My formal culinary journey began at AHA in 2007. At that time, it was the only culinary school that offered Culinary Arts and Entrepreneurship. I was impressed that it was ahead of the other schools in terms of offering a business component to a culinary course.
I thought culinary school would be easy, as I already knew how to cook. But, as the days wore on, I realized that professional cooking was very different from home cooking. There were principles to master, standards to meet and skills to hone. It had math, science, ethics and even law!
Culinary school is challenging. Body and mind as well as one’s emotions have to be in harmony. So much goes into a seemingly simple dish to make it look effortless.
The three most important things I learned from AHA continue to guide me in my culinary career. One, get your basics down pat. You cannot make anything complicated without an understanding of your basics. A complex thing, is just a combination of many simple parts.
Two, learn to be disciplined. There are many chefs out there who probably have an innate talent for cooking. However, without discipline, this genius will be wasted. You need to meet deadlines, focus on what you need to do despite the challenges thrown at you. You need to produce the same quality of food worthy of your salt, every time required, no matter what you are feeling.
Three, many things you need to know, you will learn from working in a kitchen. Cooperation, humility, leadership, and responsibility were inculcated at AHA. As you become more proficient in kitchen skills, you will also mature as you learn more about the world, working with all kinds of people.
I think many people would benefit from learning to work in a kitchen at least once in their lives. To learn to pay attention to the minutest details, to work quickly under pressure, to be consistent, creative and bold while keeping cost down. I think taking up a course in culinary arts might help one find direction in the many areas that chefs can now go into—photography, research, writing, restaurant consultancies, niche catering and many other possibilities.
If not, at the very least, you can whip up a great dinner.
Thank you AHA, for teaching me how to seize the seasons.
Chef Giney Villar, CEC-ACF
Purveyor of Historical/Regional Filipino Cuisine,
and Owner of Feliza Cafe y Taverna