Phoebe Rose Rocks Ronald McDonald’s House

Grief is a deeply personal experience and journey. Everyone goes through it differently. It’s not something you get over, but rather something you live with. It’s even more apparent when death comes too quickly. Phoebe Rose Doull-Hoffman was born in 2010. She had been diagnosed with mixed lineage (MLL+) infantile leukemia since she was two months old. This is an aggressive and difficult to treat and cure leukemia with a very poor prognosis – just 20% of babies with high risk disease survive five years. Phoebe passed away in November 2015 and would’ve turned 6 this week.

To honor Phoebe, and as part of the Phoebe Rose Rocks Foundation to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer research, Marion (Phoebe’s aunt and my close friend), her family and friends organized a dinner last weekend for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. I felt really honored to be invited to join in this activity. Not only because it’s a special thing to be included in someone’s journey through grief, but it’s also how I’ve been living with my own grief – by doing things that Muriel would find fun and for a good cause.


For prep day at the Pacific Institute for Culinary Arts (PICA), we met Marion’s husband Scot who works at PICA and was the leader of our group “Team Vancouver”. It was my first time at PICA and I was seriously impressed by the facilities and makes me want to take a class there, especially when Scott revealed the meal we would be serving. My mouth couldn’t (and still can’t) stop watering.


Here was what was on the menu:

  • Home-made BBQ sauce marinated pulled pork sandwiches topped with fresh coleslaw.
  • For the vegetarians, grilled summer vegetables on a bed of salad in a spinach wrap.
  • Caesar-salad (I made the dressing from scratch, with help from the chef.)
  • 3-bean salad in a lemon-infused vinagarette.
  • 100+ hand-made chocolate cupcakes topped with icing and sprinkles.


I’d heard of the Ronald McDonald House before but never new it played such an important and critical role for families and children. For over thirty years, Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon (RMH BC) has been providing accommodation for seriously ill children and their families when they must travel to Vancouver for their child’s major treatment. Originally located in a 13-bedroom home in Shaughnessy, the House is now in an amazing 73-bedroom complex, including multiple kitchen facilities, lounge areas for families and children, indoor and outdoor exercise gyms, and a very cool indoor slide, on the grounds of BC Children’s Hospital.


We were so prepared that the team set up and was ready well before families trickled in for dinner. With a little bit of time to spare, we were given a tour by the friendly volunteers who showed us around and even let us try the slide. The highlight of the night was serving dinner to the families who were staying at the House. It’s a humbling experience to see that a small gesture of cooking for someone can bring relief to many of the moms, dads, siblings, and families who were there for their sons or daughters.

Grieving is different for everyone. And that there good and not-so-good milestones along the way. Doing something like this really helped me with my grief and I wouldn’t hesitate to get back in the kitchen to do it all over again!


Food+Music can make anyone happy

It might be hard work but there isn’t really a down side to food. We all need it. We all have our own tastes. We can love or hate making and eating whatever we cook. It induces memories and is a visual feast that triggers other senses and emotions.

While food tickles our sense of smell, sight, and touch/taste, when music comes into the mix to trigger our ears and body, it’s a double whammy. It’s no wonder food+music can make anyone happy and transcends cultures. I watched a couple of movies recently that does just that.

Written, directed, and starring Jon Favreau (remember Swingers?), Chef is about a chef who loses his restaurant job and starts up a food truck to express his creativity and love for food while trying to connect with his son. It’s a light-hearted and easy-going film with plenty of eye-watering culinary images and lots of body-moving songs. There’s also a big push for Twitter… is this the new way for product placement – to blatantly talk about a brand and use it as the basis for the plot? Favreau might end up being the next Woody Allen because he practically does everything and at the same time includes plenty of well-known actors who all seem to have fun on the film. .. Check out the trailer below.

The other movie is based on a book called The Hundred-Foot Journey about the Kadam family who leaves India for France where they open a restaurant directly across the road from Madame Mallory’s Michelin-starred eatery. Another light-hearted film that puts the love of food in the spotlight. Since it’s based on a book, there’s plenty of stuff that doesn’t make it into the movie, but it does make a clear case that there isn’t a hierarchy when it comes to culinary arts – it’s about passion, the love of discovering new tastes and figuring out what people like or don’t like… and it has dashes of Bollywood dancing and music.

Back in October 2013, I tried to take a photo of every meal I ate at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was a visual feast, but probably one I wouldn’t want to repeat. The results weren’t very appetizing – click on each photo to see all the meals.

Living in a grey period – enjoying the black and the white

I was just visiting my blog and realized that it’s been about a month since I last wrote something. Well, let’s see, what’s been happening? For one thing, we went to a cooking class last night to learn a few French dishes. If you’re in Geneva and want to go to a cooking course, check out Katrpices. They have lunch, afternoon and evening classes. Book early as many classes fill up!

Here’s the menu. The menu sounds better in French, but whether in English or French, the taste was amazing.

  1. Gravlax de saumon, dakon & mangue, vinaigrette ciboulette crmeuse – Dill-rice vinegar marinated salmon sashimi and mango-carrot-radish salad with a chive vinaigrette
  2. Cuisse de canard braise aux chicons et rutabaga confits – Roasted duck and sesasonal vegetables, truffle-oil infused mashed potatoes topped with a port reduction sauce
  3. Gratin d’ananas & gingembre, sorbet banane au sirop de vanille – Caramelized ginger and pineapple topped with baked custard and homemade banana sorbet

Rather than bore you with the finer details of the past month, here are some photos:

The port of Sanary looking from the town tower
Chinese New Year in Toulon with some suprisingly decent Chinese red wine!
Studio photography class with a photogenic model - this reminds me of MJ.
This was really interesting shot I took while the model with preparing for another barrage of photos

Two worlds collide

fresh meat
(Taken by Muriel, this is the typicall scene of shopping for meat at the markets in Thailand… it may look dirty, but this is the freshest meat you can find for cooking)

Just in time for my cousins arrival, I was finally able to speak. It started about a week ago when i was sitting in a cozy (and very cold) meeting room at the UN for a training. Unbeknowst to me, I somehow caught some kind of throat infection. I didn’t really worry too much about this slight itch in my throat, but after about a day I realized I was losing my voice.

It didn’t help much that a couple of days later, I was screaming at the referee in a basketball game between the my basketball club at the UN and the visiting team from Mission Hospital (hope to post some pictures from the game in the next couple of days).
(Felix is from my dad’s side of the family and is not as distant of a cousin as Vanessa. We’re first cousins. Here we are acting, surprise surprise, like idiots…)

Having spent some time recovering from my lost voice from the infection, which I am still taking anti-biotics for, and the screaming during the bball game, I finally got my voice back (although not to full strength) when my cousin Vanessa came back to Bangkok from a diving trip in Phuket, and my cousin Felix came for a 3-day holiday. We all came together for a nice dinner along the river with a few of my friends and their friends… it was really nice to chill out and enjoy some good food.
(Learning how to cook, thai-style… Muriel, Me and Ken… We’re all taking salsa lessons and thought this would be a nice thing to do for my cousin Vanessa and her friend Mandy on their last day in Bangkok. If you’re ever in Bangkok and want an authentic thai cooking experience check out Silom Thai Cooking School)

veggie shopping
(Vanessa is from my mom’s side of the family and is a distant cousin… how distant can it get? well, let’s just say we’re related because our great-grandmothers were sisters! Our shopping baskets full before we head to our Thai cooking course)

If you ever wanted to know about unpaid internships with international organizations and what a lot of students/graduates (including me) are faced with in the world of international development, check out this article… Why Not Practice What We Preach?
Adam Davies and Tom Allen argue that unpaid internships go against all of the values that international development NGOs preach.


tom yum
(The first dish we made was Tom Yum Goong… and oh was it tasty…)