October 28, 2017
THE CHEF IDENTITY (Part 1 of 2)
“The restaurants express the spirt of the chef, the spirit of the city, the country.”
As I look back on my foray into professional writing about the foodservice industry, I am humbled to have witnessed the rise of a thriving culinary scene, empowered by energetic chefs who have been crucial in shaping the food industry, both locally and internationally.
Back in 2013, as we were finalizing the pages for the 10th anniversary issue of F&B World, we dedicated a section to some of the chef personalities who had graced our pages. This included some of our cover chefs such as chef J Gamboa, Cyrille Soenen and Sau del Rosario; our female chefs like Reggie Aspiras, Jill Sandique and Babes Austria; and chefs that I called chef of all trades—chef David Pardo de Ayala who is now general manager of Discovery Primea, chef James Antolin who was a fellow educator like me and is now President of Les Toques Blanches Philippines and one of the key people in Pastry Alliance of the Philippines, Fernando Aracama, a chef whose cuisine I first tried in Uva and has put together all of his experiences to focus on Filipino cuisine and Norbert Gandler, who is behind one of the renowned educational institutions in the country, the International School for Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management (ISCAHM).
Since that time, I have become more mindful and aware about chefs, their advocacies and culinary philosophy. I have always proudly stated that what makes the foodservice sector shine are the people who have helped shape and evolve the dynamic environment. This includes stellar culinary personalities who have emerged or the equally compelling chefs silently work behind the scenes, showcasing their cuisine in the setting that they know best.
Coinciding with International Chefs Day held on October 20, join me in learning more about some chefs who have been quite busy stirring up the culinary scene with their talents and personalities, for a dynamic and creative industry one will never tire of writing about.
THE BREAD BAKER
For the first time, the Philippine team participated in the 6th Mondial du Pain (World of Bread) held in Nantes, France from 22-24 October 2017. It was a momentous occasion for the country and its participants, as an opportunity to show the world what Filipino bread bakers are capable of.
I had the opportunity to converse with Chef Ana Lois (Bubbles) Cruz-Lerias, one half of the competing team before they left for France. Her teammate was Kris Edison Tan. I have known Chef Bubbles for a number of years, and have seen her hone her skills in bread baking, while also teaching at ISCAHM.
Chef Bubbles shared her thoughts on their preparations and expectations for this global competition.
“This bread competition was created by the organization Ambassaduers du Pain ‘to assess the professional skills of the participants (and) to demonstrate, through practice, to a wide audience, the evolution and progress of Bakery Art, give new ideas for gastronomy, nutrition and to stimulate young professionals’,” Chef Bubbles began.
She traces this journey back to the 2015 Philippine Culinary Cup (PCC), which included one live baking category “World of Bread” to serve as the qualifying national competition. “That national competition should have a representative from the organization as part of the judging committee. Chef Peter Yuen was Ambassaduers du Pain representative and he was the lead judge. If my memory serves me right, Chefs Pauline Lagdameo, Moy Magallanes, Buddy Trinidad and Dan Basilio made up the panel.”
The criteria for choosing the winners was based on baking skills, work performance, level of experience, ability to make decisions and adaptability given changes in bakeshop conditions, quality of products and mentorship.
“Recipe testing and intermittent practices started around January 2017 with regular practices starting May. That would be 3-4 days every week schedule permitting.
Practices are done after work hours. I teach in ISCAHM so this means morning classes and if the pastry kitchen was free in the afternoon, that would be when I would practice. Practices would be about 5-6 hours,” she explained further.
When asked what challenges she expected their team to face in the completion, she shared a little bit about this.
“Getting me and my partner to coordinate practice schedules. We’re both working so taking leaves or making sure we were free for practices without compromising our day jobs is a bit of a hurdle.
Getting a kitchen to practice. A kitchen where we can practice for 8 ½ hours straight. That’s why our practices are after office hours or during closing shifts because that’s when kitchens are free or have less employees.
It’s in Europe, we’re going to bake in a country where the weather in October is cold and wet. This is going to require adjustments in fermentation, hydration, baking time and predicting dough behavior.
We’re working on a budget so we’re really considering the importance of every item to bring to optimize baggage allowance and such since we are bringing in ingredients and tools plus personal effects. This means we have get creative in working with what we consider bare minimum.”
But despite the hard work, preparations and time required for this, Chef Bubbles and Kris were able to show the world what the Philippines can do. Their amazing bread showpiece that simulated the Tubbataha Reef was an impressive display, as was their bread pieces that paid homage to the local flavors of the Philippines.
“I love bread, I love baking bread and I want to be the best baker I can be. I see this competition as an opportunity to learn – like a bread baking university where your professors are bakers who’ve had years and years of experience. And when I get back, I want to try those new techniques and adapt those ideas for the local market. I want to be able to use the learnings and share these with my students. I’m excited and scared at the same time. I hope I make the country proud,” Chef Bubbles ended.
This journey may be done, but what is certain is that these two chefs have made us proud.
WHY INGREDIENTS MATTER
“It’s always about the quality and the produce,” Ruby Jack’s Chef Director Matthew Crabbe shared about what makes the restaurant’s menu distinctive. In fact, their kitchen does not have any frozen ingredients, except for the carpaccio which needs to be sliced in a frozen state.
“We strive to excite the palate of diners with the timely introduction of innovative new dishes that complement our highly-sought-after main courses.”
Chef Matthew was in town to introduce some new menu items that highlight seasonal produce, quality local and international ingredients that results in unique tasting experiences for every diner. “In every dish, Ruby Jack’s culinary team tries to bring out the true and natural flavor profile of each ingredient and use it in harmony or in contrast to the flavors of the other ingredients. We add new dimensions of flavors to the way guests enjoy their steaks. In our starters and side dishes, you can find fresh ingredients such as the sweetest tomatoes and distinctive natural umami taste of shio konbu from Japan, coconut rum from Africa, truffle and olive oil from Italy, local citrus and nuts, and home-made ricotta cheese,” he expounded.
Ruby Jack’s is synonymous to freshly-grilled premium steaks and dry-aged meat available from its display cellar.
Options for steaks include char-grilled beef cuts from Japanese wagyu such as the famous Wagyu from Saga, from the Southern island of Kyushu Japan, USDA prime rib eye, Australian Stockyard 200-day grain-fed cube rolls, John Dee Super Gold 160-day grain-fed black angus beef fillet, T-bone and Tomahawk, and in-house dry-aged beef.
“For desserts, our pastry team came up with original and creative recipes to satisfy the sweet tooth of our guests,” he further noted.
Photos by Marilen Fontanilla and the Facebook page of the Pastry Alliance of the Philippines
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