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.

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