MY JOURNEY TO THE CULINARY WORLD AND THE LIFE OF BEING A CULINARIAN BY CHEF NESTOR PANLAQUE JR (GERARDO’S CULINARY BATCH 10) OF SHANGRI-LA MACTAN ISLAND RESORT AND SPA.

(This speech was delivered during Gerardo’s 4th Commencement Exercises held at KCC Mall Convention and Events Center last may 28, 2011)

Guests… graduates… Good morning.

I can’t believe I stand here before you today giving some thoughts on the life of being a culinarian.

I would like to thank Chef Gerry and Chef Faith for inviting me to be a part of this occasion. I never thought in my entire life of becoming a chef but, the passion for cooking and eating runs into my veins, hindi naman po siguro ako lalaki ng ganito kung hindi po ako mahilig ( I won’t grew this big if I am not fond of eating).

It was my mom who turned my eyes into cooking. She was into food business when we were young. She had a small canteen back then, so I was exposed into cooking since my elementary days. During that time, culinary course was not as formal as today.

Two years back, over a bottle of brandy a very close friend of mine, Toots Lim, asked me if I would like to join him to study culinary. We went to Davao to look for a good culinary school.

But, one day I passed by Saging St. and I saw this very bright red gate on #15 and it’s a culinary school. Then my friend told me that his wife jenny had taken the course. She was a part of batch 7. She shared a wonderful experience. So I enrolled and I was part of batch 10. Indeed my friend was right.

It was a memorable experience. parang ayaw mo nga matapos ang course e. sino ba naman ang hindi makakalimot sa green classroom, cooking sessions, bonding with new friends at lalo na sa mga paglalambing nina Chef Gerry and Chef Faith.

When school is about to end, Chef Gerry asked us who are interested to take on-the-job training in Cebu. hindi pa po ako kumibo noon, because I’m planning to have my ojt in davao, After several days of thinking and consulting, I finally decided to go to cebu, at first hindi po maniwala si Chef Faith na gusto ko mag ojt at sa Cebu. Ang sabi ko pa kay Chef Faith noon, this is a life changing career. As you remember, Chef Gerry keep on telling us na ang impression daw po ng ibang tao sa Gerardo’s ay isang rehabilitation center, totoo po. Malaki po ang naitulong sa akin, 360 degrees turn po ang nangyari sa akin.

So, in June last year, five of us went to Cebu to have our OJT at Shangri-la Mactan Island Resort and Spa. I was first assigned to Banquet Station. During my first day of duty, I was asked to peel 1 crate of potatoes using a 12 inch knife, not a peeler. And I said to myself, this is the baptismal of fire.

Totoo pala yung sinasabi ng iba na magsisimula ka sa pagbabalat ng isang katutak na patatas. Then one day, the sous chef of Tides Restaurant ask from banquet station to assist them, then I volunteered. And I remembered one of the regular employees told me baka mapasubo ka, Then suddenly parang gusto ko na mag back out, pero sabi ko bahala na, subok lang. then I was asked to report at the noodles station. that day, the doors of Shangri-la has opened up to me.

After 15 days in banquet, I was assigned in the busiest outlet of Shangri-la, The Tides, breakfast. After thousands of eggs, omelets and good mornings, we were rotated to other stations. After a month of training, two of our sous chef, approached me during my break, and asked me if I am willing to be part of their team and I answered them with a big yes. Who would thought a nobody guy or somebody from Gerardo’s and General Santos City would get an offer to work with Shangri- la’s best chefs?

I have completed the 1000- hour training requirement in 3 months and 12 days. It was supposed to be 5 months. I worked at the average of 14 hours a day.

I did this with the motivation of Chef Faith, as she said it is possible to do it in three months. And after three weeks, I received an invitation from Shangri-la for an interview for a contractual job. And after series of interviews, I got the contract to work with Shangri-la last December 16, 2010. I was assigned at the main outlet of Shangri-la, The Tides. .

It is a worthwhile experience. It is more than just cooking. No matter how tired you are or whether you lack sleep due to shift of duties you need to smile and look happy.
It is a pleasure too when you got the chance to cook for some celebrities. Or you need to deal in handling pressures to meet high demand orders. And the most challenging is to meet guest’s satisfaction.

With almost a year of experience, I would like to share with you my fellows that the career that we chose is not as easy as frying and chopping. There a lots of ups and downs.

Life indeed is a box of chocolate you’ll never know what you get. Let me share with you a Swedish proverbs “God gives every bird his worm, but He does not throw it into the nest.”

With the codes of professionalism as my guide, Chef Gerry and Chef Faith as my mentors, with the support of my family and my dear Mary as my inspiration, I made it this far with God’s blessings.

There are a lot of culinarians out there, but only few are called CHEF! It’s time for you to shine. Congratulations!

Thank you very much.