Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cook and bake ala chef at Gourmet Bites

"Cook and bake ala chef at Gourmet Bites”
Sun.Star Davao, May 5, 2012

Even before being a ‘junior master chef’ was in vogue, Chef Simone Felicia Samson-De Vera was already happily experimenting and creating her homemade baked goodies when she was just in grade school.

“Everything I learned then came from my grandmother and aunts. I also attended workshops; watched cooking and baking shows; and did a lot of reading about baking and pastry arts”, shares the doting wife of Albert Joseph and proud mom of two lovely girls, Denise Angela (14) and Andrea Elise (9).

A Marketing graduate from the Ateneo de Davao University, Chef Simone earned her Diploma in Pastry Management from the prestigious Philippine School of Culinary Arts in Cebu City in 2010.

In October 2011, she and her partners opened Gourmet Bites, a small private school facilitated by professional chefs who are “passionate about arriving at the perfect tastes and flavors of food and how it is presented”.

Get to know more about this charming chef (my grade school and high school classmate!) who serves as an inspiration to other mommies.  It’s never too early or too late to pursue your life’s true passion!

What was your experience like when you were studying for your culinary diploma? 

My chef mentor, Chef Anecto “Nick” Garcia, who is a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, taught me everything I needed to know from bread production, cakes and pastries, chocolates, basic sugar works, and frozen desserts.  He was really very open in his teachings and imparted to us not only the standard knowledge we need to know in baking, but he also shared with us the skills and techniques he learned in his years of baking. 

The school was also very supportive to us students.  Never had I experienced a school that helps bring out the best in each student.  The training, the relationship and camaraderie are overwhelming that you can’t help but give your best.

During my stay with the Philippine School of Culinary Arts, my classmates Marjorie Te (Ozamis City), Stephanie Villar (Leyte) and Kevin Gongob (New Jersey) and I got the opportunity to represent the school in the International Culinary Congress 2010. Thanks be to God, all the categories we joined won gold. These included the 3-tier Cake Philippine Festival – Display; Dress the Cake-Debut theme; Live Competition; and Artistic Bread Showpiece-Pinoy Christmas–Display.

Was it always your dream to be a professional baker and teacher?

I would say the passion in baking was there since I was young but it became more evident as I matured or aged. The teaching part came when my brother, Engr. Kevin Raymund F. Samson, asked me if I would like to share what I have with others. 

My mentor Chef Nick was a great teacher, having the heart and the passion of sharing what he has with us.  Having experienced this with him I wanted to “pay it forward” and share what I learned to others and I hope they will do the same.

In addition, we are fortunate to have Chef Rhea Ilvi D. Chaves, a graduate of iChef, as one of our teachers at Gourmet Bites. She is passionate in both cooking and baking, and handles our Cookery Classes.  It is important to us that the chefs teaching our students love what they do.  This way, aside from imparting their knowledge and skills, their passion and love for their profession inspire our students to work hard and achieve their dreams as well.

Why did you decide to come up with the name Gourmet Bites for your school?

We came up with the name “Gourmet” because it encompasses both cooking and baking and “Bites” to mean that the programs we offer under it are small or short-term, like workshops or short courses.

Gourmet Bites is the Culinary Arts Extension Program of St. Dominic Savio Business and Technical College, Inc. The school was named so because St. Dominic Savio was the protégé of Don Bosco whose vocation involved running schools for out-of-school youth, street children, etc.

St.  Dominic Savio was a small, young lad who aspired to do great things.  He was small in size but a towering giant in spirit.  In the same way our school is small but we aspire to do great things for God.

What are the unique features of your school?

In our individual hands-on workshops, each participant will be doing all the recipes on his/her own. Not in a group, not in a demo. Each participant will get his/her hands busy and actually prepare and cook/bake during the workshop. Moreover, he/she will be able to bring home all the cooked and baked goodies everyday of the workshop—for Mom and Dad to taste and enjoy.

We also have demo-based workshops which cost less because demo-based workshops do not incur as much expenses in the ingredients.

We limit our classes to a maximum of only 12 participants per workshop to ensure that each one is given the proper innstruction and guidance during the workshop experience.

I think one of the things we can be proud of is our dedication to giving quality training to all our students.  Whether they enroll in our long-term or short-term courses or just decide to join the workshops they can be sure that they get what they pay for and more.  We believe in giving true value for money.

Running a school isn’t just a business for us, it is also a vocation to help and guide the students who enter our doors, that they may use the knowledge that they learn and the skills they acquire to better not only their lives but also the lives of others.

What is your advice for people who are intimidated with the kitchen/cooking/baking?

We say give our kitchen a try.  You will never know if cooking or baking is for you if you don’t at least give it a try.  

At Gourmet Bites, we have something for everyone.  

We have affordable demo-based workshops for those who are timid to get their hands “dirty” in the kitchen and just want to observe at the start.  

Then we also have our individual hands-on workshops for those who really want to fully experience how it is in the kitchen.

You've been teaching adults and kids in your different courses. How do you find it?

Teaching the adults and kids is both fun and challenging. The fun part is making the workshop entertaining to the kids so that they won't feel intimidated with baking.  The challenge is to be able to make them grasp and understand the important aspects of baking.  It feels good to hear your students tell you that they are able to make the recipe at home and everybody in the family liked what they cooked or baked.

One of my students was able to make a cake delivery all the way to Digos without the icing of the cake melting and the product arrived in mint condition and was such a hit. Hearing stories like this from my happy students makes me feel that I did a good job; that I taught them well.

My co-resident chefs and I are very eager to share our secrets and recipes to those who want to become experts in the kitchen whether they are beginners or enthusiasts who want to specialize in certain cuisines.   And it doesn't matter if you are 8 or 50 years old.   If you love to cook or bake or learn how to, Gourmet Bites has something for you.

So far, how is the response of Dabawenyos to Gourmet Bites?

Gourmet Bites began just last October 2011.

We have one-day work shops in specialized areas, kiddie and teen classes for budding mini-chefs, to Culinary Boot Camps of 3-7 days for those who want to start from scratch and learn the ropes in the kitchen.

This summer, we have 3 batches of 4-day cooking and baking boot camps for kids and teens.

All of our workshops are well-attended and we get a lot of requests for different cuisines.  We have also held 2nd and 3rd batches of some of our workshops in the past because of the demand.

And, we welcome corporate team building events, too.  After all, the kitchen can be the best place to build relationships and develop team work.

We also have our Professional Level Series for those who want to get serious in the professional Kitchen.

We are happy that the Dabawenyos welcomed us with enthusiasm and that many of them come back for more.

At Gourmet Bites, you can cook and bake ala chef!

Gourmet Bites is located at St. Dominic Savio Business and Technical College, Inc., Door 2 Suarez Bldg., 112 Ilustre St. (fronting LIMSO Hospital), Davao City. For inquiries and reservations, you may call (082) 2840579; Telefax (082) 3054237 and mobile  09088933498/09228789751.

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1 comment:

Mayet said...

hi, the cakes are awesome--I would love to attend to one of these classes, btw, just to let you know-the page is too narrow for the article