Since I was a kid, I have had a close relationship with food.
My earliest memories that I can recall were with food involved and most also involved my Filipino grandmother, Lola Luz, cooking on a make shift black cast iron burner with similar coloured frying pan. I can remember the oil splattering all over the place whilst she slowly and lovingly fried a whole fish until it was golden brown, the skin crispy on the outside, the eyes white as porcelain dinner plates and fins so crispy and whispy thin that when you put it in your mouth it starts with a crunch and slowly disappears, leaving the salty taste of the sea and distinctive flavour of a perfectly fried fish. I always think how wonderful it is to have these memories and how lucky I was to start life with such simple pleasures that brings joy every time I recall them in my mind, like eating the first ripe tomato straight off the tomato vine that my uncle grew. I can remember the day like it was yesterday, him and I sitting on the back porch eating tomatoes like they were apples, sprinkling a little salt with every bite.
My dad grew just about every fruit and vegetable known to man and the memories I have of our back yard growing and picking fruit is just priceless! My dad up a rusty red ladder with a bucket picking the fruit up the top of the tree and me at the bottom of the tree with a washing basket picking the fruit down low. You can’t beat life experiences like that!
As a teen, I tried to study hard but it never took and I even gave University a shot but I quickly found out that it was never for me. The only thing that excited me about school was the first day, when we got our fresh note books. I loved the smell of unused stationary and I was always excited at looking at the blank note books and day dreamed about its potential, the body of work I was going to store in them and the knowledge it will give me, but that didn’t last too long! The only thing written on those note books that were of value seemed to be girls phone numbers, doodles and teenage love letters that never made it to its intended recipient. I think I knew that maybe studying was not for me earlier than I wanted to admit because I really enjoyed Home Economics and Tech. Studies but my parents were intent I had a tertiary education.
I stumbled on cooking when I was working as a dish washer. I quit working at McDonalds because I thought I had out grown the place. Instead, I worked in a five star hotel and enjoyed the “buzz” of the place, especially the kitchen where there seemed to be so much drama. The chefs shouted language to each other that seemed they only knew and responded to each other like well trained soldiers on the verge of an attack. They were always on edge, passionate and enthusiastic and their energy was terrifyingly contagious, they truly made cooking look so exciting, cool and challenging, something I knew I wanted to be involved in. I was always competitive, I think in pictures and not in factual information that is either learnt or understood like super “brainiacs”. I knew I was a hard worker who is resilient and determined to succeed, I knew that these God-given gifts and not the brilliant mind were given to me for a reason. So for over 15 years I worked hard, traveled the world and worked with some very talented people in some very impressive restaurants to learn and develope my skills to get me to where I am now, Executive Chef of that very hotel that gave me my original spark.
Cooking in a commercial environment is such an exciting career. I always think I should have a camera with a microphone to capture the every day events of a commercial kitchen. It would be the most popular entertainment on TV.
I want to share with you some of my experiences as a chef, my travels, my recipes, my stories and words of wisdom (can’t promise you anything with that last point). I have plenty to say but mostly it revolves around food! So stick around if you would like to learn about food and cooking and every now and again you’ll get a glimpse of the world we live in as chefs!
So I guess I’ll see you in the soup, we’ll have a pea together!!
Dennis Natividad Leslie
The views expressed here are my own!!
Jun Pang behind the lens at one of our food shoots!
Jun Pang is the man behind the lens.
He says he is an amateur photographer but I know that his photographs are better than some of the professionals I have seen out there.
Jun (some people call him Tony) is one of my chefs. He is a fully qualified chef who has been cooking professionally for nearly as long as I have. He is a very talented cook, versatile in Western cooking and Eastern cooking. He has cooked in some pretty cool places and is one of stronger chefs on my brigade.
Jun is still perfecting the art of photography, in my onion, it seems a lot more technical than cooking. We have been working together now as chef and photographer for over a year and we have always wanted to start a blog, a food journal so speak.
Jun takes all my food pictures for the articles I write on weekly basis for a local magazine. We figured, since we already have the material, why not see if the world likes our work, so we broadened the field by putting our work on the net. There’s a lot of work that goes into these pictures and it’s usually shot after a long days at work for me and for Jun, after a long day looking after his young children (don’t know who has got it worse). This is play time for us, tired but some how we get some good results.
This is a temporary site for our material. Jun and I are working on videos, because as he progresses in the photography world, he then hopes to move onto making videos, so we are trialing cooking videos as well. Maybe one day you will get a recipe, pictures of the dish and a video of how to cook it!
Together we are learning how to put this information in a package that appeals to the broader audience. We really are passionate about food and photography. Our work will eventually move forward, keep up with the times and with your help through feed back and comments, you will guide us into the right direction.
Usual day, I cook and watch the master at work
So stick around. Our aim is to teach people the basics of cooking. We want people to get involved in cooking and hopefully get back to basics. We want to educate and we want to show you how easy and enjoyable cooking really is. Bring people back into the kitchens because we truly believe memories are formed in the heart of the household and that – is in the kitchen!