Chef Pierre Cornelis: Preparing Benilde students for world-class challenges

“Sometimes, people think that for something to be good, we have to pay for imported ingredients. It is not true,” remarks Pierre Cornelis, executive chef of Vatel Restaurant Manila who also happens to be a faculty member of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management (SHRIM). Use your imagination, he once told his students, then whipped up a “100 percent Filipino ice cream” made of Cerveza Negra (a local beer) and inexpensive Philippine-made chocolate. 

A graduate of the Ecole d’hôtellerie et de Tourisme de la Ville de Liège in Belgium where he developed his culinary expertise with a solid foundation of classical French cuisine, Chef Pierre Cornelis soon found himself discovering the gastronomic world of southern France. It was there that he further polished his skills with the region’s rich Mediterranean influences inspired by the sea and island of Corsica.

The Vatel Restaurant Manila located at the roofdeck of Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle.

He eventually migrated to Canada, creating dishes at the prestigious Le Westin Montreal and Hilton Garden Inn Montreal Centre-Ville. For five years, he served as executive chef of world-class wellness resort La Spa Eastman, and his stint inspired him to author Le Spa Eastman a Votre Table, a cookbook that featured over a hundred original recipes focusing on health and nutrition – for which he received the 2006 Cuisine Canada Gold Award.

Cornelis soon found his way to the Philippines where he established the La Regalade in Makati in 2009 which landed in Philippine Tatler’s list of the Best Restaurants on that same year.

It is this experience and expertise that the French chef imparts to his students at the Benilde School of Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management – an institution where future hoteliers, restaurateurs and tourism managers are honed and prepared with the necessary knowledge, skills, attitude and training to face the demanding challenges of the hospitality, travel, tourism and culinary sectors. 

Vatel Restaurant Manila executive chef and DLS-CSB faculty member Pierre Cornelis

Established in 1996, SHRIM is committed in its mission to produce industry-ready students and graduates who possess not only the requisite solid academic foundation but Benildean core values to become successful entrepreneurs and world-class managers. This commitment led to the creation of the “Student Hatchery Program,” a revolutionary innovation in the Philippine hospitality education by Benilde that seeks to provide students with work venues where they can hone and practice their skills in culinary preparation, food service, front office and housekeeping operations, and travel management.

It also serves as training ground where students can apply all management theories they learned in the classroom ranging from business planning, marketing, sales, to budgeting and cost control as well as human resource management. In short – to develop students into well-rounded individuals who are professionally competent and ready to enter the real work environment of the hospitality industry. SHRIM “hatcheries” include Hotel Benilde Maison De La Salle, Vatel Restaurant, Solomon Guest House, Green Cuisine, Chef Station and Andrew Cafe.

Chef Pierre Cornelis with his students

What also makes SHRIM distinct is the fact that it offers two degree programs with strong management orientation: Bachelor of Science in Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management (BS-HRIM) and Bachelor of Science in International Hospitality Management (BS-IHM).

Theory and practice are integrated in BS-HRIM to equip students with a strong service orientation and a global perspective of hotel and restaurant operations, with three tracks of specialization: Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management and Tourism Management. On the other hand, BS-IHM  (first offered in school year 2008-2009) is the first international double-degree program in the Philippines under the new transnational guidelines of the Commission of Higher Education.

The program leverages on its partnership with the Vatel International Business School, a world-renowned hotel-school based in France. In 2007, it ranked first  among the Top Ten Hotel Schools across Europe according to the Institute of Public Surveys. In 2010, it received the Best Professional Success as well as the Best Teaching Innovation awards, with professionals in the hospitality industry recognizing the school as the leading European School in its category.  The partnership enables graduates of IHM to receive both a Philippine Bachelor’s degree (BS-IHM) and a French Bachelor’s degree (Manager en Hôtellerie Internationale) – recognized by the European Union.

DLS-CSB students are prepared to face the demanding challenges of the hospitality, tourism and culinary sectors.

“I chose IHM because serving other people has really been my passion since I was small. I also like the fact that I get to finish two degrees after four years here in CSB, unlike in other schools offering International Hospitality Management,” says Nina Reyes, a student.

“As a mother, I want what’s best for my daughter Nina. I support her decision to be in Benilde. I have done a lot of research and found out that IHM in DLS-CSB has the number one rating among other colleges and universities,” says Riezlyn, Nina’s mom.

Sissy Fayyad, an IHM freshman, disclosed that she chose the course “because I get to graduate with two degrees (French and Philippine).  I also love traveling, and the great thing about the course is that you will get to know a lot about other countries,” she says, looking forward to a Summer Exchange Program in Vatel Nimes (South of France). Students have also been benefitting from the wine education and tours organized by Vatel Bordeaux and the tourism exposure in Paris. Benilde on the other hand has also played host to international exchange students from Vatel Paris, Vatel Bordeaux and Vatel Switzerland.

Students of the Benilde School of Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management look forward to a bright future.

“I think that’s the best course for my daughter since she loves traveling and helping people, and I want her to be successful doing the things she loves,” Sissy’s mom Maylene Gonzales avers. 

For his part, Chef Pierre says he is “happy to be part of the DLS-CSB institution because I am able to share my knowledge with students after being in the industry for many years. The last step in their college education and training is when they pass at Vatel – after which they move on to an internship and very soon get to experience professional work,” he beams.

It would seem that students like Nina and Sissy can cook up a bright future ahead – with a lot of help from Chef Pierre Cornelis, naturellement!

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