First Class

The kitchen that not just launched a famous hotcake mix

/ 05:10 AM September 15, 2019

Chef Noel dela Rama teaches a class at the Maya Kitchen.

If there is one company that can give you a history of Filipino cuisine, it is The Maya Kitchen. The Maya brand has been around for almost 60 years.

Legendary chefs


The Maya Kitchen—their test kitchen and now also their culinary center—formerly known as the Maya Bakeshop, opened its doors in 1964, with the end goal of inspiring and educating aspiring bakers.

In 1976, they launched The Great Maya Cookfest with the legendary Nora Daza. (Incidentally, Nina Daza Puyat, Nora Daza’s daughter, has just released an updated Let’s Cook with Nora, dedicated to her mom, with the same recipes but updated for today’s home cook, some with Nina’s own variations. The books will be available starting today, Sept. 15, at National Bookstore.)


The Great Maya Cookfest was a yearlong contest open to both professional and amateur cooks and bakers. Finalists could win a complete kitchen showcase and a trip abroad to participate in a culinary exchange program.

One of the stellar products of The Great Maya Cookfest is none other than chef Jessie Sincioco. Before she became a chef, she joined the contest in 1983, submitting a family recipe for a mango cake, and won first prize in the baking category.

The final contest was held at the old Intercontinental Hotel and right then and there, the resident manager offered chef Jessie a slot in the hotel’s pastry kitchen training program. She later became head of the hotel’s pastry kitchen and today runs Chef Jessie Rockwell and her own Chef Jessie’s Place, a five-story building with a chapel, events place and a commissary for her catering.

Today, the Maya Kitchen, which now has the Maya Kitchen Culinary Arts Center, continues to inspire both professional and aspiring chefs, home cooks and bakers.

Chef Noel dela Rama Class

Just last Sept. 7, they held a cooking class with New York-based private chef Noel dela Rama. Entitled “Brunching in with Chef Noel dela Rama,” participants learned to make a chorizo breakfast casserole, banana bread coffee cake with streusel topping, and were taught how to make breakfast eggs fancy by baking them in ham cups.

Chef Noel has been based in New York for 25 years but thankfully now spends more time in Manila, hosting private dinners upon request and creating bespoke menus for guests.


When Ernie and Lourdes Fajardo of Maya invited him to teach a cooking class at the Maya Kitchen, he immediately said yes as he was a classmate of their son in grade school. He was impressed by their setup: “It was such a good experience because I’ve taught in a few kitchens, and by far theirs was the most organized.”

He added the Fajardos were key to what makes The Maya Kitchen not only educational but also enjoyable.

“The Fajardos gave their all out support from the planning stage until the class days,” he recalled. “They were so supportive and encouraging. They made it easy and fun—the way a lifestyle cooking class should be.”

Other classes

Inspiring not only chefs but also home cooks and bakers has always been the advocacy of The Maya Kitchen. Today, they continue to hold cooking lessons at The Maya Kitchen Culinary Arts Center, located on Arnaiz Avenue (Pasay Road) in Makati.

They already have classes scheduled for the rest of September: Basic Baking from Sept. 17 to 20 and Artisan Bread Making on Sept. 28. This October, they will have the following classes: Basic Baking again from Oct. 1 to 4 and Oct. 15 to 18, another Panaderia class on Oct. 5, Guilt-free Desserts on Oct. 19, and Heirloom Filipino Cuisine for parents and children on Oct. 26.

The growing line of mixes

For the brand, these classes are an opportunity to share the many recipes one can do with their mixes. Their iconic hotcake mix can also be used to make crepes and puto.

The line started with just the hotcake mix, followed by the brownies mix. Now, there are just too many to mention. They now have a “Decadence” line that includes mixes for Red Velvet Cake, Devil’s Food Cake, and Yellow (butter) Cake. They have a “Think Heart” line that includes a Whole Wheat Carrot Cake mix for those who want a healthier option. They have oven toaster mixes for those on the go, such as a bibingka mix. They also now have a “Happy Mug,” which is their brownie response to the cup noodle: just add water, mix, put in the microwave and it’s good to devour.

Culinary elite series

But the Maya Kitchen has gone beyond brand marketing to become a real center for both basic and continuing education in the culinary arts.

Through their Culinary Elite Series, they also feature established chefs who give demos to both food professionals and enthusiasts before participants enjoy what they cook. The series has featured practically everyone who is anyone in the industry: from Glenda Barretto and Ariel Manuel to Marc Aubry and Chele Gonzalez.

It’s so wonderful to see the Maya Kitchen continuing to inspire both old and young chefs, retiring and aspiring cooks, professional and home bakers and, most importantly, parents and their children who want to get back to the kitchen and make not only food but also wonderful memories there.

They remind us that home is where the heart is … specifically in the kitchen.

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TAGS: Filipino cuisine, The Great Maya Cookfest, The Maya Kitchen
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