Vicky Veloso-Barrera, daughter of fashion designer Malu Veloso and granddaughter of National Artist for Architecture Pablo Antonio, started her culinary career accepting baking orders.
Her followers know that Vicky and younger sister Letlet grew up in an environment conducive to design and creativity.
“We were surrounded by fashion, architecture and art,” says Vicky.
She and Letlet grew up listening to the hum of sewing machines and seeing bundles of fabrics. As teenagers, they worked with seamstresses to make their own clothes.
Instead of going to fashion school, the girls learned the rudiments of dressmaking in their mother’s atelier. During school breaks, the girls worked for her. Mom Malu had three shops for children – bridal and formal wear, and day wear – with clients streaming into the Antonio home.
“Her work was her passion,” says Vicky. “She never felt it was work.”
Learning to cook
Vicky became interested in cooking when she was very small.
“That’s because I used to watch my mom cook,” she says. “I taught myself to cook using a Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls, and I also read all my mom’s cookbooks. I even tried inventing some recipes of my own — I remember making a banana pie once that had no butter in the crust. I don’t know how it stuck together.”
Vicky enjoyed cooking so much that when her cousins came to visit, she would be in the kitchen preparing merienda instead of the garden where they were playing.
I taught myself to cook using a Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls, and I also read all my mom’s cookbooks. I even tried inventing some recipes of my own.
Aside from cooking, she loved to read since she was really young. “My dad set up a library for us kids filled with encyclopedias, children’s books and classic literature.” She would read the encyclopedias from cover to cover (she loved anything about nature, and of things in nature: “I loved best anything to do with the shoreline, like seashells”).
She read all the best children’s stories, like Grimms’ Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Andersen, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, 1001 Arabian Nights, Little Women, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and so much more.
Married to Roberto Barrera, Vicky has three kids, all of whom started cooking and reading at an early age.
Enter Tiny Kitchen
It was cooking that really took Vicky's heart and passion. She wanted children to love cooking as much as she did as a child, so she started Tiny Kitchen, a cooking school just for kids that has offered summer cooking classes since 1998.
With summer break around the corner, why not encourage kids to learn some new dishes with Vicky? You can enrol in a small group or opt to make arrangements for one-on-one sessions.
The cooking school, which has concentrated on kids aged three to 19 for the past 23 years, saw all its classes canceled last year during the lockdown.
“The only other year I didn’t have classes was when I was on the way with my youngest,” recalls Vicky, who also writes books for children. “I spent my time last year working on my Sign of the Rabbit books, finishing Books 4 and 5 and practicing a lot of new recipes.” (It comes as no surprise that the rabbit books have a recipe section at the end, and she has written nine cookbooks over the past two decades.)
“When I asked my ‘old’ — meaning regular — students last year if they might be interested in online classes, the majority replied that they preferred to wait until face-to-face classes could resume,” she adds.
It was cooking that really took Vicky's heart and passion. She wanted children to love cooking as much as she did as a child, so she started Tiny Kitchen, a cooking school just for kids.
To her surprise, beginning February, a lot of people checked into her Facebook page and she started getting calls from parents.
“I guess the kids have gotten used to learning online,” she muses. “So I quickly came up with a plan where we would send the ingredients to students and, if needed, buy kitchen equipment for them.”
There’s a list of items they can choose from and options for those who don’t have an oven.
Teaching is very much a part of Vicky, having taught English and Literary Forms at De La Salle University right after graduation.
“Even if I like to cook aside from writing, which is my first love, I prefer to teach rather than sell food, though I do oblige certain orders, especially for roast turkey,” she explains. “I even have a course called Tiny Kitchen Entrepreneur, which concentrates on items kids can sell. Beyond knowing how to cook, I teach them how to cost their items properly and where they can buy ingredients and packaging materials wholesale.”
Here are a few basic recipes from the cooking school:
If you have access to banana leaves, use them instead of cupcake papers for a more authentic look. Warm the banana leaves over a flame to soften them or you will have a hard time cutting them into circles.
Combine in a bowl:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup gata
Mix in well:
1 cup flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
Place paper liners in a muffin pan and fill each cup 3/4 full with batter.
1 kesong puti, cut into small pieces
Bake at 350 F degrees about 20 minutes or till lightly browned.
If you don’t have filo pastry, this also makes a yummy filling for fried lumpia.
Mix together in a bowl:
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup flaked tinapa
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Pinch of salt and pepper
Cut filo pastry into 3-inch strips. Brush with melted butter. Place a half teaspoon of filling at the bottom of each strip and fold the pastry up in a triangular pattern. Bake until golden brown.
(Kids interested in taking online cooking classes can visit the Tiny Kitchen Facebook page or email [email protected].)
Banner and thumbnail caption: Vicky Veloso-Barrera loves the kitchen, and writing books, too.