From left, Chef J and Lucia Gamboa; Raymund, Rico, and Rhys Magdaluyo; Max and OJ Gendrano.
Food & Drink Features

Here’s how these food professional fathers learned to bond with their kids in the kitchen

For these four dads who spend most of their days in professional kitchens, they finally found the time to cook with their kids at home, thanks to community quarantine. By MARILEN FONTANILLA
ANCX | Jun 21 2020

This Father’s Day, I’m recalling my kitchen moments with my stepfather before he passed away last year. His specialty was roast turkey, which he expertly seasoned and prepared for roasting, while I whipped up the sausage and chestnut stuffing with cranberry sauce. It was a quiet partnership, where we knew each other’s moves and anticipated what the other needed, connecting with each other in an otherwise mundane activity.

Father’s Day this year is perhaps more poignant as it is celebrated during a general community quarantine. But this crisis has also afforded busy fathers to spend more time with their offspring, and the kitchen is just one of the unlikely venues where this bond has been strengthened. 

ANCX talked to four food professionals on how they have made new discoveries and strengthened relationships with their children over the backdrop of pots, pans, chopping boards, and steady flames to create special quarantine cooking memories.

Chef J Gamboa and daughter Lucia bake up a storm

While Chef J Gamboa has kept himself busy helming the kitchens of MilkyWay, Azuthai, and Cirkulo, he is also doting dad to Lucia and Emilio. With the lockdown in place, Gamboa found himself transferring his skills to his teenage daughter. 

Chef J Gamboa with budding baker Lucia.

Although Gamboa and his wife Maja don’t pressure their kids to join the family business, Lucia naturally gravitated to the kitchen. “Lucia likes to bake more than cook,” Gamboa admits as he named her chocolate chip cookies, cinnamon rolls, and apple cake as her favorite things to bake. “She has maybe gone through five recipes for the chocolate chip cookies, preferring the chewy version over the crispy kind.” He recalls asking her about the creamy filling the first time she made the apple cake and chuckled that she forgot to add it. “The cake was underbaked,” hence the “creamy” texture.


Lucia baking chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon rolls at home.

Gamboa’s pride shines through as he noted that while he has given her numerous tips, she has also found her own space in the kitchen. “Lucia just asked for help with the oven and I pretty much left her to it.”


Johnlu Koa relishes family time with Jonard and Julia

Johnlu Koa is currently enjoying his family dinners where he reigns as “Chef de Famille,” a far cry from his other role as founder and CEO of The French Baker. The ECQ has created new opportunities for him to bond with his son Jonard (who is helping out at The French Baker as Chief Digital Officer) and daughter Julia, currently in Grade 8. 

Johnlu Koa with Jonard, Julia, and wife Marilou.

“Since every meal is eaten inside the kitchen, everyone takes turns to help prepare the food,” Koa elaborates on their nightly ritual. “Julia has picked up several skills when it comes to peeling vegetables and baking. Jonard likes to perfect his sautéing and frying techniques. They’ve perfected shrimp tempura by now. I taught them how to peel the shrimps, devein, and straighten them.”

Koa is grateful for the time the family spends together over their dining table. “So much kwentuhan... So much jokes and laughter and reminiscing travel eating moments. I guess all of us missed our trips to Europe and the US this year. We also missed eating out!”

The Koas’ family meal cooked by the kids.

“Julia has always been interested in cooking but just couldn’t really find time do it. ECQ gave her the chance to see me do it from scratch. Later on, she learned how to reheat foods and prepare quick and easy dishes with eggs. She likes to beat eggs!” Koa proudly recounts.

The French Baker’s family bakes bread at home.


Chef Gerhard Gendrano cooks with sons OJ and Max in Dubai

Moving to a new country will always be a daunting task for any family with two young boys, but this was something Chef Gerhard Gendrano and wife Joanne (also a chef) were ready for when they moved to Dubai in August 2019. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 quarantine, the tightknit family used this opportunity for more quality family time, some of which took place in the kitchen. 

The Gendranos in Dubai.

Despite his background in culinary education, Gendrano clarifies that he and his wife never really forced their kids to cook with them, but 8-year-old OJ and 6-year-old Max somehow found their way into the kitchen. “Max when he was three, would literally inspect all the food for dinner by taking a whiff of each one of them before he sits down. He would let us know which one he would like to try and ask for the name of the dish. He would do the same when we eat in restaurants… I remember, during his first trip to Hong Kong, he wolfed down more than half of the plate of braised beef tendons.”  

Budding chefs Max and OJ.

On his older son OJ, Gendrano recounts, “He started to have an obsession with sinigang while we were still in Manila. He insisted on joining us to go to the market so he can pick the ingredients with us. When we got home, I was pleasantly surprised that he immediately got comfortable with a small knife and started to measure and cut the sitaw all by himself and stayed throughout the cooking process. I can see my future prep cook in the making.”

Max and OJ deftly prepping fruits in the kitchen.

These past months, Gendrano has observed how his boys have been developing their own palates. “Max has now started making his favorite beverage of cold milk with a teaspoon of maple syrup,” he shares. “OJ would flavor his own popcorn and make himself his own lemonade from fresh lemons.” Then after watching a baking video online, OJ asked to make muffins and cookies. “He really got into it and did the scaling and mixing on his own from start to finish with little help from Jo. He even asked her if she can make a video of him baking.”

Gendrano agrees that cooking has been a way for the family to build lasting memories. “Just the other day, I almost fell off the floor when OJ suddenly bemused, ‘I wish I can cook these things for my future children, dad.’ I became speechless because of his mature sentiments, while Jo can’t get over the fact that he is already planning to marry and have his own family activities!”


Raymund Magdaluyo and son Rico bond over beef

Raymund Magdaluyo would normally be caught up overseeing his Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, The Red Crab, and Seafood Island restaurants. But with the lockdown, Magdaluyo got the chance to spend more time with his sons Rico and Rhys.

Raymund Magdaluyo with Rico and Rhys.

Magdaluyo himself is not a chef, having developed his cooking style while a postgraduate student abroad. But he did teach Rico how to make a simple beef yakiniku. “Rico likes his meats. He is a big fan of Wolfgang’s Steakhouse... When not eating steak, he likes Japanese BBQ.”

Beef yakiniku by Rico

“Teaching my son how to discover the joys of cooking, not as a chef, but as someone who is starting to embrace the joys of independence is the bittersweet part of being a father,” Magdaluyo reveals. “For me, teaching him a bit about cooking is my way of starting to let go and make him start his journey towards manhood.”