KIDS SHINE IN OUR KITCHEN
Micah is a regular at our kitchen. When you meet her in person she is always the shyest kid of the bunch – always speaking in a barely heard tone. When she is in the kitchen you just see her confidence shoot up. Having taken a bunch of classes (sometimes even those for adults) she’s really confident when she’s behind that cooking station. She loves to “push” her abilities, trying to do as much independently as she can.
I think in general, kids usually feel like they can do anything and we adults naturally crush that spirit and set limits below their capabilities because we’re always worried about them making a mistake or hurting themselves. Chef Phil and I always try to to find a balance between safety and pushing the kids out of their comfort zone. We want kids to try new things and we determine (together with the kids) where their limits are.
For her birthday we were so pleased that Micah wanted to share her kitchen experience with her friends and of course we said YES. It warms our hearts to see her at home in the kitchen and even if the lesson was too easy for her (she’s done it a gazillion times) she still enjoyed and tried to work at pace with her friends, most of whom are doing all of it for the first time. She may be shy in the outside world but at our kitchen she’s always our junior chef star!
TEACHER TONY’s 40th
I met Ryan and Tony almost 3 years ago. They were probably my first “big group” client at Back of the House so their affair was really memorable. Everyone who has ever been to our kitchen knows I’m quite chatty with clients . Ryan and Tony arrived early since they were the organizers of this get-together and so we had quite a lot of time to chat and get to know one another before more of their friends came. It was a fun bunch and I ended up feeling like part of their party by the end of the evening. Ryan and i kept in touch on facebook. Just a comment here and there or i would message him whenever i had some questions related to where he worked. He would always reply politely and that was that. Just before christmas i got a message from Ryan , reserving a date in february for Tony’s 40th birthday. Of course i was delighted to hear from them again BUT i didn’t know it was under the saddest of circumstances. I didn’t know that Tony had recently passed away. I was in shock and it broke my heart . Ryan mentioned that Tony wanted to host an intimate dinner at Back of the House for his 40th and Ryan wanted to push through with it even if Tony had passed to celebrate all the he was and continues to be in the hearts of those closest to him. YES YES OF COURSE I would love to do that so Ryan and i started planning. So the day came and it started like a quiet night but the cooking activity with the family made the mood lighter. Ryan made sure we cooked pesto and chicken fingers because this was the dish tony loved to cook for his younger brother. It made the activity more personal. I was happy to have Ryan and Tony’s family there so i could offer my personal condolences. I was also very touched to have been part of this bittersweet affair. It brought me great joy to end the night by singing happy birthday to Tony with the rest of the group . Everything about the evening just felt right – and pardon the overuse of the word but i have to say – blessed.
ONE BUT NEVER ALONE
We have a rule at Back of the House. Even if it’s just one person enrolling for a cooking class, we will still continue with it. When we built this kitchen , i promised myself it was gonna be a passion project – Meaning we won’t get greedy and really give our all to everyone who presents any kind of interest to learn as long as we can keep the place sustainable. We were just supposed to have 2 people but one of our students backed out last minute this morning so Rachel was our only student. Given that i’ve never made bread before, i felt it was the universe’s way to push me to do something new and challenging (and not waste the ingredients prepared ) . I was so glad i joined Rachel. Super achievement unlocked being able to make dinner rolls which i loved eating. I even experimented with putting different fillings. Being our only student, I think Rachel enjoyed the almost one-on-one lessons with chef (since saling pusa lang naman ako) She was able to freely ask questions and go at her own pace. We also ended up getting to know her a little bit more because we had so much chika time. By the time we finished class we were so full since we kept eating our bread creations right away as each one came out of the oven. Chef had a hard time shooing was away since it has to rest before you dive in. It was a memorable fun morning with Rachel and we’re crossing our fingers we’ll see her soon again.
THERE’s SOMETHING ABOUT FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS
Gene celebrated her bridal shower at our kitchen over the weekend. Ann and her church group friends went in early to decorate it. Their set up might be the prettiest I’ve seen for these bridal showers. SUPER CAREER! This made me remember an article I was reading about female friendships – that women who spent time with their female friends often lived longer and were less likely to have diseases/sicknesses that affected memory. They even went a step further by saying that female friendships are extremely essential for all women. I totally get that – when we girls get together with our friends we talk about deep stuff not just on the surface small talk. We get to the nitty gritty of marriage, relationships, current stress, family, in-laws etc… The opportunity to share these with people we trust strengthens us. Our friends’ advice or just a pat on the back can give us the courage we need to battle on whatever we’re going through. That openness with each other makes our friendship bond even stickier.
I guess this is why so many of our clients have taken the time out to celebrate the milestone of their bride buddy. They realized that they need to be there for their friend not just during the bad problematic times but also during the good times – cheering the bride on as she begins her next chapter. It’s also a way for the bride to be reassured that despite being married, she’ll never lose her friends.
Gene’s group of gals last weekend seemed to be a tight-knit bunch. I think when you find a group of friends not just because you came from the same school or you worked together — but finding each other because of your shared values and faith is such a gift. Mas malalim lang talaga ang usapan. It was such a fun grace-filled and “informative” session with lots of sharing and laughter.
Wishing all the ladies in this picture more years of friendship and love.
THE LAST BOOKING FOR THE YEAR
I wanted to be the last one to book the kitchen for the year because I never get to cook anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m almost always at Back of the House but whenever I’m in the kitchen, I’m usually watching on the sidelines – since it’s really all about the client and what they need and if they’re having a good time. When my friend Tish called for a reunion with my old work friends I volunteered Back of the House since they’ve never experienced it yet.
Tish & Derek were my clients when I was doing AVPs for Close-up. Back then we would spend weeks at the editing bay and of course with all that time together, we couldn’t help but be good friends . We missed April this time though as she was abroad for the holidays. Derek brought his wife Trina and their kids which made the cooking session extra fun.
We just made our pasta and the rest (steak & roast chicken) was pre-made by Chef Phil so we didn’t get tired at all.
I love how i was able to share my new “work” with old clients.
EYE CAN’T BELIEVE HOW FUN THE NIGHT WAS
A friend of a friend reached out to me for a private dining booking for 25pax. I don’t usually ask who is coming because what’s important to me is I pin down the type of food the client will like first before i get the other details. Later on I found out it was for the wonderful Ophthalmologists of QCGH. Chef Phil started cooking as early as 6am to be ready for the 5pm dinner. The menu was pure comfort food.
December traffic has a way of never letting any affair start at the time planned but we knew people would be arriving tired and hungry so we made sure we fed them right away as each table started to fill up.
The first guests usually set the tone for the entire evening and we got the happiest bunch arriving first. As we brought out each dish, they voiced out their enthusiasm for it and did their food shots which of course made us “kilig” because it means they appreciated it. Having the chef on site and seeing him work in our open kitchen gives all our guests the particular perk being able to ask questions about the dishes they were enjoying. Some asked about how to reach that perfect steak temp. just like how we served it. Some asked about frying chicken techniques and some just wanted to pose in our kitchen and pretend to be cooking for everyone.
I always tell people we’re not a fine dining place. Our dining experiences are comfortable, laid back and (we hope) delicious! No need to be proper here.
Laugh as loud as you please, take seconds and even thirds or fourths and standard to any Back of the House experience whether it’s a cooking party or a private dining experience — always plenty of take home food. A big thank you and merry christmas to the whole gang from QCGH!
MIKE TAN’s BIRTHDAY COOKING PARTY
Mike Tan from GMA Artist Center had an intimate cooking party with a handful of his most loyal fans. Most of them have closely supported his career since his early Starstruck days. Mike chose the cooking concept for his birthday celebration and we happily helped his management pull it off. Since Mike is a health buff, we made sure the menu had lots of greens. You can check out our recipe page for Chef Phil’s Green Bruschetta which was taught to the group this morning.
What touched me the most was how Mike mentioned that his fans are like family to him already. I know a lot of showbiz people say this all the time but I really believed him because when the fans had the opportunity to give him their message, some of them were almost in tears telling Mike about how much he means to the group and how Mike has inspired them all these years.
I was very surprised with Mike’s cooking skills, he chopped, whipped, cooked like a pro. He was very comfortable in the kitchen and he joyfully shared his food creations to the guests.
Nicole Donesa was also a wonderful surprise. She hosted the whole program. She was charming and really got involved with the day’s activities giving it her 100% despite it being just an intimate small group. The fans of Mike were saying that they were now also fans of Nicole. I used to work for events so I’ve seen good hosts and also a few hosts that were just pretty faces. I was so impressed with her that i actually told my old officemate to keep her name as an option for hosting duties in the future.
Mike’s fans were sincerely eager to learn the recipes so Chef Phil had a blast . They treated Chef Phil like a real celebrity after with a photo op which i’m sure made Chef Phil feel appreciated. Lastly i need to quickly mention that Ina the pre-event coordinator and Roche the day-itself coordinator from GMA Artist Center were so reliable, always reachable and easy to talk to so all in all, no surprises, everything went smoothly – it was such a chill, fun , relax celebrity birthday bash.
I was initially confused by Ina’s request over the phone.She wanted to cook 2 menus. I couldn’t believe it. Since our cooking classes are super hands on, a lot of our clients get tired just finishing one set of our menus and she wanted to do 2! i warned her that it would take extra long but she seemed determined and up for the challenge even if she mentioned that she has limited cooking experience. I reassured her that we always make sure everyone journeys from zero to hero with every class so if her group was game, then we’re game too!
Erl, her friend, arrived early and she mentioned the 2 hour traffic from makati to get to our place that day. She stays in Dubai where i’m guessing they don’t have Manila traffic so it’s extra stressful for her. December + school dismissal time is a recipe for disaster. I always get jahe when i hear that our clients had a difficult time getting to us even if traffic isn’t really our fault. It makes us work extra hard to make sure that their cooking class here is worth the trip. She mentioned this was their mini reunion since she doesn’t stay here anymore. If i remember correctly they were friends from work -Gulf Air i think. We ended up chatting about the awesomeness of flying middle eastern carriers . Drooling over the new plane she was describing by Emirates…but enough about that.
Raine soon followed so we decided to start baking brownies for the base of our brownie tiramisu. I noticed they had lots of questions which excites us because this lets us know that they will probably try it at home after the session. It really all starts with good chocolate that’s what i remember chef saying. Whatever recipe you have, it still matters what your ingredients are to begin with.
Ina finally arrived and Chef made them start right away — It was one dish after another– creme catalan, the tiramisu, the croquettas, the porchetta , the easy paella and lastly – the risotto. Our staff ate marlene and mark helped just a bit when they needed a water break or phone check then they were all back to their stations immediately. I should’ve taken pictures of the dishes but i always get lazy by the end of the class and just ask them to tag us (i just cross my fingers they do, so i can share on our pages) .
I was delighted to see them happy with what they cooked . Just hearing them say yum is a pat on the back for the team already. All in all it was super fun for us and we do hope for them too.
STEFFI’s WEEKDAY BRIDAL SHOWER
I was surprised by a call for a weekday private cooking session because we usually get bookings for those on weekends. Given the quick time-span between inquiry to booking, I didn’t realize it was a bridal shower till the last minute when i was told that the bride never cooked before. I think i mentioned it before – we love students with no cooking experience because it’s such as joyful transition from their initial fear of cooking tools to this vibe of success in the end. Steffi and her family were a bundle of fun and energy. Despite December stress and traffic, the whole group was super into the whole activity with no bad vibes from the unusually long travel time. Everyone was enthusiastic and it was such a treat watching all the girls tease Steffi about her cooking. They picked a menu which had A LOT of chopping to make sure Steffi learned basic knife handling. From zero experience she ended up cooking 3 not so basic dishes all by herself. Spicy Kimchi Rice, Pajeon and Chicken with Bulgogi marinade. I kept telling Stefi I was just like her before – but the induction cooker is your friend… no flames! We especially enjoyed her Mom who chef and i ended up calling “tita” because she was so sweet and kind to us. We loved the simple froofroo decors turned body accessories making their kitchen outfits sparkle on the selfies. The kitchen is really at its best when we have families cooking with us. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to do bridal games but we ended the session with our usual sharing of bride advice to make sure the bride brings home everyone’s warm wishes and loving thoughts.
I am not a fan of fish. I’m so fed up with cooking dory and salmon which is too easily available in the grocery so when Chef Phil said he’d like to do a kasambahay cooking session that is all local fish cooked differently, I told him that might be a good idea since there must be many like me who don’t have many options beyond dory and salmon. The kasambahays were happy to learn a few recipes plus i think they also enjoy interacting with one another in a new venue. We cooked fish balls from scratch, tinapa croquettas, bangus gratin, salt crusted apahap and fish cooked in paper and herbs.
COKE TEAM BUILDING SESSION
One of the things we enjoy doing is creating special menus for our clients because it also stretches our existing menu list. When we learned a team from Coke was going to do a team building session at our place we rushed to brainstorm possible food items that can have their products as a key ingredient. We ended up with a Minute-Maid Orange Chicken Salad, Coca Cola Wings, Sprite infused pork, Ravioli and Tiramisu.
Chef started the day with a demo and then all groups rushed to put their own twist on the recipes.The judging was difficult as all groups really did a wonderful job of cooking the different dishes but in the end there had to be a winning team. The one with the least members actually won the overall competition. Most surprisingly and most memorable to me was how one team made their tiramisu purple – weird looking BUT it was judged by chef as the most delicious. Looks can be deceiving.
PAMILYA UYTINGCO BAKE NIGHT
Our celebrity friends called us because their favorite chef from Dumaguete was coming to Manila and they wanted a private session to learn organic bread and pan con chocolat at our kitchen. Although we only provided the venue, we were happy to have them over since these two are pure joy whenever they’re in our kitchen . Lots of kwentuhan not just about cooking and baking. Jennica has taken a few baking classes in the past but she was complaining that some of them were not as hands-on as she wanted them to be so she really needed this session to be able to consider opening up a small bake shop eventually (should they decide to live outside manila). I remember this day being quite challenging before they arrived but once they were there, all their good vibes made us end the day with a smile.
TWINKLE’s BRIDAL BASH
I get allergies annually so Dr. Caro has been our family’s go-to ENT for many years. She knows us like family. Last time I was there i casually reminded her that we owned Back of the House (since she likes to cook) and she said she would give it a shot. A lot of people say this to me but i don’t expect them to follow-through because I know a cooking experience is not exactly on many people’s top priority list. I was so surprised when her daughter Lee-Ann called to book a bridal shower package for her sister Twinkle. Dr. Caro also gave me a call to tell me it was happening so I was very excited to finally show her the kitchen i’ve been telling her about. Twinkle was marrying a chef, so Lee-Ann and her Mom thought it best to do this workshop so that Twinkle’s future husband would not be the only one cooking for all eternity.
The group came in a bit worried about the fact they needed to cook their dinner but eager to learn as most mentioned they never cook at home. We actually enjoy teaching beginners more than experts because they are more careful and they pay extra attention to the chef teaching, versus experts who half listen and do their own thing.
After cooking their dishes and enjoying dinner , we hosted silly paper games and ended the evening with everyone sharing their best advice to the bride. The groom, Martin made a special appearance in the end , just in time to hear the advice of the group to him as well. I think the thing that made this bridal shower extra special was how the bride’s family and the groom’s family came together as one, to celebrate this upcoming marriage. As many of us know, marriage is rarely ever just about two people getting together but rather 2 families bonding for life. Surrounded by their loving families who are equally excited for the union, Twinkle and Martin are sure to have the support they need to have their happy ever after come true.
COMING BACK TO HER HAPPY PLACE
Last October 18, one of the owners of Back of the House, Marivic, convinced her friend Matet to have a cooking session to mark her birthday month with a Korean Cook-off. Matet was actually at Liezl’s party (see below) so we were very happy she was game to come back and cook with us again. Just to backtrack a bit, Marivic was one of the main people responsible for building Back of the House. Together with Chef Jose and Phil for the design part, she was the one dealing with the details in terms of the physical build. This was going to be her happy place.
Unfortunately life gets in the way and responsibilities take priority over spending time in her happy place so we started seeing less and less of her. So finally, for the first time in a long time, she was able to come back and cook as a guest during the cooking party . She told me after that it was super fun and that she was happy that the place we dreamed up had really become a place of joy and bonding like how we imagined it to be.
After they cooked I was touched by the way they all “gifted” the celebrant Matet with affirmations . They all shared how Matet had touched their lives or how much her friendship means to them. It was very heartwarming and the night ended with happy tears mixed in with more loud laughter.
FIFTY GOALS AT FIFTY
Liezl reached out to us wanting to rent the kitchen so that she can have an Indian themed cooking party. The moment she entered our kitchen, we clicked. She loved the space, and we loved her enthusiasm in having this fun birthday party sharing her passion for cooking to her closest friends.
After a series of emails, we agreed on a customized Indian vegetarian menu. Liezl’s son is a vegetarian, so she wanted to learn dishes she could actually do at home. She also knew a number of Indian dishes already, so we had to pick new ones that would also be easy enough for the whole group.
The cooking class was fun with 16 of her batchmates from Maryknoll cooking at the same time. Lots of picture taking, laughter and good food. Towards the end of the event, Liezl was asked to make a speech and she explained that life goes by so fast and people tend to put aside fun things for work, kids and other “more important” matters and as she turns fifty, she wrote down fifty things she wanted to do for her 50th birthday that she never had time for and this big cooking class with her batchmates was one of them. She wanted to share something she loved doing with the people that mean most to her.
There’s no stopping this birthday girl! we were surprised to find out she was free diving the next day in Anilao – as part of her 50 things to do at 50 list. We are over-the-moon thrilled to have been part of her memorable series of celebrations.
WEEKENDS ARE FOR FAMILY
Friday was the night of Jinkie’s Bridal Shower. This was booked by our old friend Joan who chose a Thai Menu for the occasion. Joan and her family have been to Back of the House in the past. Her kids have joined us for a kiddie cooking class, and she and her husband were with us on Valentine’s Day – so they knew what to expect, and were very comfortable with the space and Chef Phil. It was heartwarming to have them cook alongside their kids, since the party turned into a family affair with some of the guests bringing their kids along.
The next day was Elian’s birthday party, whom Chef Phil calls “my favorite little boy in the world”. Elian has been cooking in our kitchen with his little brother Agu for 2 summers already. Elian LOVES to cook, and he loves being in charge of his own cooking station. He knows that when he’s at Back of the House, he’s in charge of his dishes. Mommy or Yaya are not allowed to help! I was so touched that his mom Val said that she gave Elian a choice of many different things for his party, but Elian chose a cooking party.. . that’s our boy! Elian and his 8 friends cooked spaghetti and meatballs as well as unicorn poop cookies. In the age of gadgets and you tube, I love how these kids dropped their phones and tablets for a fun afternoon getting creative and even a little messy.
Every session with Elian and Agu ends with them horsing around with Chef Phil. So on his birthday – this tradition had to take place of course! The boys were all over Chef Phil and I was sure to get a few hugs in too, as these boys are awesomely sweet.
Just as a side note, after the cooking session, Val’s husband generously shared the most delicious wine I’ve tasted here in Manila. I barely drink so this says something!– I must find this bottle of Michele Chiarlo NIVOLE Moscato d’ asti. Let me warn you though that my taste buds are far from refined.
Rafa’s birthday, which was on a Sunday, was the last event for this busy weekend. His Mom Sheryll worked closely with us in making sure the details were all locked down, since aside from the kids, she also invited some of Rafa’s titos and titas to celebrate with them.
Similar to Elian’s party, Rafa’s celebration was all about cooking too. Rafa and his friends cooked beef sliders, corndogs and chocolate chip cookies. We enjoyed teaching Rafa and his cousins basic dishes since most of them seem like kitchen newbies. The parents were busy taking pictures of their little ones, and stealing cookies and corndogs from their kids. It was funny how they needed to ask permission from their kids since the mini-chefs were protective of the dishes they tirelessly cooked. One delighted parent event commented “eh sa bahay nga di man lang yan tumatapak sa kusina”. Crossing our fingers that we’ve encouraged these little boys and girls to help mom and dad more in the kitchen when they go back home.
So that ends our busy weekend. Forgive me for being sentimental as we finish this fun filled weekend – I just LOVE how all these kids and their folks are making wonderful memories in the kitchen. I believe cooking brings kids and their parents closer together. It is also a great way to get them off their gadgets.
In the same way, I remember my baking classes when I was 9, I hope these kids remember that there was a kitchen called Back of the House where they absolutely had fun cooking.
Last September 5, the California Dairy Board brought the “Cheese Dude” Chef Mark Todd to Manila to teach a group of their special guest bloggers how to make cheese from scratch.
Listening to his presentation, I just never realized there was so much to learn about cheese in general… yes guys, it’s not just a pizza topping after all. Most interesting was that cheese is not really classified by where it’s from unlike most specialty alcoholic drinks but rather by its hardness.
We laughed at his stories of how amazing cheese is sometimes discovered by some guy making a mistake on the formulation or getting the temperature wrong. More often than not, that mistake paves the way for a new cheese being born.
After the short presentation, the group was given the hands-on opportunity to make their own cheese and butter from scratch . In theory, I knew butter was just from heavy cream, but it was a thrill seeing it form just by shaking it vigorously in a jar for 30mins! The group also made ricotta and queso blanco.
After the whole session, Chef Phil and I were able to chat with the Cheese Dude and more than the cheese lessons, the thing that I will always remember about him is his perspective on life. He was given the opportunity to host his own show on the food channel, and be this huge media personality, but he recognized that he is already living his dream life, and want nothing more. He travels the world teaching hundreds of people about something he is passionate enough – cheese. On his days off, he retires to his nature retreat of a home. He is at peace and wants nothing more. Definitely learned a little something beyond cheese from the cheese dude.
WADOUGH’s BAKING WORKSHOP
September 27 was Wado’s hands-on baking class in the kitchen. My sister and I usually tap Chef Wado for our own private baking classes because we believe he truly has THE BEST CUPCAKES in Metro Manila. He is so generous to share his to-die-for recipes with his students. What’s wonderful about his classes is that even if he’s not our in-house chef, he totally adapts our “all hands-on” policy, which means his students get to make their sweet creations by themselves start to finish. It must have been so tiring doing two classes in a day, but he had no choice because the demand for his classes is so high! We look forward to his holiday class in October when he’s back with new recipes. If you guys have time and are in the QC area he also recently opened up his café called WADOUGHs , it’s along Maginhawa st.