Good taste is subjective. Quality is obvious.
These are the first two sentences in Nicole Ponseca’s Instagram bio. Last February 27, Nicole Ponseca visited CCA Manila’s newest campus at UP BGC. And she emphasized the same message on quality and taste in her culinary conversation with the students enrolled in the Diploma in Culinary Arts & Technology Management program.
Nicole Ponseca is one of the movers and shakers of Filipino cuisine and culture on the global stage. She is a restaurateur, cookbook author (I Am a Filipino: And This Is How We Cook), James Beard finalist, and writer.
She started Maharlika, a Filipino restaurant in New York City, USA. One of their signature dishes is the “Longanisa and Ube Waffle,” a combination of sweet purple yam waffles and sweet Filipino sausage. Other popular dishes at Maharlika include Chicken and Ube Waffles, Kare-Kare, and Sizzling Sisig.
Her second restaurant is Jeepney, a Filipino gastropub in New York City, USA. The restaurant hosts karaoke nights, live music, and cultural events that showcase Filipino arts and culture.
During her visit, she spoke to our students about her culinary journey and what they must prepare for when they graduate.
I asked our students a simple question— what did you learn from her talk?
The talk with Nicole allowed us to realize and reflect on what we want to do as chefs after we graduate (hopefully). We also discovered that local Filipino Restaurants need to improve and empower their service operations to boost their success. We were also told to be unafraid and confident because it can expand our networks and make it easier for us to move forward as we dive deeper into the culinary world. — Alexis Ganda, Level 2
Stay curious and know your goal.
I learned through Nicole that staying curious and knowing your goal is essential. You need more than just to see what you want to accomplish; you must also be curious about how you will get there. Curiosity is a crucial part of being successful at anything: whether it’s sports or business, art or science, relationships or politics. If you’re not curious about what you’re doing, how will you ever know if it’s working? — Amiel Cabontocan, Level 3
Don’t dumb down your food.
When cooking for other people, don’t dumb it down. Do it according to how you prefer it. It is good to have a pre-service meeting, so that the back and front of the house are always in sync. The quality of service is as essential as the quality of the food you serve. You can always learn a few things, whether working on a fast food or a fine dining setup. — Shaina Empleo, Level 7
What hit me the most is that people outside Asia think we are all identical (Chinese) in terms of language and cuisine. Nicole discussed with us students the struggle to promote Filipino Food outside of Asia. But out of everything that we learned, the one most important thing that was stressed enough was to be confident in yourself. — Cholo Duarte, Level 8
Empower yourself through the challenges.
Nicole Ponseca’s experiences gave me an insight into the struggles and successes that came with being a woman of color whose ultimate passion is to represent Filipino cuisine and culture in one of the biggest melting pots of the culinary industry. The biggest takeaway I have learned from her talk is always to have an insatiable curiosity and let it be an empowering mindset to help oneself push through all the challenges that may come their way. — Marian Quinto, Level 8
One of the key moments during the talk is this reality check that for anyone wanting to enter F&B, “This job has been glamorized by food networks. But it’s a blue-collar job. It takes artistry and hard work. You will do manual labor and lots of hard work.”