Philippine Cooking Class: a continuation of “Cathay & British Airways First Class, Philippines and Macau, a Presidential Suite, and the Fat Duck Restaurant”

Philippines Cooking Class in Cebu: I try to take cooking classes when I travel, and bring back the food and lessons to my own kitchen at home. I love Thai cuisine in particular, perhaps because I’m most familiar with it and it’s actually pretty easy — I can always fix mistakes (add a little more chili paste? Some more fish sauce?) and there’s not so much precision required. I’ve done both Southern and Northern Thai and Balinese cuisine.

So naturally I wanted to take a stab at Philippine cuisine, both to learn to cook but also to better understand the culture through its cuisine.

I emailed my hotel to ask for a recommendation, and they suggested the Caro & Marie cooking school. But it turns out that their classes were all featuring international dishes. I didn’t really want to learn French techniques in the Philippines. That rather defeated the purpose!

So I came upon the Philippine School of Culinary Arts at the Maxwell Hotel on Escario Street. It was about half an hour from the Hilton on Mactan island, cab was maybe $10. They didn’t really offer private classes, they’re a working culinary school for local students, but I asked whether a private class would be possible and they arranged it.

It turned out to be one of the better classes I’ve taken. Since they’re a culinary school, while the director of the school began the class with us they actually had the students working with us throughout the day. And teaching us became a part of their instruction. They practiced the day before, we were told, and a couple of them seemed a bit nervous. But it wasn’t polished, it was genuine and we got to learn as they learned and talk to them about their plans. They all were aspiring to work in hotels, with international chains being better and affording more growth potential, some of the students saw the opportunity to travel abroad to other properties in the chain as a strong selling point.

The biggest lesson I drew from the class is that while I’m used to food that mixes sweet, sour, bitter, and salty for a balance, Philippine cuisine seems to represent each in a separate dish and any balance is gained across various dishes. It’s certainly a cuisine of extremes. And unlike many other Asian cuisines, it really isn’t spicy at all.

The class was especially informal, one of the students brought his girlfriend to the class. I think he liked showing off how he was ‘on stage’ — she sat in the corner texting throughout the morning, and one of the other students kept trying to flirt with her. Rather than taking away from the experience, it made the whole thing a lot less formal and made me more comfortable.

We made:

  • Kinilaw (the Filipino/Visayan a version of ceviche)

  • Sinigang na Hipon (A sour stew of shrimps and vegetables)

  • Kare-Kare (beef knuckles, tripe and vegetables in peanut sauce) – they pre-tenderized the knuckles and tripe before the class for time.

  • Chicken Pork Adobo (Pork and chicken cooked in vinegar with garlic and pepper)

  • About Gary Leff

    Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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    1. That’s pretty cool that you were able to find someone to teach you Filipino cooking. I’ve spent a lot of time there and have never developed a real hankering for their cuisine, but there are a few tasty dishes that I like: Chicken and/or Pork Adobo, pancit canton (which may not have originated in the Philippines but they seem to have their own take on it), and some BBQ dish that I can’t remember the name. It’s essentially little pork tips grilled over charcoal with a glaze or something on it so that the edges get carbonized.

      There are several locations of California Pizza Kitchen in Manila and they feature a Philippines-only “Chicken Adobo Pizza” which is awesome. I get it every time.

      Did anybody get you to try the balut? That is a chicken egg with an almost-hatched embryo inside (so the critter has a beak, featers, etc.) I’ve never had the stomach for it.

    2. Gary, thanks for featuring this. Makes us Pinoys proud, and makes me crave for Filipino food. Damn I’m hungry.

    3. I’m sure they do not teach it in schools, but I do hope you got to taste Cebu’s lechon (suckling pig)

    4. I am glad that you were able to find a cooking class that you enjoyed and learned a lot from.

      The next time you’re in town and you want another cooking class, do check out We precisely cater to foreign visitors (but locals are welcome too!) who want to take learn how to cook the most famous dishes of the Philippines during their visit here.

    5. The foods looks extremely delicious! Yum! Uhm, can I ask how much do you have to pay for the class? I would also like to take that class since I’m going to Cebu, Philippines soon!

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