Are great chefs born or made?
We had the chance to interview four of First Gourmet Academy’s six top students from Batch 35-36: Amiel Techon, Karlo Marko Nobleza, Joanna Gosiaco, and Bryan Calanog. For excelling in their culinary crafts, they were among those ranked as the top graduates from their respective batches (each batch had three honor students).
ON THEIR CULINARY EDUCATION
- How did you know about First Gourmet Academy?
Amiel: When I decided to take up culinary arts, I looked for the best schools and I found First Gourmet Academy on the list.
Joanna: I saw First Gourmet Academy’s page on Facebook.
Karlo: I was looking for schools near me. Then, I remembered that a friend of mine studied at First Gourmet Academy, so I checked it out.
Bryan: Before, I was working abroad as a housekeeper. I always post pictures of the food I cook for my employers. I had a friend who always sees what I’m posting so she asked me if I was willing to study culinary arts because her friend knows about First Gourmet Academy.
- What pushed you to go to First Gourmet Academy?
Amiel: Everything is more than what it’s worth at First Gourmet Academy. I compared the value of education with other schools based on the modules, the number of class days in a week, the hours for lecture and the kitchen, and the number of students in the class. I also took into consideration the instructors’ experiences and qualifications.
Joanna: The duration and schedule of the classes were to my liking, as well as the curriculum.
Karlo: I really checked the school out. The facilities, the ambience; I was immediately hooked.
Bryan: All the hard work, pain, and sacrifice over the course of my 11 working years pushed me to pursue a career in culinary arts.
- How has First Gourmet Academy helped you in your culinary education?
Amiel: First Gourmet Academy provided me with the formal training I needed to have a strong foundation in this field. I gained knowledge and also learned to push myself hard over the variety of experiences and challenges we had. Furthermore, I learned how to work in a group; how to be a team player or to be a leader.
Joanna: First Gourmet Academy gave me new perspectives within and beyond the four walls of the kitchen. The instructors helped me gain a deeper understanding of the fundamentals and principles in relation to the field of culinary arts.
Karlo: The school helped quite a lot. Every day was a new day for me. I had no formal training as a cook—I sliced food in an awkward fashion; I didn’t know anything. First Gourmet Academy faculty mentored me on how to cook, how to appreciate food, and how to serve it well.
Bryan: First Gourmet Academy helped me prepare on my culinary journey. They will empower you with all the useful information that you will encounter in the real culinary world.
- Kindly cite some memorable experiences at First Gourmet Academy.
Amiel: I still clearly remember the time when we had to do a certain task again to make sure that everyone really learned. We even had to bring home carrots to practice; I really appreciated that. Before, I didn’t have any idea about baking and there were days when we struggled. But at the end of the day, our efforts and patience paid off.
Joanna: I think I will always remember the day we had to catch our own catfish and butcher it. Another would be making turned potatoes. And lastly, each day our class would always gun to be the best group in every kitchen session. These three will always be memorable for me because it helped me conquer my fear of failure. It taught me resilience, perseverance, and patience in learning. Most of all, it taught me humility—to not only think of myself, but also of my colleagues and how we can work together to achieve our goals in the kitchen and in life.
Karlo: Every day was memorable. When you have people like my batchmates to work with, every single day would be memorable. From days of slicing juliennes and batonettes; to days of eggs, and nothing but eggs, from baking to gising-gising, every single day was worth it.
Bryan: Everything about First Gourmet Academy, especially its teachings, is a memorable experience. When the instructors share their stories, it really inspires me. I think that is the most memorable experience to me, when you learn from the instructors.
- What do you consider your culinary weaknesses before going to First Gourmet Academy?
Amiel: Before going to First Gourmet Academy, I considered myself weak in trusting my instincts. I didn’t have enough experience in the actual kitchen and had no experience in executing different recipes, so there had been times I was confused. Hence, I found out that most of my instincts were good and that taking risks is one way to learn.
Joanna: One would be knife skills. Another would be baking skills and my limited understanding on the science behind cooking.
Karlo: Baking. I literally did not know anything about baking, except eating! Another is healthy food. I did not like cooking healthy food. Whoever knew healthy food could taste so good?
Bryan: My culinary weaknesses are my seasoning skills when it comes to food. Before, I didn’t season my food because I loved bland food. I didn’t know what to get or what to do to make the taste balance well, and I didn’t know how to measure every ingredient.
- What do you think made you stand out among your batch here at First Gourmet Academy?
Amiel: I think it is because I am a fast learner and I have the ability to remember the knowledge and underlying concepts of something easily. I have also learned during the course to trust my instincts and be fearless.
Joanna: I wouldn’t really say I stood out because each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses. For me, it’s more of a challenge to myself to grow each day and be better at what I do.
Karlo: I just did what I loved doing. Each and every one in our batch deserves to be among the top. We all have our strengths. We all have weaknesses.
Bryan: The speed! Everyone knows that I work so fast, I always focus on what I’m doing. I don’t talk or laugh when I’m working in the kitchen. I always learn from my mistakes and from my classmates’ mistakes. Before I enter the kitchen, I make sure to prepare all the necessities; it’s more of a Boy Scout approach.
- What did you do to excel in First Gourmet Academy?
Amiel: I took everything seriously. I planned well and paid sufficient time to recall the lessons. I put this on top of the other activities I have in life.
Joanna: Asked questions, read books and did some research. I always practiced, worked hard, and stayed positive.
Karlo: I made mistakes; I learned from them and improved thereafter.
Bryan: I focused on all the things that the instructors are teaching me. I learned from my mistakes, I learned to balance the speed and taste, and I learned how to work in harmony.
- Any tips on how to be part of the top 3 of your batch?
Amiel: Love what you do. Put all your best in everything but do not expect or assume to be the best among others.
Joanna: Focus and do not take each day to learn new things for granted. Value your time and education. Master the basics and you’ll go a long way. Dare to fail and learn to rise up. Use your strengths to overcome your weaknesses.
Karlo: Cook from the heart.
Bryan: Always give your best every time you are doing something even if you’re peeling potatoes or washing vegetables. Always put love and passion. Don’t compete with everyone else, just focus and do your own thing and don’t forget to smile and enjoy every moment because it’s priceless. And like my mentor and father (Thomas Paul) always says “if it’s to be, it’s up to me”; so it’s up to you if you want to be a part of the top 3 chefs of your batch.
ON THEIR LOVE FOR COOKING
- When did you see yourself as a chef?
Amiel: I saw myself as a chef when people around started to complement the food that I cook. They even asked me to cook for them.
Joanna: When cooking good food for others becomes a joy rather than a task or obligation.
Karlo: I’ve always wanted to run a restaurant, a bar, or a café… something to do with food. To quote, “Food is life. Enjoy life.” Have you ever felt that giddy feeling, that smile you get when you eat something great? I want to bring that to people.
Bryan: I always see myself as a chef when I make people happy through the food that I cook. I see myself as a chef when I see them enjoying and eating my food because it’s a combination of love, passion, hard work, pain, and sacrifice. I see myself as a chef whenever I’m doing what I love to do.
- What is your signature dish and your favorite cuisine? Why?
Amiel: As of now, I still haven’t made a particular signature dish of my own. Also, I don’t have any favorite cuisine. For now I’m still learning and still have a long journey to find it. Time will tell; definitely, I’ll have one in the future.
Joanna: My signature dish would either be the Blackened Seabass or Italian Pot Roast. I like how the spices complement the fresh taste and subtle flavor of the seabass. For the pot roast, I like the burst of flavor you get from one bite. I really do not have any favorite cuisine, but I go for food that is light, fresh, and full of flavor.
Karlo: Comfort food. I love comfort food. I believe that food should not only fill up your belly, but also your soul.
Bryan: My signature dish is my own dish: I named it “Chicken Shoy-oy” which I invented on my finals exam and by combining all the techniques that I learned from this school. My favorite cuisine is Eastern Cuisine because of the variety of taste the different cultures offer.
- How has your love for cooking affected your life?
Amiel: My love for cooking gave me my direction in life. Before, I didn’t know what I will be or what I wanted to be until I discovered my skills in cooking.
Joanna: It taught me about life and its limitless possibilities. It made me see that life is not hard. It is learning that is hard. But to the one who is committed to learn and grow in life, this learning process is full of joy and possibilities.
Karlo: I feel that I actually accomplished something in my life. But then again, this is only one step… a beginning.
Bryan: It affected my life because I learned about balance and harmony. Cooking and Life is the same for me—the taste is your feelings and the spice and method of cooking is the change you want to happen in your life.
TIPS FOR FUTURE CULINARY STUDENTS
- Would you recommend First Gourmet Academy to others? Why do you think they should attend First Gourmet Academy?
Amiel: Yes, because First Gourmet Academy offers high quality education that’s equal or actually more than what you paid for.
Joanna: Yes, because First Gourmet Academy prepares you and builds a holistic foundation that you will need in the field of culinary arts. In addition, the school fosters discipline, humility, commitment, perseverance, and teamwork—values that you, as a future chef, need to learn and understand.
Karlo: Yes. I would. Rather than just an educational institution, you’d actually feel you are part of a family. From the staff and the instructors, you’ll feel welcomed.
Bryan: Yes, they should attend First Gourmet academy because all of the instructors and staff will teach you everything that you need in order to grow as a future chef. They will treat you not only like a student but also as family. You can feel the love and care from the school; the connection will never be gone.
- Do you have any advice for anyone pursuing a culinary career here in the Philippines?
Amiel: Don’t let your dreams turn into just a dream. Do something on how you can make it happen. It may not be now but it can be just a step ahead if you work for it. No one is too old for this career anyway.
Joanna: Remember these principles (both within and beyond the kitchen): perseverance, humility, dedication, gratitude, and resilience. Never stop learning. It’s one thing to have the skills, but it’s another thing to foster the right attitude and have a strong grasp on how to use those skills. You must study as much as you practice, but do not forget to enjoy the journey.
Karlo: It would be a hard hustle. You’ll get nicks, cuts, and burns. That’s life in the kitchen. But if you want it, pursue it. Follow your dreams. Listen to the clanging of the pots and pans; they’re calling out to you… “I’ll see you in the kitchen.”
Bryan: Like I always say, it’s not all about the school, it’s all about you. Even if you are in the best culinary school in the Philippines, but you don’t have serious focus, you’re wasting your time. Always remember to do what you love to do and don’t stop believing.
It’s been, and still is, an incredible journey with all our students. We hope to see more culinary enthusiasts in the coming years. Here at First Gourmet Academy, you don’t just learn, you create opportunities! So what are you waiting for? Fuel your culinary passion! Enroll at the top culinary school in the country! Check out our Diploma Program.
First Gourmet Academy also offers educational assistance to deserving culinary students with its scholarship program. Hopeful and passionate students who want to reach their culinary dreams will get the chance to attend our one-year Diploma in Commercial Cooking and Culinary Arts course.