Most, if not all, will agree that the best cook in the world is their mother -– no dish is as gratifying as the one prepared by Mom. Be it being fed home-cooked meals, learning her kitchen techniques, or being nurtured back to health through comforting soups or desserts, any dish cooked for the family by Mom is always hearty, thanks to her tender loving care.
For 19-year-old Bernice Angeline D. Tenorio, JOLLY University Year 4 Grand Champion cook off winner, she chose to honor her first kitchen hero, Mommy Lalaine, through her cooking. Unlike dishes that are inspired by trips abroad or created for personal glorification, Bernice’s award-winning recipe at the recent tilt was drawn from her fondest memories of, and deep love for, her amazing mother.
Champion in the making
The eldest among the brood of six, Bernice grew up in a big family with modest means. Despite financial hardships, her endeavors as a child were much bigger and boundless -– she was raised a champion. Bernice graduated class valedictorian in grade school and was a consistent top student achiever in high school.
Bernice’s interest in cooking didn’t start until her grandmother, who operates a home-based kitchenette in Marilao, Bulacan, passed away in 2012. Left with the nostalgia of keeping her mother’s recipes alive, Mommy Lalaine decided to take over the business. From there, Bernice knew she needed to help her mother run it, thus they decided that she will take up Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Sto. Tomas (UST).
A self-trained cook and home-based baker, Mommy Lalaine is a former magazine writer and reporter with a degree in Mass Communication from St. Scholastica’s College Manila. She gave up her career to become a full-time housewife and mother to Bernice and her other siblings.
“She’s my first idol and mentor. I learned a lot about cooking from her, I look up to her and I try to mirror her strength: her patience, discipline, resourcefulness, the diligence, and how she handled the nitty-gritty aspects of running our small kitchen while looking after the family’s welfare. I remember both of us staying up till the wee hours of the morning finishing bulk food orders or decorating cakes for customers. It was tiring but very fulfilling,” she remarked.
Bernice said that her Mom’s perseverance simply astounds her. “Just like she would in her cakes and pastry creations, she would strive long and hard in executing to the detail to beautifully achieve the end results.”
When the news about JOLLY University Year 4 cooking competition reached Bernice in UST, she immediately signed up to try out, for a chance to showcase her innate cooking abilities. Mommy Lalaine, her Dad and her siblings supported her in her cook-off bid.
With much thought and a grateful heart, Bernice, with the help of her coach, came up with the Chicken and Mushroom Empanadilla dish, her prized entry in the recent JOLLY University Year 4 Cook-Off. The recipe was simple yet creative, an easy-to-do JOLLY-inspired dish with balanced elements that satisfied judges’ expectations. According to Bernice, the Empanadilla, which is her original recipe, is her “little” way of thanking mommy Lalaine for everything she has done for her and the family.
Though the recipe that wowed judges at the JU competition took only less than two weeks to finalize, Bernice is happy that she was given the golden opportunity to show her best while dedicating a dish made just for her Mom –- win or lose. “I didn’t have a clear sense of winning; the other entries were equally great. It was a tough competition; I just maintained focus and trust in my abilities, and tried my best to apply what I have learned from Mom and from the JU boot camp. I’m pleased to have fought and won the title for my Mom,” she said.
Success beyond measure
Now on her way to breaking new and higher grounds as an aspiring professional chef — Bernice is busy training along with fellow representatives from UST for her first out-of-the-country culinary competition, the Hong Kong Culinary Classics happening this May – she couldn’t think of anyone else to dedicate her hard-earned triumphs and delicious new dishes other than her mother.
“If there is one thing that I’ve learned in this journey with my Mom is that there is a reason behind every action that we are doing. Whether good or bad, you learn from the experience and you’ll come out as a better person. There’s still a long road ahead of me. But with perseverance, guidance, and constant love and support from my loved ones especially my mother, I know many wonderful things will happen eventually,” she concluded.
Bernice’s mom is a living portrait of the many mothers who have selflessly supported, endlessly inspired, and rejoiced in their children’s unforgettable life milestones.
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JOLLY, for its part, pays tribute to all the amazing mothers by providing quality canned vegetables and fruit products that will help Moms cook easy to prepare and healthy dishes that will inspire to celebrate jolly family meal times together.