I want to cook and become a chef when I graduate.
Such a statement is an irony in itself—considering I am in a liberal arts university. Some even wonder why I even took up creative writing in the first place, when I have an almost devil-may-care attitude about the discipline. To answer that question, it’s mainly because I am planning to take up a short course in culinary arts after graduation. This is a radically different path from most people in my course, who usually take up graduate degrees in writing. A blockmate once told me that culinary arts and creative writing do not mix, but I beg to disagree. Some writers find having skills in the kitchen advantageous, and some chefs are equally proficient with both a pen and a kitchen knife.
However, my interest in food spans from way back – even before I went to college. I grew up in a home where the family meal was a time where our parents would catch up on our lives. My parents would typically ask my younger brother and I how our day went about, alongside my mother’s signature dishes. Whenever either Mom or Dad cooked a new dish, I was always the first one to try it out. Aside from the family meal, television also whetted my interest in gastronomy. Saturdays meant watching Cooking With Sandy Daza on Channel 5, and tuning in to Chef Fernando Aracama’s How ‘Bout My Place on Channel 9 after finishing the household chores.
A few years passed but, at that point in time, I longed to work hands-on in the kitchen without any supervision. I could cook (if it could be called that) the most basic dishes—hotdogs, scrambled eggs, and instant noodles. I never handled raw ingredients, I never knew how to chop garlic cloves and onions, and I was afraid of fire. Two anime shows I was watching that time inspired me to pursue learning some kitchen skills. First was Cooking Master Boy, which was a story of a young cook and his journey to become the Legendary Chef. Second was Yakitate!! Ja-pan, which was about a young baker caught in the rivalry of two major bakeries and his adventures while working for one of them. My preference for such genres proved to be fruitful, as I already managed to work unsupervised .
However, there was one show that reminded me about the seriousness of cooking. It was titled Ryorin no Tetsujin (Iron Men of Cooking), but it’s more commonly known to Western audiences as Iron Chef. I always made sure to catch it wherever channel it was aired—Channel 9, the Asian Food Channel on cable television, and on Channel 11. The show’s premise was simple: four chefs specializing in Japanese, French, Chinese, and Italian (a later addition) were the titular Iron Chefs. Every episode saw one of the four being challenged by other chefs, on the show’s Kitchen Stadium. There would be a common ingredient that the chefs should use, and they should be able to create a full-course meal utilizing it. I rooted for Iron Chef Chinese Chen Kenichi whenever he competed, as he always did a modern take on traditional Sichuan dishes.
Looking at it, cooking and writing have similarities too. Writing any piece of literature is no different from preparing a full-course meal, as both require discipline. Focusing on one’s work, constantly practicing, and learning from one’s mistakes applies to both fields. In the end, both produce excellent output from hard work – a finished creation and a finished dish both elicit satisfaction.
As they say, it’s all a matter of taste.
(AUTHOR’S NOTE: I published this piece around 2008 it in my old Multiply page, albeit in a much longer form. I managed to recover it from the site in 2012 before it was permanently deleted, and this remained untouched for more than three years.
Meanwhile, I graduated in 2012 but did not push through with plans to take up culinary arts. A lot of personal things happened around that time, and I entered the workforce as soon as I obtained my college diploma. As of this time, I have had three jobs and have been employed for four years and a month. Despite veering away from my original plans, my interest in gastronomy never waned—thus, you have this blog right here.
See how long it took me to work on this, given that it’s already an abridged version? Well, I haven’t finished a large chunk of my backlogs so these creative writing pieces will have to do for now.)