The (Epic) Final Dinner

      Growing up as a little girl, I wanted to be a lot of things (here goes some shameless confessions) -- a professional tennis player, a TV host, a model, a professional volleyball player -- whilst my dad dreamed for me to become a corporate lawyer. But when I got to high school, I was already certain about what I wanted to be -- a chef and nutritionist (far fetched huh? haha). Fortunately, my dad was supportive of my plan. I did, after all, have the potential of being a lawyer with my reasoning (and subtly convincing) skills.

I turned out to be one of the fortunate few who was permitted and fully supported in jumping right into culinary school after high school. I completed a one year program at International Culinary Arts Academy Cebu (ICAAC) in 2009, when it was yet at Private (Sambag I), Plaridel Ext., across my current school (University of San Carlos - South Campus). I never felt so enthusiastic for school as this time of my life. I was always at least 15 mins early for class, eager to get into my chef's whites and always managed to smile at my chef instructors (including the Dean) even when sarcastic remarks were thrown at me. Of course, I was not exempted from the pressure. I did not have any cooking background at all (other than cooking breakfast food and instant pancit canton; I just loved to EAT!) and I was one of the youngest among my classmates (most of the students who enroll in culinary school are second coursers). But I loved every minute I spent in this school and its kitchens.

      It was in this breeding ground that I learned to appreciate butter (I used to HATE it contrary to my mom's fetish), dinner rolls, beef (specifically steak) and a lot of different kinds of fruits & vegetables I never knew existed; it was here that I've tasted some of the best dishes in my life. And up until my five-month internship at Marco Polo Plaza Cebu, I would even work longer than my shift because I enjoyed learning as much as I could. The kitchen was my nirvana. 

And now, five years later, still pursuing my Bachelors Degree in Nutritition and Dietetics (BSND) and having a food blog as the closest thing I have to keeping in touch with the food world, I received an invitation from the Dean himself -- Chef Jeremy Young -- to the final dinner of this year's batch of graduating students. I never thought I'd find myself back in my gastronomic nest this way. It was a great honor to be invited to such an event that is only exclusive to family members of the graduating students and selected media and friends of the Dean. There was no way I would miss this special annual event. I wanted to breathe in the home of my inspiration again. 

           Now that the school has transferred to Guadalupe, I was back but this time as a guest! I was seated with Chef Justin's wife, Mrs. Anne Mechill and her sister Justine, Dr. Nestor Alonso of The Freeman, and Zhequia Bardos of FTW! Food, Travel and Whatevs

The very affable siblings, Ms. Justine and Anne Aznar

            It was to be "a night of food and wine" -- twelve courses with complimenting wines for each course and a sorbet intermission. The entire degustation commenced from 7 pm - 11 pm; four long hours that flew by, my senses being taken to a different world. I've been dreaming of having a meal such as this and I got it sooner than I thought! I wouldn't even mind dining alone.

            The night started off with a grand welcome from a delicately breaded creme fraiche crowned with Russian Ossietra Caviar, elegantly perched in a large scallop shell. Looovvvelyyy. It was like getting a kiss from the sea as the caviar popped in my mouth. 

Russian Ossietra Caviar, Salmon Caviar, Creme Fraiche

Followed by the rest of the hors' d oeuvres,
all paired with a light, sweet French white wine -- Francois Labet, Cuvee Splendid Brut, Blanc de Blanc.

           There are certain dishes that are acquired tastes that remain irreconcilable with my taste buds. Gazpacho is one of them. I first tasted one in ICAAC -- a tomato gazpacho -- as a student and I had to quickly chug it down with eyes closed while the dean watched me. 

        I'm just not used to tomato juice. This one, with an almond milk base still didn't stump it for me. I couln't appreciate the chamomile essence on it. I'm sorry, call me uncivilized but it really tasted like soap to me. For the record, any dish with 'flowery' flavors has never appealed to me. I particularly hate rose-flavored anything. 

White Gazpacho, Almond Milk, Grape, Cucumber, Lavender, Chamomile, Tomato Sorbet  

            The next course -- the foie gras -- definitely awakened my senses. It was my first time to consume a whole serving. I've tasted only a spoonful before and I couldn't quite remember it. But after this experience, I have finally "found the light". I now somehow understand why this is a sought-after and treasured recipe. It's an inexplicable sensation that has left 'footprints' in my belly. Although knowing the background of the agony implicated on the goose/duck to produce such a gem, eating this is like selling your soul to the devil. 

          My remarks may not be valid enough since this is the only foie gras I've had so far; but I'd still say it was a beautiful masterpiece. Definitely one of my favorites among the courses. Beautifully seared and cooked to perfection, the delicate chunk melted in my mouth with an incomparable creaminess that I never imagined. I usually easily get sick of creamy dishes but this piece was glorious. Each spoonful gave a consistent sensation all throughout the course -- foodgasm at its finest.

Foie gras, Pumpkin seeds, Banana

         And then, the intermission to cleanse the palate and prepare for the next course. On to the mains with an Italian red wine -- Arneis delle Langhe Olivero 2011. :D    

Blackberry and Green Tea Sorbet

          Reading the menu for an update of the next courses, I came across the Elements of Bouillabaise. I was naive enough to be puzzled with this, slightly baffled at the thought of Chilean Sea Bass and King Prawns just being served as a soup. I thought it would be a waste (I mean, how stupid could I get?) but when the dish was served, I was beyond amused to find the 'elements' in perfect stature. 

        Everything was perfectly juicy and just the right flakiness (for the sea bass). This dish was a symphony in perfect harmony. 'Nuff said. Oh, and the fried skeleton of the sea bass was definitely the classiest 'bulad' I've ever had. Each crisp nibble was exciting. :))

Elements of Bouillabaise, Scallop, Chilean Seabass, Prawn, Clams 

           This was my first encounter with squab. I enjoyed this mildly gamey fowl especially that it had a strawberry confit/salsa (i forgot, sorry) with it. It was very tender and pleasant to the palate. It was like eating dark chicken meat. This was actually grown locally and sourced from the father of Mrs. Anne Aznar - Mechill. 

Squab, Strawberry, Peppercorn, Balsamic

         Seeing a tiny cube of 'steak' on your plate, you'd probably think, "This better be good or I'm going out to massacre a whole herd of cows with my bare hands!" 

      This cuboid creature seemed to be having a picnic with Mr. Enoki on an orange blanket, fenced by 'greens'. How romantic. 

        Well, I really did swoon over this little piece of heaven at the first bite. I prefer my steaks done medium rare but this rare one was stellar. It was perfectly (just don't count how many times I used 'perfect' for this entire post) tender, juicy and  packed with flavor. That was probably the best steak I've ever had and ironically, from the smallest piece I've ever had. :D           

US Beef Striploin, Kombu Syrup, Orange, Enoki Mushroom, Asparagus

            By this time, I was already stuffed. But I had to save room for dessert, my favorite part of a meal. Before dessert though came the last hurrah of the main course -- a New Zealand Lamb Steak with a potato headpiece. I love lamb best when grilled and with mint jelly on the side. The tanginess of the lemon salt with the lamb was interesting.               

NZ Lamb, Potato, Pistachio, Lemon, Yoghurt

And finally, dessert!

         Molecular gastronomy was eminent along the courses so it was not much of a surprise to find another 'sphere' for dessert. I did not quite enjoy the richness of the strawberry sphere. However, the cantaloupe sorbet enveloped by crepe had a pleasant texture and was served at the right temperature. I also enjoyed the complimenting cantaloupe jelly which was used as a pedestal for the sorbet. 

Cantaloupe Sorbet with Strawberry Sphere

...just because this deserves a second angle. :))

jelly inside a jelly... see it? try to look closer without bumping your nose on the screen. :))

           And for the grand finale, Chef Jeremy with Chef Justin alongside him called out the graduating students to serve the dessert platter to their respective families in a parade.                

Chef Jeremy Young (in black) and Chef Justin (in chef's whites) presenting
the parade of graduating students

              The dessert platter was just gorgeous! I loved how creative it was with the sunflower lamington seated in a sugar fabricated sunflower and the bright blue sugar pastry accenting the center of the plate. Plus, it was paired with my favorite champagne, Asti Spumante Santero!

Sunflower Lamington, Flourless Chocolate Cake and Custard Ravioli,
Tarragon Ice Cream and Orange Curd Cream

            Just when I thought the dreamy gastronomic night was over, Chef Jeremy announced that they had a surprise treat for us behind the curtains at the rear end of the bistro -- a dessert buffet with free flowing coffee or tea! It was too good to be true. 

         I did wonder at the beginning of the meal what they were hiding behind those curtains but I thought it was just to conceal the service set up for the night. Apparently, I had missed it on the menu. 

           Even though I was stuffed to the brim, I couldn't resist the urge to have at least one of each sweet treat to savor my champagne with.  

a closer look at the grandiose display

        It felt like an afternoon tea party seeing an assortment of prim and pretty pastries. There were the unmistakeable strawberry & white chocolate macarons (my fave!), three  kinds of truffles, pistachio florentine and cookies.  

(from top) chocolate almond cookies, white chocolate & strawberry
macarons, pistachio florentine
white chocolate pistachio cookies and truffles! 
one of each kind! 

            Everything was so scrumptious! I was even too excited that I gobbled up my macaron before I took the photo of my plate. Hahaha. The truffles were divine. The chili chocolate was interesting because the heat just somehow crawls up my throat after I swallow the chocolate that melts in my mouth. And then as mysteriously as the heat comes, it mysteriously disappears after a moment. I also loved the pistachio cookie!

           I really didn't want this night to end. I couldn't believe the dinner ran for more than four hours; I stayed 'til mindnight! I had a chat with Chef Jeremy and Chef Justin after the dinner. Deep inside, I was feeling really sentimental and a bit sour, wishing I could be back in culinary school. I really miss learning in the kitchen! :'(

This author with ICAAC's faculty, my mentors: (from left) Chef Gabriel Garcia for pastry, Chef Divina Pe for nutrition, Chef Justin Mechill for culinary, Dean Chef Jeremy Young and his wife Chef Fatima Young

                Sentiments aside, CONGRATULATIONS to the 2013 graduates of ICAAC! And Thank you so much, Chef Jeremy and Mrs. Fatima Young for the invitation. It was so great seeing you all and the school again, and most especially savoring ICAAC quality dishes. It was truly a night of food and wine I shall never forget.

           Here's a sneak peek of the school's kitchen and bistro. :D

               ICAAC was established in 2002 in Cebu City by Owner, Dean & Lecturer, Chef Jeremy Young, who graduated Hotel and Restaurant Management at Les Roches VS, Switzerland and obtained a diploma in Classic Cycle French Cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu, France. 

           ICAAC is the only culinary school in the country that is approved and certified by City & Guilds London. It has grown with the commendable endeavors of Chef Jeremy, whom I believe, has the passion in providing quality culinary education. Though he does little to no marketing for the school, performance speaks for itself; student applicants just flow in and the waiting list requires them to begin application at least 3-6 months in advance. They accept two batches each year -- June and November. He now manages the school with his wife, Mrs. Fatima Young.     

              I've always been proud of and believed in this school because of the quality of students they produce and educational system it provides. I don't think I have to say much because the photos tell it all. From the construction of the menu, preparation and plating of the dishes, to the service, excellence is written all over it. No bias, this school is definitely the place to be if you want a solid kickstart to your culinary career. 

        By the way, you'll see this signage just a little ahead of St. Paul school (if you're planning to visit the school).

(sorry for the night shot)

        For more details about the school, you can visit their website at icaac.net and for updates, like their Facebook page. For enrollment and inquiries, you can find their contact details below: 

International Culinary Arts Academy Cebu (ICAAC)
(near St. Paul school)
Don Gervacio Quijada  St., Guadalupe
Cebu City 6000

Email: icaac@pldtdsl.net

Contact:  (032) 412 5241
               (032) 256 0461


  1. annelise :D7/25/13, 8:57 AM

    no bias? hahaha. :D biased au ka! :D lolz. just kidding. but i enjoyed reading your post, jus. now i miss school. :D

    1. hahahaha thanks muhmeh! i so miss the school and the happy bunch! :D

  2. Awesome! Great post as always :-) And naa sad diay si Zhequia!

    1. Thanks Mustachio! :D

      Yup, she was there, too. :D

  3. Dessert! And more dessert!
    Food looks awesome - although confession, I wouldn't know how to eat food like that. Hehe! I think I'd end up making a mess in my plate while eating. :D

    1. Haha! Everything was heavenly! And yes, I did try my best to eat them right. :))

  4. I'd go crazy with these desserts! It looks tempting and obviously delicious. I can't agree more with Shee, I don't have any idea how to eat it or doest it have a right way of eating it? Great post, indeed!

    1. Hahaha! Yeah, I think there's a right way of eating it but who cares, it all boils down to how we want it in our tummies after all. Thanks, Fred! :D

  5. Replies
    1. Haha! don't be! I'm sure yours will come out great as always :D

  6. I was struck with the first paragraph of this blog.

    Ever consider marrying a lawyer instead? :)

    -Atty. P.