FOR the very first time in my life today, I wasn’t scared of a dog – and it wasn’t a small, helpless newborn pup but a fully grown, mature bulldog named Paris.
The dog belongs to Chef Ernest Reynoso Gala, son of culinary icon Sylvia Reynoso Gala, who was my very first culinary teacher. Chef Ernest and her sister Morella began assisting their mom in her cooking classes at a very young age, but now he is slowly but surely coming into his own, especially now that he has just established his own school, Gala Stars Culinary, with Morella. It stands right next to mom Sylvia’s cooking school along Shaw Blvd., Pasig, where many of today’s accomplished chefs started their culinary education. Gala Stars Culinary has just begun to offer three-month culinary courses patterned after the setup of Ecole Lenotre in France, which Chef Ernest attended, and the kitchen laboratories of the three-storey modern school building is equipped with state-of-the-art stainless steel work stations complete with heavy-duty cookers, deep-fryers, work table, kitchen gadgets and cookware, and their own wash areas.
But, the awesome school is a totally different story.
Going back to Paris… I met Paris this afternoon when Raff and I went to see Chef Ernest, who toured us around his new school and explained to us the unique setup of the school and the courses that he and his faculty would be offering to culinary students. So, we walked around the spacious, air-conditioned kitchen lab on the second floor and talked. Raff took pictures of the facilities. I took some photos of my own. Chef Ernest then excused himself and changed into his chef’s jacket to have his pictures taken. When he came back, we were watching a cooking demo of his on his big Samsung monitor in the kitchen lab, and he had a dog with him. “Your dog, chef?” I asked, and he said yes. He then started talking about Paris and how well-behaved his dog was. I was torn between the novelty of taking Chef Ernest’s pictures with his dog and my super huge fear of dogs. I was inclined towards the former, but I had to make sure. “Mabait talaga si Paris, chef? Well-behaved?” I asked. And when he said yes, I proceeded to ask if we could take pictures of him with Paris.
“Yes, sure. I already asked that Paris be dressed up and brought here,” Chef Ernest said.
Should I panic now?
But there was no chance to do so.
The glass door opened and Paris walked in matter-of-factly. One step at a time. Not hurrying or scurrying around like other dogs I know. Garbed in a chef’s jacket and a black kitchen cap, Paris walked in with a dignified stance and went straight to Chef Ernest. On all fours, of course. I was surprised – and relieved! Paris didn’t go around me, like dogs usually did when they saw strangers in their territory, and she (yes, Paris is a she!) didn’t sniff at me or lick my legs. At that moment, I was already beginning to like her. Now at the foot of Chef Ernest, Paris didn’t make a sound or move around listlessly. She just stood there, waiting for chef to tell her what he wanted her to do. Chef Ernest sat her on a high chair, and she quietly sat there, making occasional glances at her boss and at both Raff and me, but basically keeping still on the chair. Chef Ernest told her to look at the camera whenever she turned around to look at her boss. She obeyed instantly and looked straight at the camera long enough for us to get good shots. I was impressed with her.
Then we went down to the demo room on the ground floor, and Paris walked down the stairs with us. For the first time, I wasn’t scared to share the stairs with a dog, and I wasn’t constantly looking at my back to see if the dog was right behind me – or beside me. I was comfortable with Paris.
When we entered the demo room, Paris got left behind outside, but she didn’t complain. She didn’t make a single barking sound. She just sat in a corner and waited. Much to my own surprise, I opened the door, called out to her, held out the door for her and let her in. I wanted to ask myself what I was doing, like the character of Pi when he helped the Bengal tiger back up to the lifeboat after it had already dove into the open sea in the Ang Lee film The Life of Pi. Again, Paris walked in without making a fuss. She just walked over to Chef Ernest, then walked to the back of the room and just stood there. I was so amused with her that I started taking her pictures – up close. Can you believe it? I’m such a scaredy-cat when it comes to dogs, but I wasn’t scared of this one.
Maybe in an effort to impress, she raised her left front paw to Chef Ernest several times, who took it and shook it. Lifting her left front paw was, after all, Paris’ way of telling Chef Ernest she wanted to shake hands.
Extraordinary dog? Yes. Well-behaved and well-trained. Chef Ernest says it’s because Paris gets to participate in several dog shows so she has obviously been trained on how to conduct herself, and she’s obviously used to having lots of people around her. Chef Ernest also includes the dog whenever he does cooking demo tapings, so Paris already knows how to behave whenever a camera is rolling. In one cooking demo that we were watching on the kitchen lab monitor earlier, Paris just sat in a chair in a corner and watched, like a real person, while Chef Ernest conducted his demo. It was amusing. In fact, Chef Ernest said, Paris already knows that when she’s dressed up in a chef’s jacket and kitchen cap, it’s either she’s doing a taping with Chef Ernest or she’s having her pictures taken. Beat that!
When it came time to leave, I said good-bye to Paris and waved happily to the dog who taught me that, yes, it’s possible for someone who’s extremely scared of dogs to feel comfortable around a dog, after all. Of course, it depends on which dog we’re talking about. If it’s Paris, any time! If it’s someone else, never mind. Thanks, Paris!
But please don’t ask me to touch or pat the dog. That’s way too much to ask of me already. Haha.