Philippines Cooking Class in Cebu: I try to take cooking classes when I travel, and bring back the food and lessons to my own kitchen at home. I love Thai cuisine in particular, perhaps because I’m most familiar with it and it’s actually pretty easy — I can always fix mistakes (add a little more chili paste? Some more fish sauce?) and there’s not so much precision required. I’ve done both Southern and Northern Thai and Balinese cuisine.
So naturally I wanted to take a stab at Philippine cuisine, both to learn to cook but also to better understand the culture through its cuisine.
I emailed my hotel to ask for a recommendation, and they suggested the Caro & Marie cooking school. But it turns out that their classes were all featuring international dishes. I didn’t really want to learn French techniques in the Philippines. That rather defeated the purpose!
So I came upon the Philippine School of Culinary Arts at the Maxwell Hotel on Escario Street. It was about half an hour from the Hilton on Mactan island, cab was maybe $10. They didn’t really offer private classes, they’re a working culinary school for local students, but I asked whether a private class would be possible and they arranged it.
It turned out to be one of the better classes I’ve taken. Since they’re a culinary school, while the director of the school began the class with us they actually had the students working with us throughout the day. And teaching us became a part of their instruction. They practiced the day before, we were told, and a couple of them seemed a bit nervous. But it wasn’t polished, it was genuine and we got to learn as they learned and talk to them about their plans. They all were aspiring to work in hotels, with international chains being better and affording more growth potential, some of the students saw the opportunity to travel abroad to other properties in the chain as a strong selling point.
The biggest lesson I drew from the class is that while I’m used to food that mixes sweet, sour, bitter, and salty for a balance, Philippine cuisine seems to represent each in a separate dish and any balance is gained across various dishes. It’s certainly a cuisine of extremes. And unlike many other Asian cuisines, it really isn’t spicy at all.
The class was especially informal, one of the students brought his girlfriend to the class. I think he liked showing off how he was ‘on stage’ — she sat in the corner texting throughout the morning, and one of the other students kept trying to flirt with her. Rather than taking away from the experience, it made the whole thing a lot less formal and made me more comfortable.