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!!!

Where Shall We Go This Valentine’s Day?

Taal Vista Hotel

Ah it’s that time of the year again when the all-encompassing excuse to love (and spend for it) reigns supreme: It’s Valentine’s Day!

I’ve been told by friends in the industry that the following are happening so here are a few options on how to be a sucker and succumb to the dictates of commercialism and kinkiness on that day … if you don’t allow yourself to be saved by the fact that it’s Ash Wednesday and you have a legitimate excuse to abstain from love itself (hah!) …

THE PENINSULA MANILA

Spices under the stars, peninsula manila, valentine's philippines
A romantic Pen Moment: Spices Under the Stars at the Peninsula Manila (Photo: The Peninsula Manila)

At the Peninsula Manila, you can already take advantage of the free-flowing Champagne for a Sunday Valentine’s brunch starting February 11 at Escolta for P4,300 per head.

Then on Valentine’s Day itself, you can have a lovely four-course dinner at Old Manila with the reliable fine dining classics: foie gras, lobster bisque, Wagyu and dessert. If your date has an appetite, try the Valentine’s Day Seafood Buffet – I’m assuming it’s seafood in consideration of Ash Wednesday – with free-flowing sparkling wines and beer (because if you’re a sneaky Catholic, you would argue that your fasting is limited to not eating meat). This buffet is priced at P3,600 per person.

But I think the most romantic set up would be at Spices. Usually, this is indoors but Pen is taking advantage of the gorgeous weather we have been having lately and opening the al fresco area for a poolside dinner called Spices Under the Stars. Imagine having your favorite Thai food and other curries under the stars! This is the option I would choose!

There’s also an incentive to get a room: it comes with a bottle of wine, breakfast buffet, and P3,000 dining credit that you can use at their restaurants.

CITY OF DREAMS

City of Dreams, Cafe Society Valentine's hampers
Valentine’s gifts by Cafe Society at the City of Dreams  (Photo: City of Dreams)
If you want a really sulit date, the buffet at Hyatt at the City of Dreams is another option. They offer a six-station buffet with unlimited sparking wine, beer and non-alcoholic beverages for P2,799 nett on Valentine’s Day. For inquiries and reservations, call (02) 691 1234 ext. 1163.
City of Dreams, Cafe Society Valentine's hampers
City of Dreams, Cafe Society Valentine’s hampers (Photo: City of Dreams)
Also at City of Dreams are Valentine’s hampers by Cafe Society. These are available until the 15th. You can choose to gift your beloved with a Chocolate Love Bear; a Chocolate Pot of Lollies; Chocolate Truffles with either strawberry or raspberry flavors; or a Latte Chocolate Cake. Prices start at P250 nett while the hampers start at P1,500.

 

SOFITEL MANILA

 

Gorgeous canopy set up for Valentine's Day beside Manila Bay at Sofitel Manila
Gorgeous canopy set up for Valentine’s Day beside Manila Bay at Sofitel Manila (Photo: Sofitel Manila)

 

Sofitel, of course, has the advantage of being right beside Manila Bay. I mean, how can anyone beat the Manila Bay sunset?! (By creating the most awful Manila traffic, that’s how!) They are also presenting the most elaborate dining experience called Love By Design: For P30,000 (yup, THIRTY thousand), you and your date can enjoy Valentine’s with a canopy set up and have your own butler, a violinist, a four-course dinner, a bottle of Champagne … and (don’t laugh) the chance to win an iPhone 8 (talk about incentive!).

If 30 grand is a bit too much, consider the Romance by the Bay package instead:For less than P3,000, you get to eat and drink all you want via their poolside buffet (more to eat!), enjoy unlimited local beer and catch the Valentine’s fireworks.

For reservations and inquiries at Sofitel, call (02) 832 6988.

 

TAAL VISTA HOTEL

 

Taal Vista Hotel
Taal Vista Hotel
If you are masipag to drive, head over to Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay. They also have a canopy set up. It will set you back P8,000 BUT you get to enjoy an 8-course dinner paired with a couple of glasses of Moet with priceless Tagaytay weather and a view of Taal Volcano. How romantic is that?! This is available only on February 14. For reservations and inquiries, call (02) 917 8225.

IKOMAI

Edible rose by James Antolin at Ikomai in Salcedo Village, Makati
Edible rose by James Antolin at Ikomai in Salcedo Village, Makati

If your Valentine is a foodie and would just like to just eat out at a restaurant on Valentine’s try one of my fave restos of late, Ikomai in Salcedo Village. It’s a hip Japanese resto beside Smith and Butcher on dela Costa St. For Valentine’s they are offering a six-course dinner. But the best part about it is that the meal culminates with an edible rose (see the pic? that’s the edible rose) created by pastry chef extraordinaire James Antolin. How perfect is that for the girl who is not into roses but into food (like me)? For reservations, call the number in the picture.

RESTAURANT 101

Valentine's at Restaurant 101 of the Alain Ducasse Institute at Enderun
Valentine’s at Restaurant 101 of the Alain Ducasse Institute at Enderun (Photo from Enderun)

Another restaurant to consider is Enderun’s Restaurant 101. It’s French cuisine by an Alain Ducasse-trained chef and at a very reasonable, student-friendly price, too! Details in the pic above.

JAMES AND DAUGHTERS

James and Daughters
James and Daughters by Chef Jonas Ng (Photo by Margaux Salcedo)
For those who want just a casual hang on the 13th, head over to the latest hip happening place especially for titos and titas of Manila, James and Daughters. Chef Jonas Ng is testing out his new cocktail menu so for only P750, in what he calls Kulitan Night, you get a cocktail plus some bar chow. The space is lit (uuuy trying to use millennial terms si Margaux LOL) and it’ll feel like you’re just having a really fun party with friends. Call 0917 817 6584​ to reserve.
REFINERY
Valentine's for Singles with Unlimited Wine and Mojitos at Refinery
Valentine’s for Singles with Unlimited Wine and Mojitos at Refinery (Photo: Refinery)

Over at Refinery, they are celebrating the Hashtag Bigo. Their Facebook post humorously gives the definition for “Sawi”: Pagdurusa. Pagluluksa. Walang hanggang kalungkutan. (Suffering, mourning, eternal sorrow.) LOL. Kaloka! Time to drown those sorrows in wine! Details in the pic above.

 KAREN’S KITCHEN 
Karen's Kitchen Valentine's Day cakes
Karen’s Kitchen Valentine’s Day cakes. (Photo: Karen’s Kitchen)
As for gifts, if your sweetheart has a sweet tooth, try the celebration cakes of Karen’s Kitchen. She makes cakes for love birds of all ages. For puppy lovers, you might like to try the strawberry cake with rose petals. For senior seducers and seductresses, she offers an apple crisp with oats on top, a base of apples and sweetened with Stevia; and a Splenda mango cake with a white chocolate heart plaque. Visit her website karenskitchen.com.ph or call 0917 539 4968 or landline (02) 555 0555 or (02) 555 0111 to order.

 

MAKATI MEDICAL CENTER BLOOD DRIVE
Donate blood on Valentine’s Day (Photo: livestrong.com)

Food writer CJ Juntereal told me about this: “Makati Med is doing a Valentine’s Day Blood Donation drive. Donate blood with your sweetie then go out for dinner after. You might even save a life!” For inquiries, call (632) 8888 999.

ASH WEDNESDAY
Cardinal Tagle Dispensation for Chinese New Year
Cardinal Tagle Dispensation for Chinese New Year
 When I wrote my shout out to friends in the industry to tell me what events they had planned for Valentine’s Day, our friendly priest Father Benny Tuazon gently commented that since Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday this year, we must be KJ. KJ is ’70s slang for Kill Joy … but for Father Benny it translates to “Kay Jesus (lang)” (baduy! haha!) So go celebrate on the 13th or on the 15th but remember, we must fast, abstain and go to mass on the 14th. Anyway, it would be rather odd to be on a date with a cross of ash on your forehead!

 
Bawi na lang sa Chinese New Year because Cardinal Tagle, who is apparently partly Chinese, said that as the Chinese New Year celebrations also have a spiritual and cultural significance, it is ok to celebrate, i.e., not fast and abstain, as long as you also do acts of penance, mercy and charity on the said date.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!

The best option, of course, is to make the effort to cook for your loved one on that day. There’s nothing sexier! Click HERE for some great ideas for a Valentine’s dinner from Whole Foods.

Happy Valentine’s!

PS Spread the love and share!!