Philippine Daily Inquirer

Susana Pascual Guerrero, culinary environmen­talist


SITTING across this lady everyone fondly calls Annie is one treasured pleasure I always cherish. She is soft spoken, humble, generous, curious, adventurou­s, patient, supportive, joyful and a wonderful conversati­onalist.

For a lady who just turned 70, I am amazed by her over flowing passion for two of her greatest crusades in life: the culinary profession and the environmen­t. How Annie was able to fuse these two passions is one for the books.

Her culinary life

Annie was born in a family where cooking and eating are ingredient­s to a happy life. Her mother was an economics teacher at the University of the Philippine­s, and part of the family’s weekly routine was for each sibling to manage a budget for the everyday meals. This of course included marketing chores.

Annie, among the siblings, very early in life learned how to make proper use of what was available in their surroundin­gs including the fruit-bearing trees, vegetable garden and backyard fish farm in their Malabon residence. By getting as much from their backyard, Annie would always end up with extra money and her mother’s pat on the back.

When Annie started her own family, while her children were growing and busy with school, she was busy fulfilling orders for home cooked meals. Her customers’ favorite orders were chicken galantina, adobo, pork asado, lengua, baked fish in olive oil and roast beef. The secret to her delicious meals was the discipline she learned form her mother, slow cooking using wood fire in a ‘pugon’.

As Annie became increasing­ly famous for her lovingly cooked home meals, it was a natural course for the family to formalize their home food industry in their property in Katipunan where The Cravings Group and the Center for Culinary Arts ( CCA Manila) now stands. The next Cravings Restaurant was in Wilson, Greenhills, followed by the outlet at the Shangri- La Plaza which has been there since 1993.

Now that she has left the business’ day-to-day management to her daughter, Badgie Trinidad, Annie is content with just being invited to all the company’s new food tastings. The Cravings Group has grown to 30 restaurant­s and coffee shops and 12 brands since it started in 1988. The Group now employs over 600 staff all over the Philippine­s including chefs running the kitchens.

I asked Badgie to describe her mother. “Everything I know in the kitchen comes from her. She is organized and efficient. She strictly adheres to her philosophy ‘clean as you go’ and does what she preaches. She is mindful about proper food portioning so customers do not leave any food on their plates. She squirms when she sees left overs because she empathizes with the people who are hungry.”

Annie’s generosity is common knowledge. She has given away her recipes, even the most treasured ones to anyone who asks. She has standing orders not to hire chefs who are not willing to share their recipes especially with their peers. Annie recalls one of their restaurant managers who removed one of her recipe books from the restaurant shelf. When she asked where her book was, he said he kept it so “our customers will not learn how to cook our meals otherwise they will not come back!”

Her environmen­tal life

Annie’s advocacies for the environmen­t include the Sinag Eco-center Foundation located in what was once a dump site near the University of the Philippine­s. Through her leadership, this site was converted into a livelihood center for the community’s less privileged.

The residents are given tools on organic farming, recycling and bee farming. Their produce of organic vegetables are bought primarily by The Cravings Group and other residents near the area. The community also produces quality recycled handicraft­s like bags, bracelets and lamps. “When once there was despair amongst this community, now there is hope,” Annie said.

Another very exciting environmen­tally-friendly program Annie is actively advocating is the ‘green chefmanshi­p’, a 16-hour training program designed to promote environmen­tal management and sustainabi­lity in all levels of food production.

The program promotes conservati­on and minimizati­on of energy, gas and water through efficient practice of the STEMS (Space, Time, Energy, Materials and Spiritual) theory, and increases kitchen efficiency while reducing the impact of pollution on the environmen­t.

It also touches on menu developmen­t and recipes which are consistent with zero waste practices in cooking. The program’s foundation­s are based on the strategies of waste management and RA 9003 (The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000).

Annie has authored six books, one of which is “An A-Z Guide for a Green Pinoy.” This is an easyto-read very basic guide on how each of us can become environmen­tal warriors. It touches on the 3-Rs of waste management: reduce, reuse and recycle.

In this book, Annie cautions us: “It has been more than 10 years that RA 9003 was passed, yet despite the simplicity and clarity of its implementi­ng rules and regulation­s, it is still waiting and wanting serious enforcemen­t. Compliance is only about 10 percent. If the law won’t pursue us, nature eventually will, and the penalty it will exact is more than what any man-made law can ever impose.”

Annie is working on the conversion of this book on e-format as well as one version for children.

Among her other commendabl­e community related projects is the ‘ Carinderia Grant Project’ of the Culinary Education Foundation where she is chairperso­n. The project, supported by Nestlé Philippine­s, gives scholarshi­ps to a 10-day cooking program in the CCA kitchens in Farmers Market and Katipunan street to food vendors and carinderia owners.

Here, they are taught the basics of cooking healthy and clean meals and given tips on entreprene­urship. This program has already benefited over 500 scholars. Nestlé has gone a step further by providing financial assistance with easy payback to deserving scholars of the program. Annie exclaims: “Teach them how to cook and feed them for a lifetime.”

Annie is preparing to write her seventh book, this time about recipes she has gathered from all her travels in the Philippine­s and around the world.

 ??  ?? SUSANA Pascual Guerrero
SUSANA Pascual Guerrero

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