FOR the past few years, Cagayan de Oro City has been dominating the culinary scene of Mindanao for being one of the biggest hub for foodies and food entrepreneurs. With the yearly success of the "Kumbira" culinary show and the mushrooming of both famous and up and coming restaurants and food businesses offering almost all kinds of cuisines, the city has proven that it has whatever anyone's palate demands.
Right smack among food business success stories is Cagayan de Oro's very own Monster Kitchen Academy. Founded in 2008 by Jan Michael Uy and his wife Maggie Uy, the Monster Kitchen has become the city's leading culinary and pastry school. Eight years into the business, the Academy prides in producing quality cooks and seasoned food entrepreneurs who have made great names in the country's food industry.
"The reason why we named our enterprise as 'Monster Kitchen' is because we want to 'Monsterize' food enterprises. By being 'Monsterized' we mean to make it bigger," said owner Maggie Uy.
And indeed, a lot of Monster Kitchen's students throughout the years have found their own successful paths in the food business through building their own restaurants and starting their own trends in the culinary world. As a matter of fact, culinary and pastry enthusiasts come from as far as Davao, Butuan, Lanao del Sur, and Zamboanga just to learn the secrets of the craft .
But in spite of the success of Monster Kitchen Academy, the Uys still teach culinary and pastry arts with the highest standards as when they began years ago.
Maggie Uy and her husband started the business in the most humble of means without actually expecting their business to boom and even become a well-renowned cooking school. Looking back, Uy said that this culinary tradition that they have built actually started as a simple laboratory project of her husband.
"When my husband studied entrepreneurship in Manila, one of their requirements to graduate was to make their own business. So he decided to make a baking supply shop. Our mother company was actually the YSU Marketing Company which is a big company of packaging supplies. And so we named that baking supply enterprise as 'The Monster Kitchen' and then, it was only after a couple of years that it became the 'Monster Kitchen Academy.' People were asking us why don't we offer baking classes than just selling baking supplies," Maggie Uy narrated,
Because of public demand, the Monster Kitchen Academy began giving Lifestyle classes to interested students. A Lifestyle class Uy explained is a one-day tutorial on any baking technique or lesson. At the start, their Lifestyle classes were only few and they were only teaching more of the basics but as time went by and the MKA were able to tap the expertise of chefs, their courses became more elaborate.
"One of the many things that is good about our teaching styles here in the Monster Kitchen Academy is the fact that we really teach culinary theories first before allowing our students to make their own food. One simple example is the art and science of baking. Baking is a fixed science, you just cannot adjust it or add measurements that will not work together. We make our students understand that if you are to make a decent and appetizing cake or pastry, you have to follow the rules of baking. That is why we really stick first to the theories of the books because when our students have already mastered these, they can do whatever they can in cooking," Uy said.
Owner Maggie Uy also shared that Monster Kitchen is one of the only two schools in the entire country which is certified by the Wilton Cake Decorating school in the United States. She said that Wilton is one of the biggest authorities in the world when it comes to cake decorating and Monster Kitchen Academy has decided to incorporate its modules to their classes to better meet the expectation of the students.
Also, Uy is proud to inform Kagay-anons of Monster Kitchen Academy's collaboration with Montessori de Oro's K to 12 Technical-Vocational track. This is, she said, to further expand the dissemination of what Monster Kitchen Academy has to offer to students in their own schools.
For now, Monster Kitchen Academy has seven exclusive chef instructors who have specializations in the various fields of baking and culinary arts. The Academy offers three types of classes. First, they have the Lifestyle or Workshop classes which are one-day classes for specific recipes or cooking techniques like cupcake-making. The twelve-day Certificate classes have wider scopes of classes with modules in Baking and Culinary arts; the graduates of which are given vocational certificates to practice in establishments or restaurants. And, lastly is the Professional classes which are composed of comprehensive tutorials from basic to advanced techniques in baking and cooking; these classes last from three to nine months.
Monster Kitchen Academy now teaches some 1,000 students per year. Uy shares that one of the biggest pleasures that she is getting in this business is the part where she gets to watch her students grow in the field of culinary arts.
"I actually have a student here which is only 16 years old. I remember when she first presented her first creation int the first few days of her class, she was near to tears because she was very nervous about her work. But now, days later, she can create wonders in the kitchen," Uy said.
To expand their influence in Mindanao and to better accommodate more students, the Monster Kitchen Academy is opening its branch in Davao later this year.
"It is amazing because we actually didn't expect this boom in our enterprise and school but we are thankful for the support and the success that we are receiving in the culinary field and we hope that it continues for years to come," Uy said.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 29, 2016.