Young men share how they got into the culinary arts, and the lessons they have learned from baking
During quarantine, many people have turned to hobbies like cooking and baking. It is a great way to relieve stress, and some have turned the activity into a business opportunity. But as more and more people post their oven exploits on social media, I wonder whether the traditional gender stereotypes that relegated women to the kitchen are being confirmed. Many of my female friends and family members are baking cookies, selling brownies, or giving banana bread as gifts.
I find myself wondering, “Where are all the men?”
In the 2011 Esquire article “Men Don’t Bake,” journalist Tom Junod observed, “You can cook like a man. But you can’t bake like a man, because men don’t bake. […] If cooking represents control, baking represents surrender.”
All the instructions, the measuring, the exact temperatures and timing, without any shortcuts, arguably clash with a lot of male stereotypes. But that is just what they are, stereotypes, which mean very little when you are talking about actual, real people.
So, back to my question, “Where are all the men?”
I found that many were in the kitchen as well, whipping up delicious treats. Manila Bulletin Lifestyle chatted with several boys (and young men) who bake, asking them how they got into the craft of the cookie during this quarantine.
Rami’s Flaky Bois
Prior to quarantine, chemical engineering student Rami Benabdussalam had limited exposure to, but a lot of admiration for, baking.
“I modeled for a culinary school’s campaign to attract the younger generation,” says the 25-year-old. “While posing for the photos, I got to witness the tremendous amount of care and respect people had toward food. I fell in love!”
When the quarantine period began, Rami felt inspired to try out new hobbies and activities. While remembering the culinary school, and seeing his friends on social media turn to baking, he realized that there was a lack of casual and hip Mediterranean dessert treats in the local market.
Rami sells the baklava-inspired creation, “flaky bois,” and the vegan alternative via Instagram. The “stuffed, crisp, buttery, layered treats” are topped with roasted pistachios and filled with cheese, and then even more cheese.
On lessons learned through baking, Rami says, “There are no shortcuts. One needs to put the right amount of time and effort to achieve their goals.”
Kevin Sy, who is behind eco-friendly brand Kool, has dabbled in cooking and baking in the past. Neighbors got hooked on his dark chocolate chip cookies with sea salt when he shared them during the quarantine. Soon afterward, his friends and family convinced him to set up an online business.
The 28-year-old entrepreneur has found that baking and business teach similar life lessons.
“Reading and having recipes on hand does help, but it’s different from having to actually do it,” says Kevin. “You realize you’ll have to tweak the recipe and experiment on different methods. The same goes with venturing into other businesses. There’s no sure way to succeed. You’ll need to have more experiences, which include failures to order to learn and improve.”
Sean Mikkel Atienza
Influenced by his mother, who is a culinary arts graduate, Sean Mikkel Atienza has always been drawn to baking. While it was just a casual hobby over the years, the pandemic put things in perspective. The 14-year-old was inspired to sell his cookies to raise funds for PPE donations, using his school summer to help out the larger community.
While his memories in the kitchen are associated with his mother and titas, Sean shares that this quarantine his father has also used the opportunity to make dishes. For the incoming 10th-grader, the important thing is not who is in the kitchen, but what they make and share with others.
“Patience is an important aspect of baking and was something I did not have a lot of when I started,” says Sean. “As I do it more often, I have become more patient and more open to suggestions.”
Growing up watching his mother in the kitchen baking classic recipes passed down from generation to generation, Justin Patrick Navarro has always felt that baking is in his DNA.
“I never thought that the kitchen was just a place for women. I found the kitchen to be a place for family, for everyone,” says the 24-year-old investment specialist, who has been baking ever since his high school days. “While other kids were outside playing sports, I was in the kitchen licking chocolate-covered spatulas.”
Over quarantine, Justin has used baking as an outlet to tap into his creative side. From cookies to cakes, he has gone from trying to perfect recipes to experimenting to find unique tastes and treats. After some encouragement from his girlfriend and his family, he opened Fatrick’s Bakeshop online to share his creations.
“What sets baking apart from cooking is that when you’re cooking you can always add and amend your recipe. But when baking, what you put in the oven is what you get,” Justin adds. “I take my time researching and experimenting with the perfect ratios and the best ingredients. I’ve learned to trust the process, to allow myself to make mistakes so I can learn from them, and to try again regardless of how many times I fail. I get to apply these lessons in my day-to-day life, which help me become a better person.”
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