When I heard about a company that specialises in cooking courses for helpers, I thought it was ingenious. Small Cooks Big Meals has trained hundreds of helpers in cooking and baking since starting in 2007. Jasmin Owen runs the business from the specially designed training kitchen in her Chip Bee Gardens abode in Holland Village.
My helper Vilma signed up for the Basic Cooking Course every Tuesday from 10am to 1pm for a period of four weeks ($300). The idea is to help build upon her current knowledge and give her a solid foundation if she’d like to continue with the Intermediate Cooking course in a few months’ time.
Eight other foreign domestic workers attended the course, many from her home country of the Philippines, as well as Burma and Indonesia, and the camaraderie was evident from their first morning together. I have a feeling my husband and I are going to have to vacate the kitchen more from now on – and we won’t regret it. From here, I’ll let Vilma do the talking.
“Today was so much fun! I like Mam Jasmin so much. We made a yummy tomato pasta sauce for spaghetti and chicken sandwiches after using the chicken for a stock first. There were lots of new things for me to learn, like the names of utensils. My friend in the class (who used to be my next-door neighbour) called the ‘strainer’ the ‘drainer’ and we all laughed! Then we learned about measuring liquids and things like flour.
The Basic Cooking course doesn’t feel too basic to me. I know some things but don’t know others. All the helpers in the course are very friendly and work for expat families who want them to cook more western food at home. Jasmin has a very nice kitchen; all white and very clean. We write some notes on the handouts and recipes that she gives us. When the lesson is finished, we all sit down and eat the food we’ve cooked. It was a good lunch today.”
“Today we learned how to do some delicious breakfast things like omelettes, banana pancakes, roast potatoes and citrus French toast. Also, we learned how to do mashed potatoes just right. These dishes were all new to me before this course – we just do fried eggs for breakfast in the Philippines. We learned about presenting the dishes nicely.
The course is not too hard for me. I understand what to do. We learned that you can do variations to dishes, like adding tomato and ham and spring onion to a cheese omelette, or blueberries to a pancake. I’m really enjoying this course. It seems like good value to me.”
“Today’s lesson was like a competition. We were divided into three groups, each making a one-pot dish: the first group made potato-and-leek soup, the second made baked seafood rice and our group made shepherd’s pie. We learned how to do oven-roasted vegetables as a side dish too.
Actually, Jasmin was a bit upset with me this week because I hadn’t practised enough dishes at home! Not really upset, she just wants me to practise more before the lessons. Next week is our graduation and Jasmin didn’t tell us anything about what we will cook. It’s a secret. I wonder what we’ll make? The other helpers think this course is very good and will benefit their employers. I agree. Last week at the library I borrowed lots of recipe books and I’m excited about cooking more!”
“This was our last class and Jasmin had us laughing and joking. She did the cooking today. She made lots of delicious dishes and showed us how to do them. The lesson was about main meals and easy desserts, and we learned how to make roast chicken, lamb-and-vegetable stew, breaded veal, strawberry mousse, and chocolate fondue with fruit. And of course, at the end of the lesson we got to eat it for lunch! Jasmin was excited for us that it was our last class. When she gave us our certificate of attendance, she hugged us. It was so useful to learn about cooking in a class, rather than from my library books and recipe books. We learned about food presentation too. Thank you for the opportunity to do the course. I enjoyed it so much. The next thing I’m going to cook is a seafood dish. I hope you like fish and prawns!”
Courses include Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Cooking, Health Conscious Cooking, and Baking.