Wanted: Executive Chef for Malacañan Palace

by Margaux Salcedo | First Class, Philippine Daily Inquirer | May 15, 2022

And just like that, elections are over.

Congratulations to incoming President Bongbong Marcos and to incoming Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte.

I know that many of the readers of this column might have had a different preference for head of state. However, just as it was our duty to vote, it is now also our duty to support the new administration as it fulfills its duty to serve the people. We are many colors but at the end of the day we are one nation. You cannot have a rainbow if the colors don’t come together. Even with a heavy heart, we need to give our new leaders a chance so we also give our country a chance.

That being said, I think one thing we can look forward to is better food at the Palace! I still remember the appalling coffee served for a meeting in Malacañang sometime in the mid-2000s and thinking, “If this is the coffee they’re having, no wonder they can’t think straight!”

I hope that this time around, they promote our excellent Philippine coffee from different parts of the country: Benguet Arabica, Kalinga, Batangas Barako, as well as coffee from Davao and Bukidnon, among others. There is also the excellent Cacho Coffee from a private farm in the north that may be exclusively produced for the Palace. This would impress even the snootiest Italian coffee connoisseurs!

It would also be wonderful to finally have an official Palace chef! Just as Cristeta Comerford has become known as the White House Executive Chef, holding the post since 2005 throughout various administrations, it would be great to have a Malacañan Executive Chef who can ably and proudly showcase Filipino food. By Filipino food, I do not mean just the usual adobo and lechon but to truly showcase Pinoy regional cuisine from north to south: the empanada, bagnet and pinakbet of Ilocos; the sisig and tocino of Pampanga; the chicharon and kakanin of Bulacan; the tinapa of Cavite; the laing of Bicol; the inasal of Negros; the pianggang of the Tausugs; and the list goes on.

Chef Glenda Barretto, former Executive Chef of Malacañan

In showcasing Filipino food, I hope they avoid the trend of deconstructed Filipino dishes which is absolute rubbish, to be honest. While this may be great for a cutesy patootsie little restaurant trying to be noticed, it is ultimately not recommendable for diplomatic dinners because it essentially massacres the cuisine and would be a poor introduction for visitors who might be trying Filipino dishes for the first time. They should also avoid chefs who are known for promoting other cuisines like Italian or Spanish and find a new name to hone and call Malacañan’s own so that the focus can be on cuisine that is truly Filipino.

We can be inspired by the likes of Chef Bongkoch ‘Bee’ Satongun of Michelin-starred Paste in Bangkok, who has painstakingly studied Thai culinary history, including the century-old recipes and long-forgotten techniques, and then presenting them in a fine dining setting. Malacañang is a dream venue for dinners like this showcasing Philippine cuisine at its finest!

During the first Marcos administration, there was Chef Glenda Barretto. I remember a conversation I had with her wherein she shared how former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos would come back from state visits abroad and then tell her all about the delicacies and presentation of food in other countries’ state banquets. And how she would encourage Tita Glenda, as she is fondly called in the food community, to upgrade the presentation of our dishes to be truly world class. And that she did. To this day, Glenda Barretto remains the queen of Philippine cuisine, always reliable for events that present Filipino food.

Chef Glenda Barretto, former Executive Chef of Malacañan, with former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos. Photo credit: viamare.com.ph

Writing this, I can already taste Pinoy palate cleansers like dalandan and calamansi sorbet. And desserts like buko sherbet, ube halaya, maja blanca, and kakanins served in shapes inspired by the Philippine flag.

Photos and videos that circulated on social media of Uniteam victory parties with the Aranetas, Zobels, Aboitizes and Tans evidenced some fine wine (any wine lover would be quick to spot the Opus One!). But just to note here that while a Chateau Margaux is always a welcome idea, state dinners can also be an opportunity to showcase Philippine drinks: tuba, lambanog, and the excellent Don Papa rum.  

Finally, in a restaurant or at an event, the experience is made complete by the music. Mrs. Marcos was known to host dinners where the music was a live performance by no less than world-renowned pianist Ingrid Sta. Maria. Mrs. Marcos was also known for supporting musical prodigies like Cecile Licad. We hope that under this new administration, a new generation of Cecile Licads will be born. Irene Marcos-Araneta has also been a great supporter of the jazz community. Hopefully, under the new administration, Philippine jazz will play loud and proud, with our musicians being heard not just around the country but around the world.

The White House Vegetable Garden. First Lady Michelle Obama and White House Chef Sam Kass show students from the Bancroft Elementary how to plant a garden. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Beyond dining, the incoming First Lady, Atty Liza Araneta Marcos, might like to also take a cue from former US First Lady Michelle Obama, who incidentally was also a lawyer, and create a Malacañang Garden showcasing Philippine plants, herbs and fruits. Imagine a dinner where the dalandan and calamansi are from the First Lady’s garden; as well as the pechay and tanglad. It will not only be great for conversation but would also be good for Malacañan’s chi and in promoting a new sustainable lifestyle. This can then be a model for a lifestyle change for people with different incomes: from the richest of the rich to the poorest of the poor, with no less than the First Lady being the leading advocate for a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

As it is with beginnings, there is always hope. So let’s hope that this new Marcos administration will be one that will put an end to color coding and finally truly benefit and uplift all. And one that will have really good Philippine coffee in Malacañan Palace!

More from the author at margauxsalcedo.com. Follow @margauxsalcedo on Instagram.

Cebu Eats! 2022

I finally got the courage to travel again and am writing this from beautiful Cebu, where the 2nd National Mission Congress and the closing mass for the celebrations of 500 Years of Christianity — with Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles John Brown; Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines; and Archbishop Jose Palma of the Archdiocese of Cebu — are taking place.

Margaux Salcedo, Msgr Joseph Tan, 500 Years of Christianity, Cebu, Closing Ceremonies, Archbishop Charles Brown, Fr Mhar Balili, Archbishop Jose Palma
Hosted the Closing Ceremonies for 500 YOC before the Eucharistic Celebration began. April 24, 2022 at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. With me is Msgr. Joseph Tan, Media Liaison Officer of the Archdiocese of Cebu. Photo: Msgr Ting Ancajas

I am happy to share that it looks like we really can start doing food trips again and now is the time, while fares are down. We flew via Cebu Pacific and a round-trip ticket was just P3,000 (without the add-ons)! Your health is your own lookout, though, as the crowds are back as well, so just make sure you wear the proper mask and that it is sealed correctly around your nose and mouth. Also make sure you are fully vaccinated so that even if the COVID-19 virus hits you, it will just be like the flu.

Here are few new foodie finds on this trip:

Maribago Bluewater’s ‘Sinudlan na Manok ‘

Maribago Bluewater is paradise. The 7-hectare beachfront property with gorgeous Balete trees is perfect for a relaxing getaway. It is just one hour from the city center so it’s also an ideal location if you have to meet friends in the city. I say paradise because it really is, especially if you get a bungalow—literally a two-bedroom, one story “house”—right on the beach.

It’s also safer for meals because the setup is al fresco. Even if you will not sleep over, have a meal at Allegro restaurant. They have a really delicious chicken stuffed with chorizo called Sinudlan na Manok. It does not come as a whole chicken but like a roll, similar to morcon, and sliced beautifully on the plate. The chorizo used is Cebuano chorizo hubad. Another unique dish is their ube sinigang. The fish in itself is sumptuous, a pan-seared snapper. But what makes the dish unique is that it’s purple, even the broth! In place of rice, the fish is laid atop a chunk of sweet potato, taro and halaya. Make sure to squeeze the lemon onto the mash as this does wonders in bringing the flavors together; otherwise it’s like an odd combination of fish and ube jam. But with the lemon, it’s like they are wed in holy matrimony and becomes really enjoyable!

Of course, the best option is to sleep over and have fresh oysters with champagne by the beach! Live the life!

‘Bibingka de Mandaue’

Every town has its version of kakanin. Mandaue in Cebu also has its own version of bibingka and Bishop Midyphil “Dodong” Billones, auxiliary bishop of Cebu and rector of the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue, says that Bibingka de Mandaue is the best. Count on a bishop to choose something that is very austere but spirit-filled! This rice cake is plain and almost looks like pita bread but its beauty is inside! No salted duck egg, no cheese on top but it is very flavorful!

Another must-try in Mandaue is Didang’s masa real. This is a bar of finely-ground boiled peanuts and coconut syrup. It’s a great pasalubong, too!

Part’ebelle Seafood Restaurant

This is a “karinderya “that I am sure Anthony Bourdain would have loved for a true taste of local flavors. The specialty of this al fresco resto is a seafood soup called Tinolang Isda (or tinowa) that has a clear broth. They use blue marlin and I learned from a local culinary expert to ask for fish roe instead of just plain fish meat for a first class treat in a casual atmosphere.

Tinolang Isda at Partebelle

Another specialty here is the sinugba or grilled fish. There is a huge grillery just outside the restaurant where they cook the liempo and blue marlin. It is very tasty and fresh! Served with a huge mound of rice per person, even if you just get your utensils from a communal container with hot water (don’t be maarte!), this is one of the best meals I’ve had on this trip!

Matias BBQ

For a great hole-in-the-wall experience, Enrico Monsanto of Bluewater in Maribago highly recommends Matias BBQ in Mandaue. This is on A.S. Fortuna Street in Mandaue. The must-trys are the pork barbecue, chorizo and balbacua.

Carcar ‘chicharon’

Carcar Chicharon beside the St Catherine of Alexandria historical church in Carcar

For chicharon, the place to visit is Carcar. While you are there, make a trip to the Shrine of Archbishop Teofilo Camomot, former Archbishop of Cebu and now Servant of God. On May 3, the Vatican will determine if he qualifies to be called Venerable, which is the next step to sainthood. So please pray for Archbishop Camomot and hopefully, we will have another Filipino saint!

‘Tagaktak’

Also make sure to try Tagaktak. In Cebuano, this means “to drop.” It looks like fried noodles presented in the shape of a triangle and is enjoyed as a snack. It earned its name from the process by which it is cooked: rice batter is poured into a perforated coconut shell and the batter then falls through the holes while the one cooking sways the shell to force the batter to fall “taktak” into boiling oil. You can find this from vendors just outside the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu.

World travel and tourism

Back in Manila, Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo Puyat just opened the 21st Global Summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council. She said: “A new age of travel and tourism is upon us, and it is up to us to drive the change towards a better and more hopeful future.”

This is so true. I confess I only agreed to fly to Cebu because Fr. Mhar Balili, chair of the 500 Years of Christianity celebrations in Cebu, promised that I would be hosting the 2nd National Mission Congress right in front of the original image of the Sto. Niño that was given by Ferdinand Magellan to Reyna Juan 500 years ago—a promise he fulfilled. But now that I have traveled, I would love to encourage everyone to welcome this new normal and fly!

Incidentally, Catholics call this day Divine Mercy Sunday and we are truly so grateful for this mercy. Now we can really get out of our caves and live life to the fullest again! Hallelujah!

Kaon ta!

Cebu Eats! 2022

First Class by Margaux Salcedo | Philippine Daily Inquirer | April 24, 2022 Sunday

It’s April! It’s Filipino Food Month!

A legacy of the Duterte Administration that we in the food community are grateful for is the declaration of Filipino Food Month.

Since April 13, 2018, when President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed Presidential Proclamation No. 469, we have been celebrating the month of April as National Filipino Food Month. This has been significant in promoting Filipino food both locally and internationally, bringing an awareness worldwide to what Filipino food is and rejuvenating the love for Filipino flavors here at home, including the desire to preserve our Filipino culinary heritage.

This April, we continue to celebrate National Filipino Food Month or, in Filipino, “Buwan ng Lutong Pilipino”. 

It has now become a collaborative effort led by the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement alongside the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Department of Tourism and the Department of Agriculture.

The theme this year highlights Filipino food as a key to progress and change (“Pagkaing Pilipino, Susi sa Pag-unlad at Pagbabago”).

Chef Jam Melchor, who initiated the Filipino Food Month, explains the theme:  “The way we produce, distribute, choose, consume and preserve food significantly impacts our nation. Future scenarios will change significantly depending on how we relate to food.”

The festivities will start with face-to-face Opening Ceremonies on April 1 at the Metropolitan Theater. The Department of Agriculture will also have its own virtual launching on April 4 via their Facebook page.

One highlight of this year’s Filipino Food Month is a Culinary Cinema series that will showcase short films relating to Filipino food.

There will be screenings of the short films every Friday of the month at 2:00 p.m. via the page of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts while every Friday they will have short film “talkbacks”. There will also be the launch of Culinary Cinema Luzon on April 25; Culinary Cinema Visayas on April 18; and Culinary Cinema Mindanao on April 11. These will all be on the NCCA Facebook page.

Meanwhile the Filipino Food Month page will host “KainCon” sessions (short for ‘eating conference’, i.e. ‘kain’ means ‘to eat’ while ‘con’ is short for ‘conference’). The first session will be on how to grow your own food, to be held on April 7; the second one on preserving Filipino culinary traditions through gastro-diplomacy and tourism, to be held on April 12; the third one on innovations inspired by Filipino food history, to be held on April 14; the fourth one on starting a sustainable business, to be held on April 19; the fifth one on gastronomy as part of the Filipino cultural identity, to be held on April 21; the sixth one on the flavors of Muslim Mindanao, to be held on April 26; and the final one on a global perspective of preserving and promoting Filipino food traditions, to be held on April 28.

Schedule of Activities for the Filipino Food Month in the National Capital Region / Metro Manila

On the part of the Department of Agriculture, they will have a webinar series on High Value Crops (HVC).

This will open on April 11 at 9:00 a.m. via the Facebook page of the Department of Agriculture. They will also host a planting ceremony for inter-cropping of cofffee and cacao in coconut areas. There will be two webinars: one on April 12, tackling diversification in Philippine coconut areas, and another on April 13, on diversification in rice areas.


For those who simply love to eat, there will be a Filipino Food Festival at the Atrium of Shangri-la Plaza from April 22 to 24. For those who love to travel, you can look forward to the 21st World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit – Fun Philippine Finds Pop-Up Store that will be at the Marriott Grand Ballroom in Pasay from April 20 to 22.

There will also be many regional events.

One of the highlights would be the Sustainable Diner Series hosted by the Department of Tourism – CALABARZON and the World Wildlife Fund. This will be via Zoom on April 6, 11, 13, 18 and 20. Iloilo stands out as well for their regional activities, with a food art/carving contest at the Robinson’s Main, Iloilo Fountain Area on April 13 and a Farmers’ Cooking Contest on April 14 at the Department of Agriculture lobby in Koronadal. Pampanga will also hold a Filipino Food Month cooking contest at their Department of Agriculture in San Fernando. Pampanga is also hosting an Innovative Food Product Contest in Angeles City. Meanwhile, there will also be several food festivals: Capiz will host a food festival called Food Trip sa Capiz at the Capiz Provincial Park on April 22; Palawan will host Hapag ng Pamana sa Palawan on April 30 at the Cacaoyan Forest Park and Restaurant, which may be viewed on the NCCA Facebook page; in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, you can visit Punsyunan: A Showcase of CALABARZON Cuisine at the Ayala Solenad in Nuvali; and in Cagayan de Oro, there will be a CDO Foodcrawl that those in the rest of the country can follow via the Facebook pages of Cagayan de Oro city.

It is truly an exciting culinary month! What a delicious April this will be! Congratulations in advance to the organizers and all involved. Yes, let us all celebrate Filipino food! Kain na!

***

For updates on Filipino Food Month events, follow the Filipino Food Month page: Facebook.com/FilipinoFoodMonthOfficial.

Drink Like Monks and Saints

Margaux Salcedo | Inquirer Business | First Class

It’s October! And that means one thing for F&B connoisseurs and beer lovers: Oktoberfest!
Sadly, Oktoberfest was cancelled again this year. It was first cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. There were high hopes for its return this 2021 but in May it was announced that the 187th Oktoberfest, which should have taken place from September 18 to October 3 on the Theresienwiese in Munich, would also be cancelled.

The organizers explained: “The risk is simply too huge that people here could become infected with the Coronavirus.” They added: “Oktoberfest can only take place completely or not at all. Or, in one Bavarian sentence: ‘So a bissl Wiesn geht ned. (There’s no thing like a little bit of Wiesn.)”
In pre-pandemic Philippines, there would usually be beer festivals at various hotels, bars and pubs all over the metro the entire month of October. Sadly, all that is cancelled as well.

Oktoberfest 2013. Photo: Heribert Pohl | Wikimedia Commons

Beer connoisseurs

But no one is stopping us from drinking at home and celebrating with the people in our bubble or virtually. (For some of us, this is what has kept us sane every day!) So in the spirit of Oktoberfest, let’s make ourselves feel better with some good beer!
The operative word is ‘good’. We are not promoting mindless drinking here but an appreciation for the complexities and nuances of carefully thought out brews.

Strictly speaking, Oktoberfest revolves only around six breweries: Augustiner, Hofbräu, Hacker-Pschorr, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten. And there are clear specifications on beer quality: The festival beer must have an original gravity of at least 13.6%. The beer must be golden yellow, drinkable and full-bodied; and must have original wort percentage, alcohol content, bitterness and color. The Munich Purity Law of 1487 applies and the water must come from Munich deep wells, which reach into layers of the Tertiary period. Finally, brewing is only allowed in the territory of the city of Munich.


St Francis

In the Philippines, Paulaner is especially appreciated. And here’s some timely trivia as we celebrate the Feast of St Francis of Assisi tomorrow, October 4: Paulaner was named after St Francis of Paola, founder of the mendicant Order of Minims, whose friars of the Neudeck ob der Au cloister established the German brewery in Munich in 1634. St Francis of Paola, meanwhile, was named after St Francis of Assisi, as his parents asked St Francis of Assisi for intercession when they were trying to conceive and also later when he was in danger of losing his eyesight due to an illness.

The young Francis of Paola entered the friary of the Franciscan Order and later went with his parents on a pilgrimage to Assisi, after which he chose to live a life of solitude, living in a secluded cave. Later, in 1436, he was joined by two companions, which led to the foundation of the Hermits of Saint Francis of Assisi, which would eventually become the Order of Minims (O.M.). The Minim friars are known for their humility but also for their ‘fourth vow’: a Lenten way of life, which includes abstinence from meat and other animal products.

Perhaps this vow is what inspired some brothers of the order, i.e., the monks in the Neudeck ob der Au Monastery in Munich two hundred years later, to become creative and make exceptional beer!

Then whatever the monks did not drink, they would give to the poor. In 1634, the city council received complaints from other brewers about competition from the monastery. The date of this letter is considered the first documented evidence of the Paulaner Brewery and used as the founding date of the brewery.

Kozel

Personally, though, with all respect and reverence for St Francis, my personal preference for beer is named after St Michael. I still love our good ol’ San Miguel Pale Pilsen (not Light!), proudly made in the Philippines!

And truth be told, I prefer dark beer over light. The best is still Guinness. And not from the bottle or from the can but draught! Guinness is an Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness at St. James’s Gate, Dublin, Ireland, in 1759.

Since we cannot yet really travel as we used to, there is a good alternative here for dark beer lovers: Kozel. This is brewed in the village of Velké Popovice in the Czech Republic, just outside Prague, exactly where the first batch of Kozel was brewed in 1874. To this day, this beer is brewed the traditional Czech way, with select malts and the aromatic hop Premiant for a complex but well-balanced bitter and sweet taste. This is distributed in the Philippines by Don Revy (visit donrevy.com to order). It’s my favorite!


Whatever beer you choose to drink today, I hope it lifts your spirits! Let’s pray for the end of this pandemic and drink to that!

And as we remember his feast day tomorrow, let’s raise a glass as well to St Francis of Assisi and ask for his intercession to help us through this pandemic. Paulaner cheers! Prost!

******

Read as published in the Inquirer here:

BICOLANO DISHES ON FIRE

Margaux Salcedo | First Class, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inquirer Business, 19 September 2021

Margaux Salcedo | First Class | Inquirer Business | 19 September 2021 Sunday

BICOLANO DISHES ON FIRE

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. A big, loud Happy Fiesta to all Bikolanos and devotees!

Technically, we can travel to Naga today, which is now under general community quarantine (GCQ), to celebrate with Bikolanos because it was announced that from September 16 to 30, with Metro Manila under GCQ, leisure travel from Metro Manila to areas under GCQ and modified GCQ would be allowed, subject to local government guidelines. But, given it is only point-to-point travel, you may be stuck in just your hotel upon arrival and miss the festivities anyway. So we will just celebrate the fiesta vicariously through food and prayers!

Ina

Our Lady of Peñafrancia is the patroness of Bicol, endearingly referred to by her local devotees as Ina (Mother).
Her original image is in Spain, at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peña de Francia, located on the Peña de Francia mountain in Salamanca. It is reportedly the world’s highest Marian sanctuary.

Our Lady of Peñafrancia

Its origins are unknown but in the 1400s, Simon Vela, a Parisian from a well-to-do family who gave up his inheritance to become a chamber boy in the convent of the Franciscans in Paris, journeyed to the distant and steep mountains of Peña de Francia in Salamanca after hearing instructions from the Blessed Virgin herself in a dream: “Go to Peña de Francia west of this country, and there you will find the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary”.

He embarked on the journey and, upon finding the location, contracted men from the nearby town of San Martin del Castañar to assist him, and with them found, on May 19, 1434, embedded among the rocks, the most coveted image of the Holy Virgin with the Child in her arms.


Then in 1712, a Spanish officer from Peña de Francia arrived in Cavite. His son, Miguel Robles de Covarrubias, studied as a seminarian at the University of Sto. Tomas. While he was a seminarian, he became seriously ill and prayed for healing through the intercession of Our Lady of Peña de Francia, clutching a photograph of her image and vowing to construct a chapel if cured. He was cured and even became a priest, was ordained in Naga, then called Ciudad de Nueva Caceres, and there fulfilled his promise to Our Lady. He also asked a local sculptor to carve an image patterned after the photo he had of Our Lady of Peña de Francia which he clutched while sick. After reports of many miracles, on September 20, 1924, Pope Pius XI granted the image a canonical coronation. This image may be found today at the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Naga.

Peñafrancia Festival


The Peñafrancia Festival is a huge celebration in Bicol, with millions of devotees and tourists alike participating. It has extended beyond religion to become a true celebration of life for Bikolanos of all faiths, with concerts, parades, triathlons, etc. It has also been acknowledged to be the largest annual Marian pilgrimage in Asia.

This year, though, due to the pandemic, the festivities will be more solemn than festive, with online masses instead. Of course, when there is a fiesta, there must be an abundance of food. So since we can’t travel, let’s do the next best thing and join in the fiesta today by cooking some of these famous Bicolano dishes even as we stay home:

Tinutungang Manok. This is my personal favorite of all Bikolano dishes. On a trip to Albay, I got to watch Colonial Grill’s Chef Jeric Llandelar make this and he explained that the coconut meat (sapal) is cooked in a cauldron until it is toasted or resembles ‘tutong’ (burnt rice). He advised to make sure that it is not burned black or it will be bitter instead of smokey. Once toasted, water is added to make gata or coconut soup. This becomes the Tinutungang Gata, which creates the cream for the stew. The unique thing about this is that it has a smokey flavor. This is then added to the chicken then served with slices of either green papaya or green saba bananas. A truly elegant dish even if I first tried it at the very casual 1st Colonial Grill.

Adobo sa Gata. The quintessential Pinoy dish but with a Bikolano twist! The Bikolano version uses coconut milk and siling labuyo. You simple braise the meat in the traditional adobo marinade but finish off with coconut milk. The result is a creamier adobo with a spicy bite. Quite festive!

The glorious Mt. Mayon and Bicol delicacies: Tinutungang Manok, Kandingga (Bopis), Kinunot na Pagi, Pinangat, Gulay na Dahon ng Kamoteng Kahoy.

Laing. In some areas, this is called Pinangat na Gabi. The original Bikolano version of this does not use shredded but a whole taro leaf, called natong by some. A mixture of pre-cooked cubed pork, shrimp, or fish flakes, plus crushed chili (siling labuyo), shallots, ginger, and shrimp paste (bagoong alamang) is wrapped in the taro leaf and tied with lemongrass (tanglad). It is then steamed in coconut milk until the leaf pouches are fork tender and the gata is reduced to a thick sauce. Now, though, we are more used to the shredded gabi version, so that will work for today’s festivities, too!

Ginataang Dahon ng Kamoteng Kahoy or Young Yuka Leaves in Coconut Milk. This is a fairly simple vegetable dish, though one may add pork belly or tinapa, that involves, yet again, just cooking the ingredients in coconut milk and adding siling labuyo. This would be perfect with steaming hot white rice.

Kinunot na Pagi or Spicy Stingray in Coconut Milk. This is really just a fish coconut stew but if you don’t know how to clean the stingray well, leave it to the professionals or it may have a stench. But otherwise, it is a true delicacy!


Sili Ice Cream. When one visits Bicol, you can’t leave without trying the Sili Ice Cream. As usual, it has coconut milk and – yes, even in ice cream – siling labuyo. What an experience. At first bite, you think it is regular ice cream then two second later, the chili creeps in to surprise if not shock you.

There are so many more Bikolano dishes, they won’t fit on this page. Perhaps with the guidance of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, you will find them! If Simon Vela found the buried image of Our Lady in the distant terrains of Peña de Francia, on the side of an uninhabited mountain, I’m sure you can easily find a Bikolano recipe to your liking to celebrate and honor Ina with devotees and Bikolanos!

Happy Fiesta once again to everyone in Bicol and to all Bikolanos around the world. May our faith in the Lord, strengthened by our devotion to Ina, get us through this pandemic. While we can’t gather in person today, we certainly will have the Peñefrancia Festival once again – hopefully next year!

In the meantime, we celebrate life and all blessings, big or small, everyday! Dios Mabalos!

***

Claude Tayag: Portrait of the Chef as Artist

Claude Tayag never ceases to amaze me as he not only dabbles but shines in the various endeavors he pours his heart and soul into – whether it be the culinary arts or the visual arts.

The other side of Claude Tayag: The chef exhibits his watercolor paintings at the National Museum

Bale Dutung

We know him as a chef and culinary icon, with his relentless promotion of Pampango and Philippine cuisine.

The name of his private dining space is Bale Dutung. If you have not yet been to this culinary treasure, make your way to the Tayags’ home in Angeles, Pampanga (visit baledutung.com for details). It’s is by reservation only as guests experience the culinary traditions of the Pampangeños, as interpreted by Tayag, made extraordinary with the charming touch of his wife Maryann Quioc. You may opt for an all-Pampango menu or an all-lechon menu. It was in fact at Tayag’s home that Anthony Bourdain experienced and fell in love sisig, after which the culinary legend said that sisig would “win the hearts and minds of the world”. (To honor Bourdain, Bale Dutung now also offers an Anthony Bourdain menu.)

Claude Tayag’s wife Maryann Quioc poses before 1956 portrait of the artist of himself being carried by his mother.

The Influence of E. Aguilar Cruz

But the chef’s hat is only one of his many hats. In fact, Claude Tayag was first recognized for his paintings, not for his cooking.

It was over 40 years ago, in 1977, that he was first acknowledged as a painter, when he won second prize at the annual competition of the Art Association of the Philippines, for an acrylic on canvas painting depicting the frenzied Ati-tihan festival from an elevated view. A year later, in 1978, he made his official debut into the Manila art scene with a one-man exhibition of watercolor paintings at the ABC Galleries of Larry J. Cruz, son of the great Emilio “Abe” Aguilar Cruz, in Manila. The exhibit was well-received, with critics describing Tayag’s works as “characterized by a forceful spontaneity and raw vigor”.

Abè (father of Larry) was Tayag’s greatest influence and mentor. Cruz was the bosom buddy of Tayag’s father, Renato “Katoks” Dayrit Tayag, a lawyer turned journalist. They used to call Abe “Tatang Milio”. Tayag very clearly remembers when Abe invited his artist friends over to paint the landscape of the Zambales ranges (now Carmenville Subdivision). Tayag holds dear a photo taken by his father of that moment, in 1968, with the 12-year old Claude watching the painters intently. It was quite a group: Sofronio ‘SYM’ Mendoza, Romulo Galicano, Rodolfo Ragodon, Andres Cristobal Cruz, Mauro ‘Malang’ Santos, and the future National Artist Vicente Manansala. Tayag remembers that it was then that he found his own calling, thinking, “That’s what I want to be when I grow up!”

Tayag also recalls his visits to Abe in 1976: “I was a third year Architecture student at the University of the Philippines but I would visit Tatang Milio in his painting studio on Arquiza Street, just off the tourist belt area along A. Mabini in Manila. I’d show him my latest watercolor paintings then he would critique them, and would demonstrate with paint sketches a trick or two.”

Tayag also remembers joining Cruz for the “Sketching Soiree” of the Saturday Artists’ Group – an informal association of professionals with a common passion for making art, led by Cesar Legazpi, then an executive of an advertising agency, and with members such as Alfredo “Ding” Roces, and artists who later became recognized as National Artists, such as Vicente Manansala, H.R. Ocampo, Jose Joya, Ang Kiukok, Arturo Luz, Bencab (Benedicto Cabrera) and Federico Aguilar Alcuaz.

Sketching Soiree by Claude Tayag. September 11, 1976.

Tayag was also influenced by the “Dimasalang group” comprised of Cruz and 3 friends, SYM, Galicano, and Andres Cristobal. “It was their watercolor paintings that I tried to emulate, in terms of style and subject matter,” Tayag recalls.

Inspired by these great artists, Tayag pursued watercolor as a medium, hoping to increase appreciation for this medium as well. “Watercolor is the most difficult painting medium there is,” the artist explains. “One has to have full control of the water, color, paper and timing. And this could only be achieved through a lifetime dedication of practice and exploration. For me, it is the most rewarding and most pleasurable to work with once you’ve mastered it.”

Watercolor and Wood

In the decade following his first exhibit, Tayag was very prolific, holding an exhibit every two years, with each exhibit focusing on a different subject. Among his exhibits were a European watercolor travelogue in 1980, inspired by his 11-month tour of Europe; Moriones in 1981; Cordillera landscapes in 1985 at the Hyatt Terraces in Baguio, after living in Baguio for a while; Kristos in 1987; and a black and white exhibition using Japanese ink on rice paper called the Bokuseki series, influenced by the Japanese style of painting called Sumi-e, in 1994 and 1997.

Sunset in the Clouds, 1979, Claude Tayag.

Later, Tayag also became known as a sculptor. He started by designing and manufacturing traditional Filipino domestic furniture (e.g la mesa, upuan, taburete, bangkô, paminggalan), which he consigned to the Pansol Pottery owned by potters Jon and Tessie Pettyjohn in Makati. He became known for his creations that had “straightforward functionality and clean lines, much like the Japanese and Shaker furniture”, with “no-nail construction, using mostly dove-tailing and mortise-and-tenon techniques”. In 1990, he staged his first one-man exhibition as a sculptor at the Ayala Museum, presenting both functional and sculptural creations in wood. He awed audiences with his ability to “supercede the limitations of an essentially rigid material, achieving limitless volume and sensuous plasticity with this wave and curvilinear series”.

Chef Claude

In the 1980s, Tayag started dabbling in cooking. The ingenious Larry Cruz, then owner of Ang Hang restaurant in Makati, challenged Tayag to interpret his watercolor paintings as “edible art”. I guess a Capampangan does not back down from a challenge, especially one related to cooking, so Tayag executed a clever dinner entitled “Artworks” in 1989. So just as Cruz had given Tayag his first exhibit in 1978, it was also Cruz who gave Tayag his first culinary “exhibit” in 1989!

It must have been a hit as a few years later, in 1993, Tayag was featured as the guest chef of the hoity toity Chaine des Rotisseurs at their annual dinner held at the Manila Hotel. He cooked traditional Pampango cuisine.

In 2001, he was invited to be guest chef for an entire month at the famous fine dining restaurant Prince Albert of the Intercontinental Hotel, the first Asian chef ever to be invited, cooking alongside their French chef Cyrille Soenen.

Since then, Tayag has become a favorite in the culinary scene. Aside from his private dining space Bale Dutung, which he opened with wife Maryann in the 2000s, he has also hosted a television show on food, and has published three food-related books: Food Tour, Linamnam, and Kulinarya (with co-authors). He also made the country proud when he won the People’s Choice Award at the Embassy Chef Challenge in Washington, D.C. in May 2016.

National Museum

But once an artist, you are always an artist. So when Dr. Ana Labrador, assistant director of the National Museum, saw Tayag at the Emilio “Abé” Aguilar Cruz Hall opening three years ago and suggested that he do an exhibition of his watercolor paintings with them, being a direct “offspring” of Abé as a watercolorist, he immediately said yes.

So until until September 22, the National Museum presents “Claude Tayag: Watercolors 1974 – Present”.

T’bloi Women by Claude Tayag.

My favorite among Claude’s works: “Kain Na!” A T’boli woman enticing you to eat.

Here you will see the other side of the “chef”: that of visual artist, featuring his watercolor paintings of T’boli women, paintings from the Moriones series, the Kristo series, the Cordillera series, paintings of churches and images of Catholic saints, postcards with art from his travels, and a throwback to the Bokuseki series.

I love the energy that flows from each work of art – from the vibrant colors to the details that communicate life. It is a beautiful exhibition that mirrors the artist’s inspired journeys.

I encourage everyone to visit this exhibit. It is one that his mentors and even his father, who discouraged him from pursuing fine arts, would undoubtedly be proud of. Claude Tayag, like his mentor E. Aguilar Cruz, is truly a Renaissance man!

Claude Tayag: Watercolors 1974 – Present
At the National Museum
Until September 22, 2019

***

Other opening highlights:

Me and my sister Goldee, fans of Claude, getting our book of watercolor paintings by Claude Tayag autographed by the artist at the exhibition opening.

Also love Claude’s church series. This is a painting from 1979 of the Nuremberg Cathedral.

Also love his series on Catholic images or what we call “Poon”.

Claude Tayag greeted by fellow chefs Myrna Segismundo (checkered, beside Claude) and Glenda Barretto of Via Mare (blue)

Checking out Claude Tayag’s Bokuseki series with Manila tour guide Ivan Man Dy

The exhibit opening was a resounding success. It was a nice touch too that there was food from Pampanga brought by the chef. We all loved the tibok tibok (carabao milk pudding)

Never a dull moment with Goldee!! Playing tourist with Claude’s Moriones series. This is based on an actual painting (see first photo with the artist).

Congratulations, Claude!!!

What It Takes To Make It In The World of Hotel PR

he Makati communication directors squad: (L-R) Bess Howe, PR Director, Holiday Inn & Suites; Monique Toda, Communications Director, Raffles & Fairmont, Patti Javier, Communications Director, Shangrila Makati, Claire Hernandez, E-Commerce Manager, Peninsula Manila, Margaux Hontiveros, incoming Marketing Communications Director, Raffles Cambodia and former Communications Director of Primea; Shariza Relova, MarComm Director, Dusit Thani; Grace Lim and Mariano Garchitorena, PR Director of Peninsula Manila.
Some people think that working in a hotel is a glamorous job. Many kids aspire to become chefs when they grow up, as they watch celebrity chefs on television, Netflix and social media, and think that it’s an easy role to play. Others aspire to be in the hotel industry as part of its communications team, perceiving it to be a job of utter luxury, as their workplace would be the hotel and every dish you have would be Instagram-worthy.
 
I spoke with Margaux Hontiveros, who has just been promoted to the world of international communication directors as incoming Director of Marketing Communications of Raffles Cambodia, to find out what it’s really like to be a hotel / F&B publicist. Here are her revelations:
 
1. Working in a hotel is not all glamour and glitz

 
As glamorous as it appears, Margaux confesses with a smile, “It is not all glamour. It has perks but there’s a lot of hard work involved. Over the years I’ve been no stranger to getting my hands dirty and finding myself in various situations where I’ve literally had to get down in the grime and grit.” Although, she is quick to add, “How quickly we can vacillate from glamour to grit is one of the things I love about this job.”

Margaux Hontiveros, Raffles Cambodia
The glamorous Margaux Hontiveros, incoming Marketing Communications Director of Raffles Cambodia

2. You may work 26 hours a day (yes, more than 24!)
 
There are 8:30 am briefings, a ton of errands including writing or approving press releases, photo shoots, “a never-ending cascade of meetings to attend” during the day, media to entertain at 8:30 in the evening with frivolities that can last til the wee hours of the morning. Then repeat the next day.
 
3. You don’t need to be stiff
 
“Definitely there’s a certain sense of decorum that we have to follow. But what was proper 20 years ago may seem extremely outdated and cold these days,” Margaux explains. Instead, she emphasizes the importance of manners but says that the level of formality will depend on what is being promoted and who the audience is.
 
4. You don’t need to undercut the competition
 
One would think that hotel publicists would hate each other, viewing each other as competition, but the Makati hotel PRs have gone the exact opposite direction and straight up support each other, hang out, and appear to have a genuine love for each other. It seems like in the PR world, they are all one happy family.
 

Margaux confirms this: “It is competitive, but extremely friendly and supportive. I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but at least in our circle (Raffles, Shangri-la, Peninsula, Primea, Holiday Inn and Dusit), we keep up with what each other is doing and are extremely supportive of each other. It’s a great camaraderie. It completely dispels the theory that to get ahead, you must be ruthless. I am deeply grateful for these friends, and most of them I consider to be my mentors.”

he Makati communication directors squad: (L-R) Bess Howe, PR Director, Holiday Inn & Suites; Monique Toda, Communications Director, Raffles & Fairmont, Patti Javier, Communications Director, Shangrila Makati, Claire Hernandez, E-Commerce Manager, Peninsula Manila, Margaux Hontiveros, incoming Marketing Communications Director, Raffles Cambodia and former Communications Director of Primea; Shariza Relova, MarComm Director, Dusit Thani; Grace Lim and Mariano Garchitorena, PR Director of Peninsula Manila.
The Makati Hotels Communication Directors Squad:
(L-R) Bess Howe, PR Director, Holiday Inn & Suites; Monique Toda, Communications Director, Raffles & Fairmont; Patti Javier, Communications Director, Shangrila Makati; Claire Hernandez, E-Commerce Manager, Peninsula Manila; Margaux Hontiveros, incoming Marketing Communications Director, Raffles Cambodia and former Communications Director of Primea; Shariza Relova, MarComm Director, Dusit Thani; Grace Lim and Mariano Garchitorena, PR Director of The Peninsula Manila.

5. You don’t need a hospitality degree

 

Margaux did not go to a hospitality school. She is an artist. She recalls distinctly, “During one of my (first) interviews, it was brought up that I didn’t have any hospitality experience, to which I cheekily answered, ‘No one goes to art school to work in a hotel.’” She still got the job anyway but started out as a Graphic Designer under Joy Wassmer, then Communications Director of Shangri-la Makati. Then Erica Sotto, also with Shang, saw Margaux’s potential not only for visuals but also for writing. After testing her with captions, she promoted Margaux to copywriter until she became Communications Coordinator and eventually Communcations Executive.
From Shang, Margaux joined the opening team of Lind Boracay and a few years later joined Monique Toda for Raffles & Fairmont Makati. “My time at Raffles and Fairmont Makati was where I truly grew up. Monique (Communications Director of Raffles Makati) really took me under her wing, and supported me in figuring out what kind of MarComm person I wanted to be,” Margaux reminisces.
After graduating from the Monique Toda school of PR, she felt confident enough to take on the role of Communications Director at Discovery Primea under General Manager David Pardo de Ayala, whom she considers another mentor. And for the next few years, she will be Communications Director of Raffles in Cambodia.
Not bad for someone who never went to hospitality school!

 

***

I also asked Margaux for some tips for F&B or hotel PR. Here are her suggestions:

1. You need a good product.

While branding is king, you also need a good product to begin with. When the competition is fierce, you up your game not only through promotions but by having better products, i.e., better services, better menus, better music, better chocolate. “Any hotel or company that’s worth its salt must have a strong brand to back up everything they do and say,” Margaux stresses. “If you can deliver an experience that is genuine and true to your brand promise, there is no doubt you’ll stand out.”

2. Highlight personalities.

 

Let’s face it, there are occasions where all hotels have the same products and promotions: Easter, Christmas, Chinese New Year. What to do then? Margaux suggests to highlight the personality of your chefs. “Every chef has his or her own personality, and it’s important that the Executive Chef has the freedom to create as he or she wishes. I’ve been fortunate to work collaboratively with some of the best F&B people and chefs, and perhaps it’s also due to my own love of food and awe of what they do, but I’ve always been inspired by their creativity,” she says.

 

3. Tell a story

 

At the core of marketing and communications is the task of telling stories. Margaux explains: “Whether it’s a brand story, or why we do a certain promotion, or the profile of an individual, we have to tell a story through copy, through design, through experiences.”
In fact, this is what she loves most about the job. “From the unique features of each property, to the philosophies of the brands, and the people who work tirelessly to ensure that the guests are comfortable, secure and delighted at every turn, the opportunities to flex your creative muscles are endless.”

 

4. Create an experience

 

Margaux fell in love with gin at Raffles Makati, after having a sip of their signature Sipsmith gin. But it was at Primea that she was given the freedom to launch a real gin experience. She created the concept of a “gin buffet”. “I wanted to create an environment where people could come and feed their curiosity about gin and the many different brands,” she recalls. Thankfully, Primea F&B Director Rhea Sycip and head bartender Lennon Aguilar were just as excited about the concept and immediately got on board so today, Primea has over a hundred different bottles available at the Gilarmi Lounge’s Gin Library and the gin buffet is now one of the hotel’s most celebrated F&B attractions.

Margaux Hontiveros’ love for gin inspired her to create Manila’s first Gin Buffet. Photo by Margaux Hontiveros

 

5. Genuinely care

This is something she learned from Lui Parungao, whom Margaux describes as “the heart and soul of the Shangrila Makati Marcomm team for over 25 years” and whom she considers to have been her “constant mentor” from the beginning of her career: You can remember everyone’s names, birthdays, what they like and don’t like, who they are connected with, if you have a genuine care and interest in people. Lui also taught her, “Above all, take the time to be kind. Be humble. And always grow.”

Finally, she shares a lesson from her father: “Whatever you do, find the joy in it.”

No doubt this Filipina will shine as she flexes her communication muscles once again, this time in Cambodia.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Since today is Mother’s Day, I would like to pay tribute to my mother, the gorgeous Wonderwoman – Carmelita “Baby” Vargas Salcedo. I will share a few kitchen stories about her, also to encourage our readers to share kitchen stories of their own mothers on social media so we can celebrate moms everywhere! (Do tag me @margauxsalcedo and Inquirer @inquirerbiz and add the hashtag #firstclassmom – I would love to read your stories!)

Like many of you, my parents were my first kitchen mentors. It was my
mother who taught me how to tell if meat is cooked (fork it); how to
tell if fish is cooked (watch the color); how to make meat tender
(adjust the level of fire); and how to make traditional hot chocolate
from scratch.

Mothers are the living embodiment of love: my mom, Carmelita ‘Baby’ Salcedo.

Superpowers

Our first major project together was Nana Meng Tsokolate, an effort to
share with the world the joy of experiencing hot chocolate as we know
it in Bulacan. While she gives me full credit, this brand is really
not just mine but our baby, a tribute to my grand aunt, Nana Meng, and
to the culinary traditions of my maternal hometown, Sta.Maria,
Bulacan.

We make the tsokolate from scratch: we roast the beans, de-shell them,
grind them to a paste (the Bulacan tsokolate texture is like paste,
not the tablea kind), then bottle and cook. Our first Christmas
selling the products, we did not expect the deluge of orders. Since we
were literally just five persons working on the tsokolate, including
my mom and myself, we worked 24/7 to meet the orders.

It was then that I witnessed one of my mother’s superpowers: sleeping
while standing! I caught her at 5 am with her eyes closed but still
standing and holding the rolling pin in her hands, ready to de-shell
the cacao! It’s true: mothers have the superpower of sleeping while
standing!

Negotiator

Another superpower of my mother – probably like your mother – is
negotiating. While sourcing for materials in Divisoria, I saw a
container I wanted to purchase. At this time, my mom was at another
stall. I listened to the prices that the vendor was giving other
customers. He was giving it it to them at P120. When they left, I
haggled with the vendor and he gave the product to me at P100. I
walked away and told my mom about the item I wanted to buy. Then she
went to the vendor while I waited at a nearby stall. She haggled and
haggled and got the vendor to bring the price down to P60!! Talk about
negotiating skills! Later, walking past the vendor with my mom, I
confronted the vendor, “Bakit sa kaniya binigay mo ng P60 sa akin sabi
mo P100?” (Why did you give the product to her at P60 but you priced
it for me at P100?). The vendor could not do anything but smile
sheepishly and scratch his head!

Now that is our strategy when we shop. I do the initial haggling while
she hides; and afterwards, I hide and she goes in for the win!

In the spirit of preserving our culinary heritage, calling on all mothers to write down their family recipes like these mothers of Bulacan: Bernadette, Carmelita, Socorro.

 

Preserving Heritage

We had the honor of contributing to the sequel of Amy Besa’s Memories
of Philippine Kitchens so my mom and I had to submit a recipe for our
family’s dinuguan, which Amy loved. The problem is that heirloom
recipes in the Philippines are mostly passed on orally, without
written documentation. So I had to translate my notes from our cooking
session with Ka Tage, one of the lola cooks in Bulacan who cooked the
dinuguan excellently.

I will never forget laughing our heads off as we tried to translate
the first step, as Ka Tage explained: “Linisin ang taenga ng baboy”
(Clean the pig’s ears). In the end, we decided to keep it
straightforward.

As we made this recipe, we realized the importance of preserving
family recipes. Because you don’t want those recipes and yummy dishes
to disappear when those who you relied on to cook them pass away.

My mother, in her own quiet way, is preserving our culinary traditions
by keeping index cards of various recipes, a habit she formed before
the advent of computers. (Does your mother have recipes in index
cards, too? I have a few friends who tell me their mothers are also
record their recipes that way!) She is very studious with her
documentation and who knows, maybe someday soon she might even have
her own cookbook! So here’s a shout out to all mothers out there to
preserve yours and your family recipes, for your children and the
generations to come!

Food for the Soul

More than food, my mother has fattened me up with food for the soul.

Aside from imbibing in us the rich traditions of her faith, complete
with attending fiesta processions and other traditions, my sister
Goldee and I have been lucky to have a mother who has been diligent in
teaching values that are important, regardless of religion: truth,
honesty, generosity, respect for elders, humility, kindness,
compassion.

Most of all, my mother has been a living example of love: she is
patient, kind, understanding, caring, present. As much as I love food,
I have to admit that these are more important than the family heirloom
paella.

So today, we cheer with gratitude for our mothers. May you keep
getting better at your job and may you pass on wisdom, love, recipes
and a state of grace to the generations to come!

Happy Mother’s Day!

***

See the story as publisher in the Inquirer at this link –

https://business.inquirer.net/270396/moms-have-hidden-powers-you-still-dont-know-about

Painting Cakes Brings New Life to Artist Christina Dy

He Is Risen! 

 

As we celebrate the message of hope that Easter brings, allow me to share the story of a friend who found light amidst darkness, strength in the midst of fear, and joy in spite of sorrow. She is a true inspiration.

 

Her name is Christina Dy. 

 

 

She is a visual artist: a recipient of the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ 13 Artists Award in 2009, participant at the Busan Biennale, aside from her solo shows (see christinady.com). She is also an award-winning production designer (her works include Big Time and Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros). Extending her artistry to the performing arts, she also created Polecats Manila, changing the perspective of pole dancing from banal and sleazy to brilliant and creative through lessons and performances. 

 

Last year, she was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. It was devastating news, as cancer goes, but CD, as she is called by friends, while pragmatic enough to admit her lows, did not wallow in pity or allow the diagnosis to get her down. 

 

Instead, she turned to art. In the past, she had turned to pole dancing. In fact the story of how she created Polecats Manila – to heal her broken heart after breaking up with a boyfriend – was so moving that Maalala Mo Kaya in 2016 even did an episode on her story, with no less than Jessie Mendiola playing her character! This time, though, she had to find a new medium of expression. And she did … in the kitchen!

 

 

“Suddenly I couldn’t do pole anymore. So I had to figure out what to do with my time. I didn’t want to do any serious ‘art’ so I decided to draw on food,” she recalls. 

 

She started with macarons for a very realistic reason: “They seemed less of a commitment. They’re tiny and readily available and less expensive than a cake. If I paint ugly things on them, I can just feed them to my sister and no one has to know, haha!” Then she moved on to cakes. “After macarons, the cakes came next naturally so that I would have a bigger painting area.” She learned to do art on this new canvass by googling how to paint on cakes online. 

The cakes are baked by her friend Rachelle Sarzona, former pastry chef at Shangrila Fort, who now has her own pastry brand, I Don’t Make Sweet Desserts. Then CD paints on them.

CD posted about the first cake that she painted on, she recalls vividly, on February 27 this year, and got her first order on the same day.

 

But note that CD does not offer your usual cake art – no characters or kiddie themes. Neither are her cakes bright or festive or chirpy. In fact, all her cake art are black and white. “I never really liked colors. I don’t understand them,” she explains.

 

So the cakes are simply edible versions of her art.

 

And as art has helped her in the past, they did help her heal emotionally this time as well. “Painting on cakes helped relieve my feelings of not being productive. It was nice being able to produce something

It did not erase the other pains she had to go through, though. She hated having what she calls a “blistery boob”. “With a blistery boob all you can do is think while lying motionless. Everything else is painful. … What cancer has taught me is that all i have is today. Now. What will I do now?” she mulled candidly on Facebook.

 

But she pulled herself together with resolve: “How many times have I thought of making this art work or learning this piano piece, but I said I’ll just do it tomorrow? Then tomorrow again. And again. Well guess what CD, today was yesterday’s tomorrow and have you done it yet? And now my attention and energy and resources are directed somewhere else. So yes, what will I do today?”

 

Then she has pulled herself up with gratitude and optimism: “I never thought that the biggest challenge of my life would be a blistery boob! During times like this, I cannot stress enough the importance of doing something fun and having something to look forward to. Today I went out and took a silversmithing workshop, and getting dressed was painful, but I made it and had so much fun and forgot the blisters for 4 hours. … Tomorrow,  after the hospital, I plan on going to ArtBar and All About Baking and will look at all the pretty supplies and get inspired to create new things. And having that purpose makes the discomfort and pain worth it.”

 

Her advice to those going through challenges like hers as she finished radiation: “Do something that gives you joy every day. Doesn’t have to be big. Just something. For me, it’s painting on macarons or cakes, playing with origami and chocolate, making clay cakes, making nonsense abstract paintings. It’s important to have something to look forward to everyday, because it’s so much easier to just be angry and give up.”  

 

Just last month, CD turned 43.  

 

It is evident – and heartwarming – that after her Black Saturday, by grace, she found her personal Easter morning, as she wrote poetically on her birthday: ”   So many things in life I have no control over, but I can always choose the kind of person I want to be. And right now, I want to be the kind of person that laughs, makes time for herself, takes things slow, listens, tries to make the world a better place, sleeps (who knew I’d love sleep this much!), plays with new silly ideas (likepainting on macarons!), says thank you for each day, wears eyeliner and red lipstick just because.
I thought of sharing CD’s story today, on Easter Sunday, because that is what today is about: celebrating the fullness of life.

 

I hope that you find your Easter morning, too – and celebrate the fullness of life by the grace of God, in the presence of the Father – today and everyday!

 

Happy Easter! 

Story in today’s column in the Inquirer

https://business.inquirer.net/268937/finding-resurrection-and-joy-in-gloomy-cakes


Le Cordon Bleu Rises at the Ateneo

As you might have heard, Le Cordon Bleu, the legendary culinary institute, has partnered with Ateneo de Manila and to open Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo de Manila at the Arete, a new building at the Loyola Heights campus of the Ateneo branded as their “creative hub”. This seems to be Ateneo’s response to Enderun College’s Alain Ducasse Institute; Dusit Hospitality Management College’s partership with Institut Paul Bocuse; and De La Salle University – College of St. Benilde’s culinary arts, hospitality management and entrepreneurship courses. Of course in true Ateneo fashion, the Blue Eagles are quick to share why this school would be “the best”. This time, though, the bragging rights are well-earned.

Arete. The new home of Le Cordon Bleu Manila

Historic
The history of Le Cordon Bleu alone is worth taking pride in.
I am happy to highlight, first and foremost, a fact that Le Cordon Bleu International president and CEO Andre Cointreau, in my interview with him at the newly opened school in Arete, emphasized: that their founder was a woman.
“Le Cordon Bleu was created by a woman, who could have been a nun; she was unmarried.” Cointreau noted. “She thought it was unfair that women could not be trained in the culinary field, that although they were cooking for their families, it was still a macho world for hotels and restaurants. She was really dedicated to the idea of training women.”
 
The woman is Marthe Distel, a journalist and publisher (!). She started the culinary magazine La Cuisinière Cordon Bleu. To increase readership, Distel offered subscribers cooking lessons with professional chefs, with the first class held in January 1895 in the kitchens of the Palais Royal. These classes later on became a more formal school, Le Cordon Bleu.
 
Later the school became known not only for training women but for training an international audience of aspiring chefs who wanted to master the art of cooking using French techniques. Cointreau notes that their first international student was from Russia, in 1978; a few years later, in 1905, they had their first Japanese student. One of their most notable graduates is the legendary Julia Child, an American lady who studied at Le Cordon Bleu Paris in 1948 and authored the book Mastering the Art of French Cooking before becoming a television personality in the USA.

Marthe Distel, Le Cordon Bleu founder. Photo: cordonbleu.edu

International
 
Today, there are 30 Le Cordon Bleu institues around the world, each making a dent in the local culinary scene.
 
In London, Cointreau shared proudly, Le Cordon Bleu prepared the Coronation luncheon for Queen Elizabeth II in January 1953. And just last 2017, Le Cordon Bleu London was asked to recreate the 9-foot tall, 250-kilo Royal Wedding Cake wedding cake of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip for the documentary A Very Royal Wedding.
 

Coronation Menu of Queen Elizabeth by Le Cordon Bleu London. Photo: cordonbleu.edu

In Thailand, Le Cordon Bleu Dusit became the first culinary school to be accredited by their Ministry of Education, teaching a comprehensive professional Thai Cuisine curriculum with more than 200 recipes of traditional, regional, royal and modern contemporary Thai dishes.
In Japan, Le Cordon Bleu has offered a special bursary program, developed as an official project by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan for the Promotion of Japanese Cuisine & Food Culture.

Local Flavors, French Techniques

 
Cointreau emphasizes that what they teach are French techinques, not just French recipes; and students are encouraged to explore local flavors.
 
He acknowledges that in each country, one must also explore a nation’s culinary history and traditions. Just as in France, where each region and even certain families are recognized for their heritage recipes, so must it be for each country.
 
But Le Cordon Bleu is on a mission to codify not only recipes but also cooking techniques that are somehow being lost as the world evolves. By learning and codifying these techniques around the world, Cointreau emphasizes, “we are at the service of the culinary arts of tomorrow.”
 
“We come not only with recipes but with a grid of training even before a student learns recipes,” Cointreau explains. So a Le Cordon Bleu graduate would be able to demonstrate not only memorized recipes but also the technical skills needed to compete and thrive in the culinary world.
 

Julia Child at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Photo: cordonbleu.edu

Jesuit
 
“But why did you partner with Ateneo, of all the schools in the Philippines?” I asked Cointreau. The Le Cordon Bleu International president and CEO explained that it’s because of their shared values of “integrating a true mastery of crafstmanship with enhancing and shaping the characters and  competencies of (their students).”
 
He has also become good friends with Fr. Nebres (the longest serving president of Ateneo de Manila) and loves that Ateneo focuses not only on educational excellence but also on the development of character and values, as well as the importance and joy of spreading the message of Christ to the underprivileged. He notes that the founder of Le Cordon Bleu also valued not only excellence and empowerment but also charity as she in fact left Le Cordon Bleu to an orphanage when she died in the 1930s (the school was later bought by another woman, Élisabeth Brassart.)
 
The LCB Network
 
More than its history, however, Cointreau shares that the advantage of Le Cordon Bleu over all other schools is its incredible global network of multi-awarded chefs and educators.
 
“We are probably the only one to have such an international network. We have been around for so long; we are accredited in more than 10 countires. Not only are we accredited but we can exchange our teachers, programs, internships,” Cointreau stressed.
 
Chef Theirry Le Baut, Technical Director of Le Cordon Blue Ateneo de Manila, shares his personal experience on this advantage: “There are a lot of us chefs (in Le Cordon Bleu) in different countries, in different parts of France, and all of us worked either in a big restaurant or a Michelin-starred restaurant so we have the combined experiences of different chefs from around the world. So if we want to know about a technique, we can just reach out to each other; I can go to Japan or London and stay there for 15 days to see their new techniques and recipes, or they can come to the Philippines. We work together and try to find the best techniques to teach our students. For me, this is what makes Le Cordon Bleu unique.”

Margaux Salcedo with Chef Thierry Le Baut, Technical Director of Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo de Manila
Margaux Salcedo with Chef Thierry Le Baut, Technical Director of Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo de Manila

But he also emphasizes that their strength is in giving each student the skills to be excellent in cooking using French techniques. “French technique is the most important in the world,” Le Baut says. “You can cook Peruvian cuisine or Thai cuisine using French techniques.”
 
The school then give each student all the tools they would need for cooking “the French way”: a set of knives, thermometer, pans, etc. (Students can go home with this set and keep the tools for life.) “Each student has his own work station where the student is personally guided by the professor as he learns each recipe. And everything is precise, down to the measurement of millimeters and temperatures, whether it be for a potato that must be 6 cm in size and 50 grams, or fish that must be cooked only up to 54 degrees, no more. “It must be perfect all the time,” Le Baut stresses.
 
Courses
Liza Hernandez-Morales, Institute Director at Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo de Manila, shares that the school now offers two courses: Bachelor of Science in Restaurant Entrepreneurship and Diploma in Cuisine. The Diploma in Cuisine has 3 programs or phases: Basic, Intermediate and Superior, with each course running 3 months.

Andre Cointreau, President & CEO of Le Cordon Bleu International with Chef Thierry Le Baut, Technical Director of Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo.

Here’s the Ateneo challenge, though: all applicants must pass the Ateneo Collegel Entrance exam. But once you graduate, you will receive two diplomas: one from the Ateneo and another from Le Cordon Bleu.
 
Now you can be an eagle that is not only blue but Le Cordon Bleu!

Clockwise: Margaux Salcedo with Andre Cointreau, President of Le Cordon Bleu International and his son Charles Cointreau, VP of Le Cordon Bleu. Andre and Charles Cointreau with Le Cordon Blue Ateneo Institute Director Liza Hernandez-Morales. Margaux Salcedo with Le Cordon Bleu Ateneo Technical Director Thierry Le Baut.