Le Cordon Bleu Rises at the Ateneo

As you might have heard, Le Cordon Bleu, the legendary culinary institute, has partnered with Ateneo de Manila and to open Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo de Manila at the Arete, a new building at the Loyola Heights campus of the Ateneo branded as their “creative hub”. This seems to be Ateneo’s response to Enderun College’s Alain Ducasse Institute; Dusit Hospitality Management College’s partership with Institut Paul Bocuse; and De La Salle University – College of St. Benilde’s culinary arts, hospitality management and entrepreneurship courses. Of course in true Ateneo fashion, the Blue Eagles are quick to share why this school would be “the best”. This time, though, the bragging rights are well-earned.
Arete. The new home of Le Cordon Bleu Manila
Historic
The history of Le Cordon Bleu alone is worth taking pride in.
I am happy to highlight, first and foremost, a fact that Le Cordon Bleu International president and CEO Andre Cointreau, in my interview with him at the newly opened school in Arete, emphasized: that their founder was a woman.
“Le Cordon Bleu was created by a woman, who could have been a nun; she was unmarried.” Cointreau noted. “She thought it was unfair that women could not be trained in the culinary field, that although they were cooking for their families, it was still a macho world for hotels and restaurants. She was really dedicated to the idea of training women.”
 
The woman is Marthe Distel, a journalist and publisher (!). She started the culinary magazine La Cuisinière Cordon Bleu. To increase readership, Distel offered subscribers cooking lessons with professional chefs, with the first class held in January 1895 in the kitchens of the Palais Royal. These classes later on became a more formal school, Le Cordon Bleu.
 
Later the school became known not only for training women but for training an international audience of aspiring chefs who wanted to master the art of cooking using French techniques. Cointreau notes that their first international student was from Russia, in 1978; a few years later, in 1905, they had their first Japanese student. One of their most notable graduates is the legendary Julia Child, an American lady who studied at Le Cordon Bleu Paris in 1948 and authored the book Mastering the Art of French Cooking before becoming a television personality in the USA.
Marthe Distel, Le Cordon Bleu founder. Photo: cordonbleu.edu
International
 
Today, there are 30 Le Cordon Bleu institues around the world, each making a dent in the local culinary scene.
 
In London, Cointreau shared proudly, Le Cordon Bleu prepared the Coronation luncheon for Queen Elizabeth II in January 1953. And just last 2017, Le Cordon Bleu London was asked to recreate the 9-foot tall, 250-kilo Royal Wedding Cake wedding cake of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip for the documentary A Very Royal Wedding.
 
Coronation Menu of Queen Elizabeth by Le Cordon Bleu London. Photo: cordonbleu.edu
In Thailand, Le Cordon Bleu Dusit became the first culinary school to be accredited by their Ministry of Education, teaching a comprehensive professional Thai Cuisine curriculum with more than 200 recipes of traditional, regional, royal and modern contemporary Thai dishes.
In Japan, Le Cordon Bleu has offered a special bursary program, developed as an official project by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan for the Promotion of Japanese Cuisine & Food Culture.

Local Flavors, French Techniques

 
Cointreau emphasizes that what they teach are French techinques, not just French recipes; and students are encouraged to explore local flavors.
 
He acknowledges that in each country, one must also explore a nation’s culinary history and traditions. Just as in France, where each region and even certain families are recognized for their heritage recipes, so must it be for each country.
 
But Le Cordon Bleu is on a mission to codify not only recipes but also cooking techniques that are somehow being lost as the world evolves. By learning and codifying these techniques around the world, Cointreau emphasizes, “we are at the service of the culinary arts of tomorrow.”
 
“We come not only with recipes but with a grid of training even before a student learns recipes,” Cointreau explains. So a Le Cordon Bleu graduate would be able to demonstrate not only memorized recipes but also the technical skills needed to compete and thrive in the culinary world.
 
Julia Child at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Photo: cordonbleu.edu
Jesuit
 
“But why did you partner with Ateneo, of all the schools in the Philippines?” I asked Cointreau. The Le Cordon Bleu International president and CEO explained that it’s because of their shared values of “integrating a true mastery of crafstmanship with enhancing and shaping the characters and  competencies of (their students).”
 
He has also become good friends with Fr. Nebres (the longest serving president of Ateneo de Manila) and loves that Ateneo focuses not only on educational excellence but also on the development of character and values, as well as the importance and joy of spreading the message of Christ to the underprivileged. He notes that the founder of Le Cordon Bleu also valued not only excellence and empowerment but also charity as she in fact left Le Cordon Bleu to an orphanage when she died in the 1930s (the school was later bought by another woman, Élisabeth Brassart.)
 
The LCB Network
 
More than its history, however, Cointreau shares that the advantage of Le Cordon Bleu over all other schools is its incredible global network of multi-awarded chefs and educators.
 
“We are probably the only one to have such an international network. We have been around for so long; we are accredited in more than 10 countires. Not only are we accredited but we can exchange our teachers, programs, internships,” Cointreau stressed.
 
Chef Theirry Le Baut, Technical Director of Le Cordon Blue Ateneo de Manila, shares his personal experience on this advantage: “There are a lot of us chefs (in Le Cordon Bleu) in different countries, in different parts of France, and all of us worked either in a big restaurant or a Michelin-starred restaurant so we have the combined experiences of different chefs from around the world. So if we want to know about a technique, we can just reach out to each other; I can go to Japan or London and stay there for 15 days to see their new techniques and recipes, or they can come to the Philippines. We work together and try to find the best techniques to teach our students. For me, this is what makes Le Cordon Bleu unique.”
Margaux Salcedo with Chef Thierry Le Baut, Technical Director of Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo de Manila
Margaux Salcedo with Chef Thierry Le Baut, Technical Director of Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo de Manila
But he also emphasizes that their strength is in giving each student the skills to be excellent in cooking using French techniques. “French technique is the most important in the world,” Le Baut says. “You can cook Peruvian cuisine or Thai cuisine using French techniques.”
 
The school then give each student all the tools they would need for cooking “the French way”: a set of knives, thermometer, pans, etc. (Students can go home with this set and keep the tools for life.) “Each student has his own work station where the student is personally guided by the professor as he learns each recipe. And everything is precise, down to the measurement of millimeters and temperatures, whether it be for a potato that must be 6 cm in size and 50 grams, or fish that must be cooked only up to 54 degrees, no more. “It must be perfect all the time,” Le Baut stresses.
 
Courses
Liza Hernandez-Morales, Institute Director at Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo de Manila, shares that the school now offers two courses: Bachelor of Science in Restaurant Entrepreneurship and Diploma in Cuisine. The Diploma in Cuisine has 3 programs or phases: Basic, Intermediate and Superior, with each course running 3 months.
Andre Cointreau, President & CEO of Le Cordon Bleu International with Chef Thierry Le Baut, Technical Director of Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo.
Here’s the Ateneo challenge, though: all applicants must pass the Ateneo Collegel Entrance exam. But once you graduate, you will receive two diplomas: one from the Ateneo and another from Le Cordon Bleu.
 
Now you can be an eagle that is not only blue but Le Cordon Bleu!
Clockwise: Margaux Salcedo with Andre Cointreau, President of Le Cordon Bleu International and his son Charles Cointreau, VP of Le Cordon Bleu. Andre and Charles Cointreau with Le Cordon Blue Ateneo Institute Director Liza Hernandez-Morales. Margaux Salcedo with Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo Technical Director Thierry Le Baut.

Salonga Siblings Launch Annual Laguna Food & Cultural Heritage Festival

Well, actually they launched it in 2017, hehehe. This is the second year of the event. But it was my first time to attend.

And the Salonga siblings are not Lea and Gerard. It’s Chef Theodore Day Salonga of Ted’s Kitchen and Chef Gel Salonga of Ted’s Cakes & Pastries.

The two have become regional tourism advocates and on their own, without national government support, put together Sa Pantalan: Biyaheng Katagalugan, A Food & Culinary Heritage Festival showcasing the best of Laguna.

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Sa Pantalan – Biyaheng Pangkatagalugan: A Food and Cultural Heritage Festival (Photo: Arlene Hidalgo)

The Salongas hail from Sta. Cruz, Laguna. A couple of years ago, their dad, Ted himself, developed their family-owned compound to house a bed and breakfast with 7 cottages. So now, aside from Ted’s Kitchen and Ted’s Bakery, they also have Ted’s Bed & Breakfast.

Ted’s Bed & Breakfast
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Clockwise: Chef Theodore Day Salonga of Ted’s Kitchen with Chef Dino Datu, EIC of Cook Magazine; Ted’s Bed & Breakfast nook; Chef Dino Datu with Cook’s Marlon Aldenese and Maggie Silvestre; pick-me-up quotes like this are found around the compound.

Coming into the tourism industry, the siblings decided that it would be best if they also helped promote their artisan neighbors. So in 2017, Sa Pantalan was born. Pantalan means “dock”, because, according to Theodore, Sta. Cruz, Pila Pagsanjan and Lumban used to be pre-Hispanic tradings docks, very important locations for trade during the Spanish era. The title also references a journey of discovery through Laguna’s coastal towns, with Sta. Cruz being the central port.

I finally got to see the annual event this year and loved getting to know Laguna artists. This is Renel Batralo (photo below). He and Cesar Pasco design bags and homeware using water lilies.

ted's 9 straw art
Renel Batralo
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Pantalan founder/creator Gel Salonga with fiancee Chef Dino Datu modeling waterlily bags by Sarilikha.

Aside from the bags by Sarilikha, there were other straw bags as well.

Micky Fenix, Luisiana bags, Laguna, Philippines, Philippine crafts, Philippines bags, local bags, Philippines tourism, Gel Salonga, Ted's Kitchen, Margaux Salcedo
Straw bags by Luisiana, modeled by the effervescent food writer and guru Micky Fenix.

Laguna is also known for woodworks, specifically form the towns of Paete, Pangil and Pakil, as well as for making the Barong Tagalog, from the town of Lumban, so of course there were such products on display.

ted's 8 wood trees
Love these wooden Christmas trees by Laguna carvers!! Perfect for condo-living Christmas!

At the annex were sculptures and other art. Most interesting was the religious art by Bayani Acala from Paete, who made sculptures of the Sacred Heart.

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Artists of Sa Pantalan, Biyaheng Katagalugan. Top: Lito Ballaran, a watercolor artist from San Pablo, Laguna. Bottom: Bayani Acala, artist from Paete, Laguna.

It was also cool to meet Che Abrigo, the owners of the first zero-waste cafe in Laguna. She also makes all these uniquely flavored flours.

Che Abrigo

The festival also had on display Laguna delicacies like espasol, puto with salted duck eggs, bibingka, and Chef Ted’s own Bitbit line which includes Sta. Cruz longganisa. I realized from this trip that Laguna is not that far. You can be there in less than two hours.

There’s also a lot to see. Almost each town has an old church. Chef Dino recommends the ones in Pakil, Pila and Nagcarlan. You can also do trekking and swim by the waterfalls in Majayjay and Cavinti. There is an underground river in Cavinti. Caliraya offers water sports. And for those who just want to shop, you can find handwoven barongs in Lumban, footwear in Liliaw and woodcraft in Paete.

For an authentic Laguna heritage meal, try Aurora’s. It is also Chef Theodore Day’s restaurant, with Chef Gel’s desserts, located in the Salonga ancestral home. Aurora is their grandmother. Don’t miss this stop; it’s a great introduction to their regional cuisine.

Thanks, Day, Dino & Gel, for making us realize that there is sooo much to see in Laguna! Sa uulitin!

 

Fine Dining on Fine Pettyjohn Pottery

I had the most interesting dinner this weekend.

It was a unique concept: 6 ceramic artists (potters) came together to showcase their work through a dining experience hosted by Aleth Ocampo in her Magallanes private dining space.

Aleth, known for her classic French cooking, served all the dishes for this event in pottery by (pictured above) Jon Pettyjohn, Tessy Pettyjohn, Joey de Castro, Pablo Capati III, Johann Gohoc and herself.  (What some don’t know is that Aleth is herself now quite the distinguished potter! You can find works at Aphro Living.)

Aleth Ocampo is a culinary / ceramic artist

I had the privilege – randomly – of sitting across Jon Pettyjohn and wife Tessy, the masters of this art. And it was a real privilege – and pleasure – because I learned so much!

“What is terracotta?” I randomly asked those seated beside me, all of whom I had met for the first time tonight, all of whom were potters. “It’s a kind of clay. But there are many kinds of clays,” John explained.

“It’s the dirtiest of the clays,” Joey de Castro, another ceramic artist, explained.

I asked about terracotta because I had just met another artist in the kitchen, Joe Geraldo, who was just there to hang out. He explained that he works more with sculptures (rather than functional art) but uses terracotta.

Beyond the vase: Jon Pettyjohn. Vase by Jon Pettyjohn.

“This reminds me,” I told Jon, “of this article I just read in the Economist about a museum curator in a small province in China. There were farmers nearby who found pieces of these great terracotta sculptures of soldiers and since they were of no value to the farmers they were thinking of selling them but just before selling, they happened to ask the museum curator about them. When the curator saw them, he immediately knew their value, paid them for it, pieced them together himself and completed a soldier. Then the government got wind of it and they started digging for more and now there are these large museums filled with these terracotta …”

“The Terracotta Warriors,” Jon said. “Yes, we were just there. In China. It’s amazing. You should see it!”

My jaw dropped. I remember making a mental note to visit this place while reading this obit feature in The Economist, but I never thought I would have a conversation with someone who had actually been to the Museum of the Terracotta Warriors! I mean, it sounded so remote. But Jon and Tessy had been there!

Pablo’s bowls and Aleth’s plates

(Just to be faithful to the story of the Terracotta Warriors discoverer, the man is Zhao Kangmin. He was the curator of the Lintong District Museum in Shaanxi province in northwest China. The farmers at first would find smaller terracotta objects like arrowheads and body parts. Then they found a life-sized head, which freaked them out LOL. For a while they took it for an earth-god. Zhao told them that these were from the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), the first imperial dynasty of a united China, and told the farmers to stop digging. He got what they found, epoxied the parts together and made himself proud when he was able to piece together two warriors. Later, after hearing of these important finds, the government got involved and proper excavation to dig for these warriors took place. With the government’s involvement, they unearthed – hold your breath – around 8,000 infantrymen, officers and archers, 520 horsemen, 330 chariots and real, sharp weapons — all terracotta! Can you believe it? All thanks to the commitment to history and the foresight of Zhao Kangmin.)

Jon, though, enlightened me a bit more about this story. Apparently, at that time – 200 years Before Christ! – the emperors, who believed in life after death, would make their servants commit suicide when they died (because who wants to do their own laundry in the afterlife, right?). But the first Emperor of Qin refused to do this; instead, he had these terracotta warriors made. “Now that is one compassionate leader!” I laughed. “Yes,” Jon said, “He saved a lot of lives!”

The Pottery Squad and me

From there our conversation moved on to china. I was trying to understand the difference between clay and china. Apparently china is the most pristine kind of clay and back in the day was only found in China, from a province so blessed that their clay is white. And they created machines that would produce heat so intense that they were able to make porcelain. Since this was only available in China … hence it was called china!

Then I went on to inquire from the potters … so what is bone china? (I was just full of questions and luckily, Jon had all the answers!)

Bone china is England’s response to China’s china. After all, they need fancy ware for their tea! They wanted to replicate china. But they couldn’t … because, duh, nature. They just were not blessed with that kind of clay in the United Kingdom. But the brilliant Brits found a way. They discovered that if you mix bone with certain kinds of clay, you can create something that resembles the color of china. Hence, bone china. It is literally from bones! Animal bones, ok? Not human bones. Although, there may have been a time when they imported bones and some human bones were mixed in! (OMG!) ”

Pablo Picasso’s ceramic art. Not included in the dinner LOL

“I don’t know if I remember this right but I was in the Picasso Museum in Barcelona a couple of years ago and I remember seeing that there was a section on his pottery,” I said.

“Yes!” Jon confirmed. So yay I remembered it right – Picasso was also a potter. With very humorous creations, I might add!

Jon in fact lived in Barcelona in the ’70s. He moved there when he was 22 (he is half Filipino, by the way – mom’s a Lorenzo – though his dad’s surname is very American, Pettyjohn). His cousin told him, as a tourist, to check out the Barrio Gotico, the gothic district. While walking around, he discovered an art school with students doing pottery. He had a eureka moment where he found his calling to become a potter. Got really into it. Stayed in Barcelona for two years, studying the craft. Came back to the Philippines to pursue his passion further; even went to the Bureau of Mines to find out where to find clay (he ended up going all the way to Albay). And now Pettyjohn is a Philippine pottery institution, one of the pioneers and still leading the industry after 40+ years. (He met his wife Tessy, by the way, who was also a potter, at a gallery. She was also already a ceramic artist by that time. Married in 1978! Totally made for each other!)

Tessy Pettyjohn and her works of art. Lovely lady.

Aleth’s food was a hit, of course. Her homemade breads were sliced and served on Tessy Pettyjohn’s long ribbed tray. Her pate was served on bowls made by her as well. And I drank my hot water from an Aleth Ocampo mug. Sozzzhal!

The excellent mushroom soup using four kinds of mushroom, punctuated with truffle sauce, butter and cream, was served in bowls by Johann Gohoc.

Johann Gohoc’s soup bowls

I was also so happy that she served my fave French dish of hers – beef bourguignon, which she has really mastered. These were served in bowls by Pablo Capati, Aleth’s sensei. Pablo, by the way,  established the Capati Pottery Studio in San Jose, Batangas in 2000. Check out what the UPCFA Cermaic Studio has to say about him:

Pablo K. Capati III established the Capati Pottery Studio in San Jose, Batangas in 2000. This is where he built the 2nd Anagama Kiln in the Philippines. He has mastered the technique of making beautiful surface effects from years of experimenting with his kiln and firing it with varied local endemic wood. He pioneered the organization of international wood-firing festivals in the Philippines called Tropical Blaze, which initiated international linkages with ceramicists from Japan, Australia, Singapore and Thailand since 2013.

 

There was also halibut for the fish lovers that Town and Country’s Alicia Colby Sy raved about. We enjoyed these on Jon and Tessy Pettyjohn plates which we picked out ourselves. My seatmate Didith Tan chose a plate by Tessy, which had intricately crowned corners. I chose a beautiful one by Jon (I did not know it was by him when I chose it) because it was kind of like a bowl and for some reason I prefer eating from bowls over plates.

Pablo Capati – ceramic artist and condiment server LOL

Desserts were served in plates by Joey de Castro. (His is the nearest gallery, by the way, just on Edsa between Shaw and Guadalupe, if you would like to check out his works. ) Of the three desserts, Didith and Jon loved Aleth’s Kunafa, a Turkish dessert of shredded filo pastry stuffed with kefalograviera cheese. “That’s Chowee’s favorite,” she told when we told her we loved it. Chowee is Aleth’s dog. Lucky pooch! I, on the other hand, loved something Chowee and I won’t fight over – the chocolate mousse! Served in Pablo-made bowls.

Joey de Castro

As for our doggy bags? Dinner came with any item or set worth P2,000.00. (Of course, guests were free to purchase more.) How’s that for take home?

Check out more of their works:

For the works of Jon and Tessy Pettyjohn, visit https://www.facebook.com/pettyjohnpottery/.
For the works of Joey de Castro, visit https://www.facebook.com/joeydecastropottery/. His gallery is at Sierra Madre Pottery Studio. 586 Sierra Madre St., Brgy. Malamig, Mandaluyong City,

For the works of Aleth Ocampo, visit https://news.abs-cbn.com/life/10/22/17/chef-aleth-ocampo-launches-new-line-of-pottery.

Cesar Montano Concedes, ASSESSING Possibility of Madrid Fusion Manila 2018

We did it!! Well … almost, so let’s keep pushing!

So last week, Mr Montano confirmed to me that Madrid Fusion Manila would no longer push through.

So of course I shared the bad news with the world.

I never expected that foodies would make such resounding noise – as if food was taken away from our table! LOL

STILL UNLIKELY

As of 8:00 pm last night, Tourism and Promotions officer Maricon Ebron said that Madrid Fusion Manila 2018 is “unlikely”.

She stated the following reasons: no venue, no date, no proper bidding for an event organizer.

She did however say that it was possible for Madrid Fusion Manila to push through but in 2019.

lThe Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) is awaiting the Spanish organizer of Madrid Fusion Manila (MFM) to propose a new date for the international gastronomy congress, after the original date was called off to give way for a public bidding, an official said Tuesday.

*

Maricon Ebron, officer-in-charge of the TPB Marketing and Promotions Sector, confirmed to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that the event is unlikely to push through this year.

She said Foro de Debate, who owns the Madrid Fusion trademark, has yet to propose a new date for the event, making it unworkable to start the bidding process immediately.

“Most probably, the event would be next year because Foro de Debate has to give us a date. At the same time, we need to check our venue,” she noted. “‘Pag wala silang maibigay sa amin, talagang maka-cancel nga ‘yon (If they could not give us a date, MFM 2018 would indeed be cancelled). It may be next year.”

Full story of PNA here: http://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1030700

Today, though, while still not confirming that the food congress will push through, Cesar Montano, TPB head, appeased angry foodies by giving an official announcement that the TPB is now ASSESSING the possibility.

But most importantly, he now RECOGNIZES the impact of the Congress. Whee! 🙂

 

I called him to ask if he has in fact changed his mind and Madrid Fusion 2018 is now confirmed to push through. He still refuses to confirm that the event is IN FACT pushing through but said that they are now looking at Marriot Manila as a venue, after he got word that it is available, and, like he said in his statement, ASSESSING the possibility.

The grapevine says they are looking at September. But that is not official. (Earlier the grapevine said June.)

Whatever the REAL reasons or the real plans, at least the foodie world can now rejoice at the ray of HOPE that MAYBE Madrid Fusion Manila 2018 MIGHT (still “under assessment”!) push through this year.

More on Sunday in Inquirer Sunday Biz 🙂