HAD a long and tiring but very fulfilling day last Wednesday, October 23, 2013, when FLAVORS Magazine, which I’m a part of, staged the 10th edition of its annual culinary competition, FLAVORS Culinary Challenge 2013, at the Event Center of SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City.
Yes, it was our 10th year, but this year’s competition was a first of sorts for us, mainly because we had a full production this time, complete with LED screen in place of a still tarpaulin backdrop and with a live camera feed showing on screen all throughout the production. Beautiful. The moment I stepped into the Event Center area on the Lower Ground Floor of SM Megamall on Wednesday morning, when I arrived to make final setup changes, I had this feeling of awe. I had goosebumps at the sight of the huge LED screen playing our spool of sponsors’ TVCs (TV commercials) as soon as the mall opened. To think that the show hadn’t even started yet. It was slated at 2:00 p.m. yet.
Just imagine how I felt when the show finally began at around 3:00 p.m! (*There were delays due to technical reasons, and we had to make sure everything was running smoothly, especially the electrical provisions, before we could start.) Then the show got underway.
Just like in previous years, we had six teams representing culinary arts and HRM schools in Metro Manila battling it out for culinary supremacy. They were given a lumpsum time of two hours to produce three dishes – one creative pasta dish, one main course (with chicken as featured ingredient this year) and one dessert – that conformed to this year’s theme, which was Noche Buena with a Creative Twist. Making up the roster of participants were Center for Culinary Arts-Oceana Branch (CCA), University of Sto. Tomas (UST), De La Salle-College of St. Benilde (CSB), Professional Academy for Culinary Education (PACE), MOST Institute and Far Eastern University (FEU).
Making up the Board of Judges for this year’s competition were Chef Gene Gonzalez, founder and president of Café Ysabel and the Center for Asian Culinary Studies (CACS); Chef Heny Sison, a cake decorating genius and owner of the Heny Sison Culinary School; Chef Rafael Jardeleza II, Tabu-an Ilonggo Heritage Cooking Competition organizer and caterer who flew in to Manila from his homebase Iloilo; Dr. Efren Vazquez, owner of the critically acclaimed Café Juanita and Haru Sushi Bar & Restaurant; Chef Ernest Reynoso Gala, top honcho of GalaStars Culinary; and Chef Michelle Adrillana, owner and chef of Flavors on Fire Catering Services.
Professional DJ and host Vince Golangco hosted the show this year, and his wit and candor kept the audience glued to their seats as he put together an exciting show while the competition was going on.
There were cooking demonstrations – one by Flavors on Fire and conducted by Chef Michelle Adrillana, who made Lemon Rosemary Chicken, Onion Orange Marmalade and Truffled Pea Risoni; another courtesy of Kitchen Aid, which featured Chef Carla Leopoldo Valencia and showed her making delicious Cranberry Cookies, and a third one by New Zealand Creamery, which had Alvin Armando Velasco whipping up OK! Easy Spring Rolls, Cookie Butter Polvoron and Roasted Chicken Casserole.
Sandwiched between cooking demos were games, such as White King’s Singalong Pulang Ngiti Music Video Game, which made contestants sing the Pulang Ngiti commercial jingle and awarded their efforts with gift packs. Mother’s Best and New Zealand Creamery also had their own games, while Masflex put together a really interesting and educational Knife Anatomy Knowledge Contest in line with the recent launch of the Masflex KitchenPro’s Gene Gonzalez signature line of knives.
At the end of the show, when it was time to finally announce the winners after careful tabulation of the judges’ scores on each of the competing teams’ recipe entries, it was the Center for Culinary Arts-Oceana Branch which screamed the loudest as the school took the grand championship of FLAVORS Culinary Challenge 2013. Members of the team – Jo Christian Cruz, Marlon Villanueva and Edgar Alabado, with April Martinez-Aluning as coach – whooped it up as they went on stage to receive their trophy, individual medals, cash prize as well as gift certificates and prizes in kind.
Placing second was De La Salle-College of St. Benilde (Noel Ryan Reyes, Jermie Bernas and Abbygale Ang as members and Chef Enrique Moreno as coach).
In third place was University of Sto. Tomas (Christopher Asiddao, Rian Wilfred Cajiles and Jasmin Kimberly Roxas as members, and Chef Nathaniel Siao as coach). They, too, got their own prize packages that we at FLAVORS painstakingly put together to make sure our winners end up really happy.
Taking home Special Awards were De La Salle-College of St. Benilde as the Masflex KitchenPro Awardee and Far Eastern University as RFM’s Most Sulit I-share Awardee or the Best Pasta Dish Awardee for the team’s White King Baked Spaghetti with Seafood Tomato Coconut Meat Sauce.
Two other schools, the Professional Academy for Culinary Education (PACE) and MOST Institute, also competed in this year’s culinary challenge.
Running around all afternoon attending to a thousand and one things, it was only at the end of the show that I got to really sit back and relax and really savor the LED setup that we had for this year’s competition. It had been 10 years since we began this ambitious little project in 2004 and we have kept on, despite setbacks and glitches that, at the end of the day, were negated by the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment after another successful staging. I personally invested a lot of time and effort in the project, particularly in its birthing year, so I always felt a sense of self-fulfillment and pride after each staging.
This year was no exception. But, overall, last Wednesday’s staging of FLAVORS Culinary Challenge 2013, permit me to say, was particularly smooth and beautiful. There were technical challenges, of course, but the event turned out to be more than what I had expected. God sent me some angels in human form to make sure everything falls beautifully into place – and everything did fall into place. Thank you, Lord!
(FLAVORS Culinary Challenge 2013 was made possible by FLAVORS Magazine in partnership with SM Megamall and SM Supermarket, with co-presentors White King Fiesta, White King, Mother’s Best, Masflex KitchenPro, Kitchen Aid and Elba Cookers from Italy; in cooperation with Good Life, Jolly, Bimoli, Island Cove Hotel and Leisure Park, The French Baker, New Zealand Creamery, Flavors on Fire, RizGolf Sports Marketing and ADB Avenue Tower. Other sponsors included Makati Shangri-La Hotel, Traders Hotel Manila, Edsa Shangri-La Manila, Marriott Hotel Manila, Super Bowl of China, Melawares, Urban Kitchen, Soda Stream, TGI Friday’s, Italianni’s, Fish & Co., Krazy Garlik, Village Tavern, Pig Out!, Flapjacks, Tonkatsu by Terazawa, Watami, Modern Shanghai, Bulgogi Brothers, Outback Steakhouse, Diamond Hotel Philippines, Eastwood Richmonde Hotel, Richmonde Hotel Ortigas, Happy Living Fine Wine, AzuThai, John Robert Powers, Dermclinic, Haier and Markes, with media partner Radio high 105.9FM.)