Today’s new parents in the Philippines are fortunate to have culinary whiz Namee in their midst. She shares how to cook healthy baby food from organic, fresh ingredients available locally.
“I started sharing baby food I made on social media. Soon I got inquiries for more. Most cookbooks abroad use ingredients we don’t have. So I developed my own baby food recipes, using natural ingredients available – like sweet ube (purple yam), papaya, malunggay (moringa).”
Namee Jorolan Sunico, named Carmina after her grandmother, comes from a long line of Pampanga culinary experts. She woke up to her lola (grandmother) giving orders in the kitchen early in the morning. From her lola, Namee learned how to pick the best ingredients. Her parents, Noel and Pette Jorolan, were her first teachers in the kitchen. She started helping out in her grandmother’s restaurant Everybody’s Café as a child.
Namee graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a management information systems degree, but she longed for culinary school. Determined, she enrolled at Kendall College in Chicago for Artisanal Bread Baking, French Pastries and Chocolates. In San Francisco, she interned at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse while working at the former AQUA and simultaneously holding down several part-time jobs.
Back in the Philippines after four years, Namee partnered with friends JJ and Cres Yulo, Marfee Dizon and her brother Poch Jorolan to form Team Pinoy Eats World. They did “guerilla dinners,” inviting guests to different secret venues for a feast.
The passion for cooking fires her up no matter what. “Contrary to what’s on TV, cooking is hard manual work, involves attention to detail, needs business sense and you have to learn from every ‘burn’.”
Her culinary idols are understandably Alice Waters, Chef Peter Armellino and Margarita Fores in Manila. “I admire their creativity,” Namee exulted.
“Being a Filipina has taught me to take care of others. That sense of ‘pag-aaruga’ (caring) is innate in us. It guided me to create Whole + Natural: Baby Food, a baby food cookbook with 60 recipes. My co-author is Melanie P. Jimenez, a mom and baker; with help from Tanya L. Yuson. I plan to write more Philippine cookbooks for children. What we find delicious as adults is based on what we were introduced to as kids.”
Like an exquisite entree, Namee Jorolan Sunico’s culinary career has all the right ingredients: family traditions; good cooking instincts; pag-aaruga; hard work; a loving, supportive husband in Justin Sunico; and inspiration from her baby Juliana to write the first Filipino baby food cookbook.
[Editor's Note: Namee Jorolan Sunico's Whole + Natural: Baby Food will be launched this October]
Elizabeth Ann Quirino, based in New Jersey, is a journalist, food writer and member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). She blogs about Filipino home cooking and culinary travels to the Philippines on her site AsianInAmericamag.com.
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