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.

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.


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,

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


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

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,

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

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 –


New Zealand salmon is the Wagyu beef of the sea

In my column First Class in today’s Inquirer (28 August 2016, Sunday), I talk about New Zealand salmon, my current obsession 🙂

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 4.09.08 PM


After being made aware by a wellness doctor of the dangerous levels of my visceral fat, on top of hideous subcutaneous fat, I realized it’s time to cut down on the Wagyu and Kurobuta and switch to healthier alternatives. Subcutaneous fat can be cosmetically removed, no problem, but visceral fat can lead to heart problems.

The bad news is that there is a real need to cut down on chicharon, lechon and even gloriously marbled beef. The good news is that this opens your eyes to a whole new world of healthy yet delicious options.

Topping the list is salmon.

I may be alone in saying this but I dare say salmon is the next best thing to bacon—at least if you can come by a really good salmon.

Fortunately, for us Filipinos, there is now Akaroa salmon in Manila.

My high school friend Rena Rico from St. Scholastica’s College tipped me on this. She was the smartest in her batch, leading the honor section and all, so I took her recommendation as gospel truth. Of course, consistent with Scholastican standards, she was right.

Chilled, not frozen

You can buy Akaroa salmon, a New Zealand product, by the pack at Rustan’s Supermarket. It is quite pricey but absolutely heavenly. It is so flavorful and decadent, and the texture is so creamy and smooth that it is almost as if you are eating healthy fat. This is the Wagyu of the sea!

The packs come in different cuts and you can even ask for the belly. But what distinguishes this salmon from others is that: a) it is chilled and not frozen, and b) the delivery date is on the pack to guarantee freshness. Every salmon is tagged as a guarantee of provenance and quality.

The brand even boasts of same day delivery. The only king salmon producer in New Zealand can harvest, process and distribute on the same day, often within hours of harvest. Starting their day at 3 a.m., the salmon is harvested and with minimal processing time, delivered chilled to the airport and destined for New Zealand and Asia’s finest restaurants in top condition. A true commitment to freshness, they target delivery within six to 24 hours “from the ocean to the plate.”

It is best to eat it on the same day. It is so fresh, even if purchased from a grocery store, that you can eat it sashimi-style. (Check the date, though, and make sure the delivery was on your day of purchase.)

Once the vacuum pack is opened, you can put it in the freezer for up to five days then cook it as you please.

The king

Akaroa is a harbor on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Akaroa salmon (the brand) is reared in Lucas Bay, a deep water bay near the entrance to the Akaroa Harbor, the natural environment and home of a wild salmon population.

As opposed to Norwegian salmon, New Zealand salmon is of the Pacific king variety, i.e., the only species that managed to survive and thrive after repeated efforts to introduce other species. Today, however, New Zealand king salmon has been hailed as “the creme de la creme of all salmon.” King of the hill, cream of the crop!

Like with Wagyu beef, founders Tom Bates and son Duncan have also created a special menu for the salmon, hand-feeding them a low-energy diet so they grow more slowly to enhance quality. Proof of quality: Duncan proudly shares that even if sea-reared, their salmon is most comparable in oil content to that of a wild king salmon.

Most farmed salmon have an oil content of around 30%, which is way above what the king salmon produces, thus leaving an oily aftertaste and drowning out real flavor qualities. New Zealand king salmon has an oil content of about 9 percent while the US king salmon has about 11 percent. Akaroa, although sea-reared, has an oil content of 10 percent.

Fountain of youth

Susie's Taba ng Talangka, Angeles, Pampanga
Since it’s so healthy, I cooked my Akaroa salmon with female crab fat! 😉

This fish is also sustainable. “We do everything possible to maintain and protect the ocean,” the firm says on its website.

There’s an added benefit to this aside from respecting Mother Nature: The species grow in some of the cleanest water on earth, giving the products a good clean taste. It’s just like Mayura beef—the cattle drinks water from limestone rivers, thus giving added quality.

READ: Producing high quality steak fit for kings of the corporate world

Also to maintain the target quality, Akaroa’s sea-reared salmon are hand-fed and closely monitored. No antibiotics are used.

I may start to eat this everyday. I hear that if you eat it twice a day for three days, it fights wrinkles. Whaddaya know? It’s the fountain of youth in the form of a fish!

Let’s hope supermarkets don’t run out of stock.

More from the author at margauxsalcedo.com. Follow @margauxsalcedo on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. Email margauxsalcedo@yahoo.com.

Read more: http://business.inquirer.net/214167/new-zealand-salmon-is-the-wagyu-beef-of-the-sea#ixzz4Ic2chxTX
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook



Everybody’s Cafe & Susie’s in Angeles, Pampanga

Everybody's Cafe, Angeles, Pampanga. Photo by Margaux Salcedo

Here’s Part 3 of my column First Class published 21 August 2016, Sunday, in the Philippine Daily Inquirer + more pics🙂 I wrote about a recent day trip to Pampanga. Went with a few doctors of my dad, whom we met when they were just residents and now they have finished their fellowships!

Part 1: Cafe Fleur
Part 2: Downtown Cafe

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 1.55.48 AM

Everybody’s Cafe

Everybody’s Cafe Angeles is the little sister of Everybody’s Cafe San Fernando. But for those who want a taste of classic Capampangan cuisine, this is THE restaurant.

Food is served cafeteria or “turo-turo” (turo means ‘point’) style but the menu is exactly what would likely be served in a true Capampangan home.

Be brave and try the Betute—stuffed frogs legs. So beautifully savory you will forget you are eating frog. The morcon is another must-try, another fine example of how Capampangans are masters in the umami of the ulam.


Before heading home, make a pit stop at Susie’s. This is another cafeteria-like place perfect for merienda. If you have time, sit down and have the pancit. Otherwise, take home a bottle of Susie’s Taba ng Talangka (ask for the female crab fat) but make sure to eat in moderation.

Also try or take home their mochi-mochi and sapin-sapin.

The following day I wanted to eat healthy so instead of cooking the female crab fat with rice I cooked New Zealand Akaroa salmon in it. Good – but still better with rice! hah!

Holy Rosary

In between restaurants, say a quick prayer at the Holy Rosary Parish Church. Thank the Lord for the blessings of such delicious food just 2½ hours away from Manila and pray that you don’t gain too much weight after all that bingeing!

Cafe Fleur. L-463B Miranda St. Brgy Sto. Rosario, Angeles City. Open Tuesday to Sunday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations recommended especially for lunch, call 045-3041301 or 0935-7616550. Visit cafefleur.ph.

1956 Downtown Cafe by Bale Dutung. 1 Plaridel St., Nepo Quad, Angeles City. 0917-5359198. More info at baledutung.com.

Everybody’s Cafe. Nepo Mart, Angeles City. Everybody’s has a stall at the Salcedo Market in Salcedo Village every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Susie’s. Hilda St. Nepo Mart Commercial Complex, 2009 Angeles City, Philippines

More from the author at margauxsalcedo.com. Follow @margauxsalcedo on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. Email margauxsalcedo@yahoo.com.

Mission: Claude Tayag at the Raffles Makati

Mission Manila presents Claude Tayag for a Madrid Fusion inspired dinner for Kidapawan farmers

Monique Today of Raffles and Fairmont Makati with World's 50 Best No. 1 Chef Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca in Spain
Raffles & Fairmont Makati Hotel Director of Communications Monique Toda with World’s 50 Best reigning No. 1 Chef Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca, Spain

It all began out of a desire to make World’s 50 Best No. 1 Chef Joan Roca and the other speaker-chefs at Madrid Fusion Manila experience a real Filipino dinner because there was no Filipino chef lined up in the parallel dinners to the Madrid Fusion Manila congress.

Roca flew out on the last day of the Congress and missed this but I think something bigger came of it —

Mission: Manila, long-term project to promote Philippine cuisine and Filipino chefs.

April 9, 2016. Mission: Manila was launched in cooperation with Raffles & Fairmont Makati with Claude Tayag as the first featured chef.
Mission Manila, MissionManila, Claude Tayag, Madrid Fusion, Madrid Fusion Manila, Margaux Salcedo

Claude Tayag, genius that he is, and with the generosity of Raffles & Fairmont Makati HotelAlex Ong and Rey Lee of Artisan Cellar Wines, and Olive and Aaron Limpe-Aw of Destileria Limtuaco, put together this TEN-course dinner in just 5 days! He asked me to confirm if we would push through with the dinner Sunday; I messaged back “Game!” on Monday. And the dinner was held five days later on Saturday!!

Mission Manila presents Claude Tayag for a Madrid Fusion inspired dinner for Kidapawan farmers
El Kusinero Claude Tayag with his team and the “kusineros” of Raffles & Fairmont Makati Hotel.

I have known Claude for over ten years now and I trusted whatever menu he would have come up with but this one really blew me away. Here’s what he served:

Pakwan Two Three.
Red and yellow watermelon, kesong puti, glazed pili nuts, honey-mansi vinaigrette.
Paired with Ruggeri Prosecco Argeo
This dish had us at hello. Claude skipped the amuse bouche-ing. He went straight to this delightful salad with no greens whatsoever. He also emphasised that for this dinner, ALL his ingredients were local. As can be seen with the carabao cheese, Pili nuts and calamansi with honey vinaigrette.
Mission Manila by Margaux Salcedo presents Claude Tayag for a Madrid Fusion inspired dinner for Kidapawan farmers

Sisig Terrine.
Paired with Ruggeri Prosecco Argeo
He called it “sisig” yet this was not at all like sisig as we know it. Instead, Claude took the idea of using a pig’s head, specifically the jowl, and instead made it into a refreshing appetizer paired with cucumber strings. I freaked out a little bit when I saw the slither of fat but Claude winked, emphasising that it’s not THAT kind of fat so you CAN eat it whole. This totally reminded me of the cuisine of Lyon, which also likes to utilize every part of the pig!

Mission Manila by Margaux Salcedo presented Claude Tayag at the Raffles and Fairmont Makati for a Madrid Fusion inspired dinner for Kidapawan farmers.

Guava Gazpacho.
Chilled Pampango guava soup served with ulang (freshwater prawn).
Paired with Luis Canas Blanco Joven
This was my favourite dish of the night. I’m a huge fan of guava – totally love sinigang sa bayabas. And a whiff of the guava “cold soup” here turned heads as the waiters entered carrying our bowls. Claude made the soup much thicker than usual. As for the ulang, I really think we need to promote this more – it is such a delightful, meaty viand!

Mission Manila by Margaux Salcedo presented Claude Tayag at the Raffles and Fairmont Makati for a Madrid Fusion inspired dinner for Kidapawan farmers.

Tuyom Rice Balls.
Guso seaweeds, cherry tomatoes, KBL dressing spiked with rum cooked Tausug-style in a sea urchin shell.
Paired with Luis Canas Blanco Joven
This was another favorite. First of all, who doesn’t love uni? Secondly, I loved how Claude presented it as a “ball” – actually, he made little cups out of indigenous rice – that you get the full benefit of a mouthful. He was inspired by how the Tausugs of Mindanao cook their uni – in the sea urchin shell itself. I think of all this dishes, this is the one that has representation from all three island groups – Luzon for the KBL sauce, a very popular Ilokano sauce with tomatoes, shrimp paste or shrimp sauce and sliced onions; Visayas through the guso seaweeds; and Mindanao with the sea urchin and the way it was prepared.

Mission Manila by Margaux Salcedo presented Claude Tayag at the Raffles and Fairmont Makati for a Madrid Fusion inspired dinner for Kidapawan farmers.

Crispy tilapia skin with Pampango burong hipon and fresh mustard leaves.
Paired with Langmell Spring Fever Chardonnay
This was Claude’s tribute to his home province of Pampanga. He explained that because Pampanga has no surrounding waters, they would usually use freshwater fish in their dishes. Hence, the ulang and the tilapia. And in Pampanga, they like to use mustasa or mustard leaves and wrap the fermented rice in it with the fish. Here he made the tilapia skin extra crunchy, like another specialty of the region: chicharon.

Mission Manila by Margaux Salcedo presented Claude Tayag at the Raffles and Fairmont Makati for a Madrid Fusion inspired dinner for Kidapawan farmers.

Tres Dilis-cias. 
Fresh anchovy fillets three-ways: kinilaw, fried adobado, salted sun-dried with alto seaweed.
Paired with Selbach Oster Kabinett Bernkasteler Kurtfurstlay Riesling
Claude’s humor really cracks me up – it actually carbon dates him because the play-on-words humor is so seventies LOL. First “Pakwan two three” and now “Dilis-cias” -bwahaha! Anyway, this dish I think we could have had while enjoying generous pours of cocktails with Manille liqueur generously sponsored by Destileria Lituaco. These yummy bite-sized slivers of fish would have been perfect for that!

Mission Manila by Margaux Salcedo presented Claude Tayag at the Raffles and Fairmont Makati for a Madrid Fusion inspired dinner for Kidapawan farmers.

Talangka Bringhe. 
Pampango fiesta rice medallions, taba ng talangka, crisp fried crablets.
Paired with Langmell Spring Fever Chardonnay
This was another winner. When I bit into it (without reading the menu), at first I was surprised by the kick of umami. Lo and behold, upon checking, there was a spread of crab fat on top of the bring he!

Mission Manila by Margaux Salcedo presented Claude Tayag at the Raffles and Fairmont Makati for a Madrid Fusion inspired dinner for Kidapawan farmers.

Pork Choplet Adobo Confit.
Paired with Langmell Steadfast Shiraz
Sure there were pork chops and these were yummy but the highlight of this dish for me was the dinardaraan/dinuguan that it was paired with. We are the only country that makes a thick stew out of pig’s blood. In Europe they have blood sausage which is a delicacy that people love even in gourmet capitals such as Lyon. But here we make a stew out of the blood. Claude specifically used the version of the Ilokanos where the meat that is used is made crispy. It was a great way to appreciate dinuguan without shocking foreign guests.

Mission Manila by Margaux Salcedo presented Claude Tayag at the Raffles and Fairmont Makati for a Madrid Fusion inspired dinner for Kidapawan farmers.

Pata-Patita Mole.
Traditional Pampango tomato-based pig trotters stew with Guagua smoked lingginita at ginseng patani.
Paired with Langmell Steadfast Shiraz
Another hearty dish and tribute to Pampanga. Aside from the pig trotters, Claude used longganisa from Guagua, which are small in size so he calls them “longganitas”. He explained that some appreciate it like a sandwich so he also served pandesal with it.
Mission Manila by Margaux Salcedo presented Claude Tayag at the Raffles and Fairmont Makati for a Madrid Fusion inspired dinner for Kidapawan farmers.

Sorpresa de Yema.
Paired with Selbach Oster Kabinett Bernkasteler Kurfurstlay Riesling
The menu sub-heading was: “Almusal na Tocilog na pang matamis?”
So we thought he was serving Tocino del Cielo or heavenly custard. But no! Presenting the quintessential Filipino breakfast, Claude literally served a slither of tocino, dried it, then coated it in a Nana Meng Tsokolate dip. And placed it atop a hardened yolk that was resting on top of a meringue. How creative!

Mission Manila by Margaux Salcedo presented Claude Tayag at the Raffles and Fairmont Makati for a Madrid Fusion inspired dinner for Kidapawan farmers.

Seating for this dinner was limited to just 16 because Claude wanted it to be really intimate, allowing him to give a talk on the anthropological background of each dish that he served. It almost felt like a Madrid Fusion talk as each of the ten courses was bussed out. It was truly an evening where the education on Filipino food matched the deliciousness of each dish.

Mission accomplished!

Mission Manila, MissionManila, Claude Tayag, Madrid Fusion, Madrid Fusion Manila, Raffles Fairmont Makati
Many thanks to those who made the mission possible: Raffles & Fairmont Makati’s David Batchelor (seated, right) and Monique Toda (seated, third from left); Artisan Wine Cellar’s Alex Ong and Rey Lee (seated, first and second from left); and Destileria Lituaco’s Olive Limpe Aw and son Aaron (seated, second from right).

Watch out for the next Mission: Manila … Follow @margauxsalcedo on Instagram and Facebook for updates.

Blackbird Sees Colin Mackay Flying to New Heights

Blackbird. Scotch eggs. Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.

As published in Inquirer Sunday Biz on December 7, 2014.

Here’s a bit of trivia for the executive jet set: Philippine Airlines mounted its first flight not from the Manila (now Ninoy Aquino) International Airport, but from the City of Makati.

It was 1941 and the very first PAL flight, bound for Baguio, took off from what used to be the Nielson Airport on Makati Avenue.

margauxlicious. Old Nielson Tower. Source: Wikipedia. When airport operations were moved to Villamor Air Base, the property was then returned to its owners, the Ayalas. The runways were then converted into the roads we know today as Paseo de Roxas and Ayala Avenue. The passenger terminal and control tower, however, were kept intact.

Today—almost 70 years later—the airport facility has come alive once again, becoming the restaurant Blackbird.

Jetset sleek

The restaurant no longer feels like a terminal at all. But it is interesting to note that the bar and lounge section, right by the entrance, is where the departure area used to be, while the second floor dining section used to be the control tower.

Thanks to the genius of designers Damien “Coco” Anne and wife Baby Imperial-Anne, the interiors today reek of sleek. The lounge, with its teal and purple hues and art deco pieces, could make you feel like a Gucci model should you find yourself having a cosmopolitan there.

But don’t mistake the place for stylish jetsetters alone. It is also quite the venue for a power lunch, with power visitors like former Transportation Undersecretary Dante Velaso to business tycoon and possible presidential contender Manny Villar, spotted with the Ivanka to his Donald Trump, Camille Villar.

East meets west

That celebrities and tycoons flock to this space is not due to the design alone. There is also the exceptional menu prepared by Colin MacKay, one of the most revered chefs in the industry.

Blackbird. Scotch eggs. Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious. Take his scotch eggs, a simple English picnic favorite. It’s a boiled egg, chopped in the middle, sometimes wrapped in meat, before being dipped in raw egg and bread crumbs then deep

fried. MacKay, however, exhibits his worldliness by merging this with the concept of the Thai Miang Kham. Hence the egg arrives not alone but sitting on a betel leaf, with a coconut chili sambal for extra bite.

His genius is evident throughout the menu: MacKay serves crispy soft-shell crabs, a joy to eat on its own, with a delightful apple chutney and a cauliflower puree. Salad that is hearty enough with just lettuce and parmesan cheese is given a smile with caramelized pecan nuts and the light sweetness of apples, and then further given character by something the kitchen calls a “green goddess”—a sauce composed of a variety of herbs that are kept secret lest the goddess lose her mystery.

margauxlicious margaux salcedo blackbird duck ragu 2A pappardelle is made savory not with beef or lamb, but with duck. The shreds of duck meat is beautifully balanced by the chef with arugula. And a flat iron steak is served with kimchi!

The mains are more on the lines of comfort food, presented in servings large enough to share. There is a generous plate of lamb rendang. The fish pie of salmon and trout is another hearty and homey dish.

The great thing about MacKay is that he is confident in his stride and stands on his own. While restaurant newbies jump on the Wagyu ribeye bandwagon, he presents a hanger steak. Though a good ribeye will have the most distinguished gentleman stick his tongue out for more, MacKay proves that you don’t necessarily need this cut for a tender yet flavorful meat.

Blackbird. Photo by Margaux Salcedo for margauxlicious.com.

The only setback is the service, which may not be good sometimes. They have rotating managers. Pray that you chance upon the alert lady manager and not the grumpy man with bad English, who is quite the snob. Also, bring a driver, especially now that the weather is often wet. There is no valet service—perplexing for such a high-brow establishment—and parking, while available in the lot right beside the restaurant, becomes limited for a weekday business lunch.

On a date night, ask for the second floor. It’s far more romantic than the see-and-be-seen dining area on the ground floor.

Aviation enthusiasts

I am told the restaurant was named Blackbird by MacKay after the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, which held the world record as the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft since 1976. It seems MacKay shares the love for aviation of Laurie Reuben Nielson, who built the Nielson Airport in 1937.

Nielson should be happy to know that the tower he built continues to stand tall in the hands of a fellow aviation enthusiast—who just happens to be a brilliant chef, as well.

Blackbird. Makati Avenue cor Ayala Avenue, Makati. Reservations strongly recommended. Walk-ins accepted but they are usually fully booked. Tel. 8284888. Mobile 0917-8892782. Parking limited though there is a pay parking lot right beside the restaurant. Wheelchair accessible. Major credit cards accepted. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., extending to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

Follow the author: @margauxsalcedo on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. More in margauxlicious.com.