My GCC Journey by Chef Miner Del Mundo

St. Therese – MTC Colleges started preparing for the Grand Culinary Challenge as early as June.  We continuously tested all our entry-recipes in our school kitchen to ensure the best flavour combinations and side dishes. We took to the task seriously, carefully studying all our recipes before choosing the ones we will submit to GCC.

The most important thing we’ve put into consideration was that each recipe we will submit to GCC must not only be creative but easy enough for a student to execute under pressure of competition. This is the one thing most coaches fail to consider. Most will prepare to submit the best recipes they can come up with to qualify in the finals. But they fail to seriously consider the skills of the student who will be assigned to execute their qualifying recipe. The recipe and the skills of the student must match.

A month before the deadline for the submission of entries, we made our choices for the recipes we believe will get us through the screening. We also have decided that we will only focus on the cooking  competitions. We believed that live cooking is our strength. We also did not want to spread our limited resources thinly in all ten events. We wanted to focus on the ones that we believed we have a chance of winning.  This approach, this focus, has served us all through the years and has won for us many titles. As much as we want to participate in all the events, focus was necessary to channel our limited resources for more specialized trainings and preparations.

Preparing for competition isn’t merely submitting the best entries you can possibly make and hoping it gets through screening. Preparing for competition, any competition, is a continuous process. It never ends. You build a team. You invest in the team. You prepare your team for any competition that the school will decide to join. It isn’t simply “building” a team after you have decided to join one competition.

I remember when we were about to submit our final entries for GCC and I lined up all the photos of the students right beside the recipes. I carefully studied all the strengths and weaknesses of each student  and mentally matched them against the culinary skills demanded by our entry recipes. They key was to make the perfect match.

St. Therese invests in the training of every student carefully screened and selected for culinary competitions. Each one undergoes a minimum of three years experience competing in various culinary events. Each member of the team has his or her share of defeats and triumphs – each one, I always tell them, a learning experience that should make them stronger not weaker.

Our team’s greatest challenge during GCC 3 was to outdo the previous years’ performance – a more difficult menu, a more cohesive culinary team with advanced culinary skills. We won the Dream Team Challenge for four culinary seasons – Culinary Grand Prix 2005 and Grand Culinary Challenge I, II, III together with the highly demanding Modern Asia Cuisine event. Like the other teams, we too struggled over the long training hours that would start from 8 in the morning to 10 in the evening just to perfect our Seafood Longganisa recipe or our winning Sisig Cone. Winning does not come easy. We take each competition very seriously.

While it would have been very easy to focus on who our competitors would be, we decided to focus on competing against ourselves and surpassing the records we have set a year before. It’s a lot harder when you are competing against yourself and demanding perfection from every single team member. The pressure was simply too much that a week before we were scheduled to fly out, some members of the team were backing out — the pressure was simply too much to take. If our competitors thought we were not scared, we were.  

We committed errors just like any other team. We received deductions just like the rest of those who competed. From ingress to live cooking, each member of our team felt the pressure we knew we will feel. We just didn’t expect the pressure to double come competition time. We ingressed brown table napkins when it should have been green. We made a mistake in our menu titles. If our competitors thought we had everything planned perfectly, they were wrong. We too committed mistakes that cost us painful point deductions.

When ingress time started, I knew that it is where “coaching” ends. I knew it was time to let go and let the “training” take over. I really prayed that the one month hard kitchen training we gave to all our contestants, specially the first timers (new members of our team) was enough to get them through their events. I knew that my collegues from Lyceum of Batangas and Lyceum of Laguna will put up a very hard fight. They too have their wealth of training and experience to back up their teams. This respect for those schools who are competing in the same events we are is what drove us to strive even harder. Winning against the big schools will never be easy. You work hard for every point!

The GCC Rules – both for the entries and for the competition – became my handbook. I read it almost every night, treating it like a manuscript of rules and strategies. My GCC guidebook is full of erasures, questions and computations, key points that helped us compete well. You have to read and know the rules to better guide your students. You have to memorize the rules inside out. You can’t expect your contestants to compete well if you cant guide them through the process of competing.

I’m sharing this because I know that every coach dreams of coaching the winning team. It doesn’t just magically happen. It never gets easy. I share this because at one  time I was screaming my head off when my student won my first bronze. It never gets old. It always gets better. You always dream bigger. The journey never ends.

Never look at the other teams as your competitor. Never compare yourself with the other teams. You are your toughest challenge. Keep on improving. Challenge your best all the time. Focus on quality, craftsmanship and team work. And above all, believe in your team.

St. Therese – MTC Colleges forever! Go team! Congratulations for a job well done!

Do you have a GCC story to tell? The GCC Organizers invites all GCC participants, finalists and coaches to email their GCC articles about their GCC experience. If possible, complete with photos. Article contributions will be screened. Selected articles will be published here in the GCC website with the proper attributions.



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