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Blue Eagle meets Blue Ribbon

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Chef Thierry Le Beaut, LCBAI Technical Director, prepares Black Squid Risotto and Pan Seared Red Snapper with Malunggay Foam as part of the inaugural program of LCBAI, April 5, 2019. Photo from LCBAI.

BLUE seems to be the color of the pursuit of excellence as one of the oldest and most respected culinary institutions in the world, Le Cordon Bleu, partners with one of the premier universities in the Philippines, the Ateneo de Manila University. The partnership, called the Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo de Manila Institute (LCBAI) was launched in the university’s Arete building last week. Le Cordon Bleu was founded in 1895, providing the culinary education that shaped icons such as Julia Child. In turn, the Ateneo de Manila University has produced heroes, entrepreneurs, and politicians.

Its initial offering is the Restaurant Entrepreneurship program, under the John Gokongwei School of Management (JGSOM). The program will consist of courses in Management, Restaurant Management, and Entrepreneurship. Graduates of the degree will receive two diplomas: one from the Ateneo, and another from Le Cordon Bleu. According to a release, the Ateneo has invested around P150 million for two facilities for the joint venture: one in its Loyola Heights campus (in the Arete building), and another one in Rockwell, set to begin construction in the latter part of this year. The entire Restaurant Entrepreneurship program will cost around P1.6 million in tuition for four years.

Culinary courses in other institutions often run for only about two years, but, as mentioned, students of the program will go through the whole university experience in the Ateneo. Fr. Jose Ramon “Jett” T. Villarin, SJ, President of the Ateneo de Manila University, spoke about the new course offering, venturing into the technical, when Ateneo is known more for its academic offerings. “We’ve already seen a melding of the technical-vocational, and the academic in the world today. It used to be that we separate these things. For us, we see this place as a place of creativity. It is located in a structure called Arete (an ancient Greek word for excellence), which is the creative hub of the Ateneo.

“Creativity is not just the province of the arts… even the technical fields are capable of this kind of creativity,” said Fr. Villarin. “We asked [ourselves], ‘Why food? Why entrepreneurship?’ These are things that will build the nation.”

The students of the initial offering (numbering about 22 in the next semester) will go through the Core program of the Ateneo, a liberal arts structure encompassing language, philosophy, theology, and other such subjects. It’s hard to think about how Kant or Descartes should influence your life while you whisk a Hollandaise, but Fr. Villarin said, “I think it would be mutually enriching. This field is something that’s also new to us.

“This is something that enriches the whole human spirit,” he said. “We’re not just focusing on the technical aspect of the human being. Not just the digestive tract. I’m hopeful that this will actually spawn new questions — philosophical questions, cultural questions.” — Joseph L. Garcia