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May 21, 2018

BEYOND THE PLATE: SHAPING THE FUTURE OF FOODSERVICE (Part 1 of 2)

“You are what you eat. We have all heard this saying, and no doubt each of us has used it on a few occasions. Yet food is not only a WHAT, but also a WHOM, a WHY, a HOW and a WITH WHOM. In other words, we cannot understand food without understanding the social practices that go along with eating and producing it, as well as those activities that lie in between.”

(From No One Eats Alone, Food as a Social Enterprise by Michael S. Carolan)

I recently had more time to dig into my pile of books, and the book No One Eats Alone drew my attention right away. In particular, the opening statement aptly summarized my thoughts on where the local and global foodscape is right now.

Personally, the past year has been one that served me a lot of discoveries and revelations about food—not really on the latest openings or the new hot dish in town. Rather, I had simpler reveals and deeper thoughts about the foodservice community, the stakeholders in a rapidly evolving food system and what our roles are beyond serving great tasting dishes.

A decade ago, even a few years ago, I admit that I would have gravitated towards the latest and the best openings. There is no doubt the Philippines is in the midst of a culinary renaissance, with both local brands being recognized internationally and global brands seeking to capture the palate of local diners.

But I think we are also in the midst of rapid changes that can seriously impact the future of food. “Food is integral to our lives, but it is about more than just sustenance and nutrition. Our relationship to food is intertwined with politics, economics, environmental concerns, culture, and science. We see these strands forming a global food web. And from food chains to supply chains, from food markets to fuel markets, from agricultural ecologies to wilderness ecologies—this global food web is undergoing rapid change.” (FoodWeb 2020: Food Forces Shaping the Future of Food)

This may sound too ominous and perhaps, beyond the scope of what we need to cope with on a daily basis. Do we really need to delve into the implied impact on the global food web with every food choices we make? Conversely, do operators also need to question their decisions with every marketing and promotional effort?

In light of that, I have tried to see how various stakeholders have made specific choices and decisions that have made a positive impact on the foodservice community, opening up spaces to commit and reflect on how everyone can interact, engage and transform their own specific food sphere of influence.

 

PARTNERS IN THE F&B COMMUNITY
One question operators can consider would be where they source their ingredients. Standards answers would deal with suppliers, but a number of restaurant owners have sought a different route.

When we think of organic farm-to-table dining, prominent chefs like Margarita Fores of Grace Park and Robby Goco of Green Pastures come to mind for opening that niche in the local dining scene.

The importance of these concepts highlight the farmer communities the restaurants support through their menus. Green Pastures aims to provide healthier alternatives for comfort dishes that benefit the body and feed the soul.

Green Pastures recently introduced a modified menu that features Pinoy dishes, such as the Yellow Adobo (Adobong Dilaw), Fiesta Noodles (Palabok), Roast Pork Sisig & Eggplant Torta (Tortang Talong con Sisig), and Sous Vide Chicken Inasal!

At Green Pastures, ingredients are locally-sourced and homemade. The restaurant works closely with local farmers to provide the fresh produce featured on the seasonal menu.

Green Pasture’s Umami Bowl is a medley of locally-grown produce from kale, adlai, roasted mushrooms, roasted cauliflower, tofu, red onions, roasted carrots, spicy sunflower seeds with miso dressing and a spritz of liquid aminos.

The new menu also features appetizers that you can start your lunch or dinner with, such as Shrimp in Sweet Potato Fritters, Taro Leaves & White Cheese Dip, and Ceviche and Roast Pork. Chef Robby once again uses his creativity to elevate and reintroduce dishes that are indulgent and better, while supporting farmer communities with the ingredients utilized in the different dishes.

The new Green Pastures menu strengthens its commitment to serve great tasting, homegrown flavors that guests will truly enjoy while indirectly ensuring that farmers will be able to have a sustainable future.

On the beverage side, Seattle’s Best Coffee recently introduced Café Comunidad local coffee, with carefully handpicked responsibly-sourced Arabica beans from Sagada, Benguet and Matutum. SBC created unique blends from the three areas, which will hopefully continue in the future.

Seattle’s Best Coffee Brand Manager Mark Gabriel Mathay revealed that “in the near future, we are planning on working with various coffee cooperatives and we’ll provide further details as soon as we have this finalized.” He added that there are plans to add more local coffee beans, but are still finalizing the sourcing of the coffee beans.

SBC joins a number of local coffee shops that have made that choice to support coffee farmers through the beans that they serve.

The right partnerships can be beneficial to both parties, especially when it seeks to create a better community for everyone.

 

COLLABORATIVE DINNER CONVERSATIONS
We have seen a number of collaborative dinners in the metro, fusing the talents of the industry’s creative chefs to produce one-of-a-kind degustations. What if these dinners sought to not just wet your appetite, but also stir up conversations about the food industry?

I attended one of these collaborations, a Harvest Dinner at James and Daughters by Le Jardin, co-hosted by the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement. It was a perfect example of chefs working together to showcase committed producers and celebrating locally-grown produce. Guests were not just in awe of each dish painstakingly prepared by each chef, but also the wonderful products that were also the starts of each plate that came out.

The evening featured seafood from 7 Hecatres, beef from Kitayama Farms, organic chicken of Pamora Farms, produce from Seeds and Fruits Cooperative and Luntian Farms, creatively showcased in dishes by Ziggy Segunial, Jonas Ng, Sharwin Tee, Waya Araos-Wijangco, and Ian Carandang.

Tuna Ceviche, Grilled Miso Cabbage and Tomato Confit Salad by Chef Jonas Ng

Pulp of Tomato with Oven Roasted Asian Seabass by Chef Ziggy Segunial

Broccoli Beef with Oyster Sauce by Chef Sharwin Tee

Ras-el-hanout Chicken Tagine on Caulflower Couscous by Chef Waya Araos-Wijangco

Duo of Raw Milk Gelato and Strawberry Sorbet with walnut crumble and Mt. Pulag Wild Sunflower Honey by Ian Carandang

There have been other dinners that come to mind with a similar intent, such as the Ilocano Recipes for a Warmer Planet, hosted by Mama Sita Foundation and Dr. Fernando Zialcita of the Culinary Heritage Studies of Ateneo de Manila University at Victorino’s. With the reality of global warming, Dr. Zialcita and his students presented vegetable and kamote-based dishes which the Ilocanos are known for.

It would be wonderful to continue celebrating food while also increasing awareness about the issues surrounding it or learning more about where it comes from.

Food can satisfy not just our palate, but our mind and soul.

 

 

Photos from Island Press and Marilen Fontanilla 

 

(to be continued on March 26, 2018)

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