Lessons from the KITCHEN
Culinary maven Sari Jorge shares her secrets to homecooking and how her school empowers household helpers in the kitchen
W hether it’s Thai, Japanese, or Mexican food, Sari Jorge doesn’t have to go far to get a taste of the most exotic and delicious dishes the world has to offer. Through her recipes, she gives a refreshing take on what food is in her world—from her very own kitchen. But more than her culinary background at the prestigious International School for Culinary Arts and her long stint as F&B manager at Catalina Canyon Hotel in California, Sari credits her cooking expertise from the ones who know it best — moms. She learned authentic Thai cuisine from her travels to Thailand, where she met a Thai housewife and picked up age-old recipes. Her travels have brought her to as far as London and have led her to acquire various techniques that were not taught in conventional culinary schools.
Now, with the help of noted chefs, Sari is busy extending her expertise to household helpers, moms, and kids through her own cooking school called 25 Mushrooms Kitchen. She sits down with
Northern Living to talk about her many passions, her journey into the world of food, and her tips for starting a healthier, more delectable dining experience in 2014.
What were your most notable culinary experiences that shaped your cooking today?
I travel a lot, and when I was in London, I took short courses at Cordon Bleu. I also went to nice homes in Thailand and learned from a Thai housewife. She taught me recipes passed down from her grandmother. And I think that’s better than commercialized cooking schools. Most experiences I have come from catering because my mother has been catering for 20 years. And at a young age I’ve been catering and learning from her.
What is your guiding principle when it comes to cooking?
For me, it’s not formal education that’s important. It’s really the home-cooked taste. So more than the recipes from culinary schools, I like recipes that have been passed on for many generations. Like recipes from our grandparents, because that’s really been tried and tested. That’s what I wanted to learn, more than the gourmet dishes we see a lot now.
Do you inject your own twist to the recipes you’ve learned?
Yes, I do. If it’s an old recipe of my grandmother, I add my own modern touch to it. I try to make it healthier from how they used to do it. I try to make it conform to the times, to kind of update it in a bit, and try to come up with new ways of making the dishes.
Do you develop your own recipes? What are your inspirations?
I do — my inspirations are basically what my kids need and want. I make healthier options, because based on my classes, I create dishes that are healthy but the flavor is not lost.
Tell us how 25 Mushrooms Kitchen started.
It started in 2009; we’re going five years now. I started teaching because my friends wanted to learn and I got many requests from them. Their kids were growing up, and most of their maids can’t cook. I have a maid who really cooks well. So they wanted me to come with her to teach cooking. We started with five students. And then it spread through Facebook, and our class grew to 40 students. It all started in my kitchen but eventually we had to get a bigger space, so we started conducting classes in the clubhouse at Valle Verde.
What do you usually teach?
We have regular classes, like Japanese cuisine, which is very popular. I realized that for the Filipino family, Asian cuisine is very well-liked. My bigger classes are the Asian cuisine classes, because we teach recipes that you can eat at home every day. So we have Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Filipino, of course. We also have French and other European cuisine classes.
What other projects are you busy with?
I write for my own column in a food magazine. We have a feeding program during the weekends, and I just recently launched my cookbook Tastes of Home: A Family Cookbook by 25 Mushrooms
Kitchen, published by National Bookstore. We’re building a new cooking school so we can move to a bigger space and admit more students, and offer more classes especially for moms. We’re not offering formal classes; we do "lifestyle classes" because even if you can’t cook you can just follow the recipes. What we offer in our classes are dishes you can do together, for kids, moms… We also have more training for household help, like table setting, food service, and food safety. So it’s really more than a cooking school, we’re also a training center for household help.
Tell us about your family. How do you balance your time with them and your work?
I have two kids, Roco, 16; and Rhiana, 10. We bond through traveling. Roco and his dad like to dive. So on the weekends we go out of town, go to the beach. My daughter likes to attend the kids’ cooking classes and help out.
Since our classes grew bigger, I have two culinary grad chefs to help with the teaching, I can now concentrate on creating and testing recipes. So that helps me balance my time for work and my family. I do teach some classes occasionally.
What are your hobbies outside the kitchen?
I play squash, and now I’m trying to play tennis. And me and my husband collect antiques and art.
For me, it’s not formal education that’ important. It’s really the homecooked taste. So more than the recipes from culinary schools, I like recipes that have been passed on for many generations.
I love shopping things for the home, like table settings.
What’s one tip you can give on how to spruce up dishes for the New Year?
Try roasting your dishes. It’s easy and hassle-free. You just leave the food to roast and it’s healthier. Anything from turkey, pork, chicken —it’s the most stress-free way of cooking. Use herbs and spices, avoid frying—grill and roast food.