Filipinos see job prospects in culinary schools

Tue Sep 30, 2008 6:03am EDT
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By Rosemarie Francisco

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines, which for decades has supplied the world with a steady stream of seafarers, nurses, caregivers and domestic helpers, is now exporting practitioners of a cutting-edge trade: chefs.

"Chefs are the new rock stars now. Everyone wants to be a chef," said Ian Padilla, a Filipino chef entre metier at Parisian restaurant Taillevent, a Michelin two-star establishment.

"When I started, there were hardly any culinary schools here ... And there was no chef, it was just the cook. When I got back, there are culinary schools everywhere," said Padilla, who came home recently to judge a cooking competition.

In 2000, there was just one culinary school in the Philippines. These days, there are about 400 cooking schools with scores more sprouting up every year across the Southeast Asian island nation.

The enthusiasm with which Filipinos are taking up cooking is not surprising. A global scarcity of cooks and chefs mean that culinary school graduates can earn as much as $4,000 per month working abroad.

That is an astronomical sum of money in a country where the average wage is 10,000 to 15,000 pesos ($214-$321) per month.

Some nine million Filipinos work abroad, often in menial jobs, sending home more than $1 billion in monthly remittances that keep the local economy afloat and support the local currency.

With jobless rates at over 7 percent and many hurting from high fuel and food prices, more Filipinos than ever before are seeking jobs abroad.   Continued...

<p>Students prepare plates for desserts during a class at a culinary school in Manila September 23, 2008. The Philippines, which for decades has supplied the world's labour pool with a steady stream of seafarers, nurses, caregivers, and domestic helpers, is now offering the world a fresh wave of workers: chefs. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo</p>