FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE
(Coaching the student division of the Pasta and Noodles category and Winning Silver)
4:00 am Friday, September 20 2002, text messages started pouring into my mobile phone like a “tsunami” from my students and faculty members. The messages were informing me that they were in school since 3:00 am inspecting in a frenzy the ingress and egress prepared the previous night for the competing teams for the Chef on Parade (C.O.P.).
I donned my whites at 4:30am and met up with the advance party of faculty members of O.B. Montessori at PTTC (Philippine Trade and
The competing team for Filipino desserts (sophomore graduating class 2003) was headed by Divine (Miss Universe) Duque, Chenee (Nervous) Hernandez, supported by the ever super-hyper Dominic (Doms) Tagayum. All the students were pumped up with adrenaline yet paled with fear and anxiety knowing this was the most prestigious culinary event of events! Chenee even wore her whites inside out that she could not button her jacket!
As early as the first week of August, I selected my pasta team headed by ladies man Jessie (Chick boy) Paredes and the petite and cute Bea (Speedy) Yenko. They practiced 6 days a week, 10-12 hours a day. They concocted and tested recipes like Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde create a winning formula. I shared Bea and Jessie’s fatigue, frustrations and triumphs. Uncertainty had prevailed upon us indeed.
The chef judges, some of them my co judges of previous culinary events, started arriving at PTTC mostly in their immaculate whites, adorned by colorful embroidered logos of their names and establishment. We exchanged the usual pleasantries. Clearly, it dawned on me that I was not a judge of this event. My guts started to tighten like a deadly embrace of an Anaconda.
By midday, we received the disheartening news that we did not make it in the Filipino dessert category. Most of the judges were expats. How in the world could whitey's judge a filipino desert...my educated guess is MAMARU! If these chef whiteys were competent at what they did, then what the hell are they doing in our country? Why not in theirs? Go figure...
We drew the slots for our pasta team landing at batch 4 which would start at around 5-6pm. I immediately knew we were in trouble. We even went to the extent of bringing the ingredients of our pasta back to the van and kept the air condition running.
The pasta category kicked off late at 2:30 and I was worried sick that by the time it was our turn to compete, the judges palate were fatigued.
The contestants were given 15 minutes for mis en place, 30 minutes to cook and plate for 5 servings and 10 minutes to clean up. The tandem of Bea and Jessie worked fast and furious as soon as the marshals gave the go signal. I was awed by their precision of movement like poetry in motion that they finished mis en place, cooking and plating, and cleaning up in 30 minutes flat.
We waited in anticipation well into the following evening and I impulsively wanted to chew on coffee beans. Uncertainty, anxiety and sleepless nights engrossed me before the announcement. Then it just happened, I heard the familiar school’s name “Silver goes to O.B. Montessori!”
It was only then that I experienced what it was like to be from the other side of the fence.
Currently, I am confident with my students at UST ITHM HRM! You share with them everything there is to know, train them endlessly and hope that all the skills KICK IN during culinary competition crunch time.
So far, I am tickled pink with the results.