The Sustainable Diner Project

Cooking with a celebrity chef – Chef Myke “Tatung” Sarthou is something I wouldn’t expect doing as a blogger, so when I got the invitation from World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines for “Savour Planet” series called Cooking with a Purpose, I was super excited not just because of the fact that we are actually going to have a live cooking session but overall on that they have to share with us.

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The event started early at around 9am. After arriving at the International Culinary Arts Academy Cebu (ICAAC) where the event was held, we were offered with an egg toast for breakfast and brewed coffee on the side, also while waiting for everyone to arrive.

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Introduction to The Sustainable Diner Project

Pam and Jeanne from WWF started to introduce a little background on what The Sustainable Diner’s Savour Planet” series project is all about which is hosted by WWF Philippines or also known as the World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines (with a cute little panda logo).  WWF-Philippines is part of the WWF network—the world’s largest and most experienced conservation organization that operates in over 100 countries.  WWF-Philippines has been successfully implementing projects that find new and sustainable ways of using the planet’s natural resources, with the aim of protecting the environment for both people and nature.

So basically we are informed about the current situation in the food consumption and production in the country and how unsustainable it is. If you noticed, us Filipinos are now more willing to spend on higher value goods and services, such as better quality meals, ready-to-eat food delivery services, and new restaurant trends. With this situation, WWF Philippines  have lead to come up with the idea of this project.  This project, known as “The Sustainable Diner: A Key Ingredient of Sustainable Tourism”,  is the first of its kind in the Philippines, and aims to transform the food service sector into an industry with a minimized impact to the environment through the awareness and adoption of environmentally friendly practices.

The Sustainable Diner project aims to:
1) create a multi sectoral awareness on the environmental impacts of food industry and the underlying practices for sustainable approaches;
2) expand healthy and environment-friendly dining options;
3) create schemes for potential food and dining waste reduction; and
4) mitigate GHG emissions on food service industry. In order to achieve the milestones of the project, the collaboration with the national and local government agencies, food services and the dining public is necessary.

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Chef Jeremy Young, Dean and Head Chef of ICAAC, opened the workshop by discussing the importance of promoting the concept of sustainable dining in the academe, stating that the appreciation for local cuisine and the ability to craft dishes that allow local ingredients to shine are major perspectives that should be taught to the next generation of culinary and restaurant professionals.

Melody Melo-Rijk, project manager of The Sustainable Diner project and sustainable consumption and production in the Philippines, reiterated the need to change Filipino mindsets when it comes to food, stating that sustainability has always been the core of Filipino cooking and dining. “If we look at the habits that were passed down to us by our parents and grandparents, they have always been unknowingly rooted in sustainability. Ubusin mo ang pagkain mo (Finish your food). Huwag mong sayangin ang nasa plato (Don’t waste what’s on your plate). Kainin mo ang bawat butil (Eat every grain of rice). Kumain ng gulay at isda (Eat vegetables and fish). Avoiding food waste, eating local produce, and going for healthier dishes – these are the childhood lessons we grew up with and all of them are related to food sustainability”,’ says Melo-Rijk. “Which is why it is a wonder that it is not translating to how we behave whenever we dine out in restaurants. Perhaps because a lot of our dining decisions inside restaurants are dictated by factors that are not present at home – the choices that we have in every menu and the processes that go into preparing each of the dishes in that menu. Even by external influences such as trends, traditional media, and social media. This is where we need the help and support of the food service industry as well as the media and the academe. I believe that it is high time that we bring back value to food.”

Chef Tatung, on the other hand, emphasized that by learning how to cook, even just the basics, Filipino diners will have an easier time incorporating sustainability in their daily dining habits. “It is important for us to learn how to cook, not just learn how to follow recipes. Because if we learn how to cook, then it would be easy for us to use what’s available in the market as replacements in the recipes that we do have. Because if we learn how to cook, we see these ingredients in the market and we would instantly know what we can do with them. Sustainability in dining means using what’s available, what’s local, and what’s in season, and if we know how to cook, we won’t look for ingredients that are simply not there. It’s really going back to the basics of cooking, because how we used to cook and see food, that was based on what we now consider as sustainable food practices.” says Chef Tatung.

Culinary Student April, Dawn from Zee Lifestyle and myself.

Live Cooking Session with Chef Tatung

After an informative discussion, it’s time for the next best thing of the event – cooking!! We are grouped into 3 to 4 members each and are assigned to cook a certain Filipino cooking technique, using fresh, local ingredients brought straight from Carbon market early that same morning. The main purpose of this activity is for us to learn how to make use of the ingredients that were bought based on what was available and abundant in the local market that day and actually turn it into a dish that is simple yet delicious! Plus, we get to actually eat it for lunch afterwards!

Live cooking session is lead by Chef Tatung himself and his assistant chefs, Chef Gail Paolo Rimando and Chef Hernan Figueroa, who assisted the all of us along with kitchen assistants and culinary students from ICAAC.

Like I said, each group was assigned on a specific task. One group was assign to make different types of local sawsawan or sauces/dips, another group was tasked to handle tola or tinola, another to do pinais – steamed fish wrapped in banana leaves, and of course, three groups to handle Cebu’s signature SuTuKil – Sugba (grill), Tuwa (stew), and Kilaw (raw seafood in vinegar).

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Fresh Ingredients bought early morning at the Carbon market

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Chef Tatung giving off instructions
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Our Team was assigned to do Tinola and garlic shrimp.
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Busy doing our thing while Taking notes from Chef
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Our Shrimp and ingredients for our tinola is ready!
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Team Chicken Curry
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Chef Gail Paolo Rimando helping out the team
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Team Kilaw

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Team Sawsawan

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Dinuguan in the making
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pinais – steamed fish wrapped in banana leave in the making

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Team Sugba
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Chef Paolo helping us out
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Tinola in the making
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Our Garlic Shrimp is looking good!
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Soon to be Chef April doing her thing
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Our Shrimp is done!

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Photo op while chef tatung is checking on our tinola.
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With the ever fashionable tita – Vanessa East

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Being A Sustainable Diner

From this whole cooking experience we just had, WWF-Philippines hopes to instill an appreciation not just for our local ingredients and local cooking techniques but also for the basic essence of Filipino cooking – to nourish and feed others with love – which will hopefully translate to more mindful, eco-friendly choices whenever they dine out in the future.

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One major key point that I was reminded after the event was to take only what you can eat or if you are dining in a restaurant- order only what you can finish.  Especially with us Filipinos who are really into buffet, this is something we should always be reminded of. As diners, this is our little way to help lessen food wastage and  together we can help promote sustainable dining practices and in making The Philippines’ food service industry more environmentally friendly.

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Me during lunch taking only what I can finish. You can always go back and get more food when you’re done anyways!
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Photo with celebrity chef Tatung
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Group Photo With everyone, from fellow blogger and media friends, Chefs and aspiring chefs from different schools in Cebu and people from WWF.

Again, thank you so much WWF Philippines for having me and giving me the opportunity to share this information to my readers and to the world. Know more about The Sustainable Diner project in the links below!

Sustainable Dining Starts at Home
The Sustainable Diner Launch
Sustainable Consumption and Production
The Sustainable Diner’s 9-Step Restaurant Guide
Kaon Na ‘Ta! WWF-Philippines brings the Savour Planet workshop series to Cebu City

We Filipinos love to dine out. YOU have the power to influence and educate your friends and family through words and actions. Encourage them to follow your lead for a more sustainable Filipino dining scene!


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