of promoting the nutritional and health values by going back to the traditional way of cooking from scratch serves a greater purpose, which explains why the Project Brave Kids, a formal volunteer group for cancer-stricken children, was chosen as project beneficiary.
“Kids will cook for a cause, to help children with cancer,” Taal Vista’s executive chef Babes Austria said. “We can do it. It’s not too late. We can, if not totally eradicate, probably prevent [cancer].”
Destiny has somehow played its role in the interweaving of things as Bernardo Corpus Jr., the hotel’s general manager, recollected a story that prompted him to conceive of the cooking challenge.
As a fan of Junior Master Chef in Australia, Corpus was deeply awed by the culinary skills of the children on the show. He thought of coming up with a cooking contest for the youth but didn’t want it to be just an ordinary competition. It all came unexpectedly as a phone call from his best friend who had just given birth to a baby boy. It became the deciding factor for the project, with the theme “Kids cooking for kids from the hotel with a heart.”
“The kid has cancer,” a teary eyed Corpus said. “His mom had been eating convenience food and the doctor said it had affected the child in some aspect, so when he was born, he was diagnosed with cancer of the blood.”
“Who will replace us? We’re aging. I don’t want to be cooking in a wheelchair,” chef Babes kidded. “These children need to be honed as long as there is a spot in their heart to become a chef.”
Children from eight to 12 years old who have the passion for culinary arts and the potential to become world-class chefs are encouraged to join the competition, open to both private and government schools particularly within Calabarzon and Metro Manila.
“We’re going for the younger set because they’re old enough to show their culinary skills but young enough to change the way they think,” Teves said.
Each school will be allowed a maximum of four student representatives who will undergo an aptitude exam before the contest.
The event will be held during the four weekends in September. The first three weekends will be for the elimination rounds, and the last for the finals.
Taal Vista has the best of both worlds as it merges antiquity and modernity. Aside from offering a majestic view of Taal Volcano from most of its 261 rooms, the place is popular for its Café on the Ridge, which features a sophisticated ambiance for both European and Asian cuisines.
In the Lobby Lounge, guests can spend the afternoon over a cup of coffee and a slice of Pumpkin Cheesecake. Connoisseurs of house-blended cocktails and classic wines will have to hit the bar by the lobby.
The experience will not be complete without sitting by the fireplace, the citadel of family bonding and intimate talks, countering the cool weather of Tagaytay with its warmth and comfort.
Other hotel facilities for recreation and business are Ylang-Ylang Spa, Swimming Pool, Fitness Gym, Game Room, Kids’ Corner, Sampaguita Ballroom and Grand Ballroom.