WE often look at celebrity chefs are some kind of culinary demigods who are up there, unreachable, and their dishes so complicated that only they can prepare and serve them. But some of the country’s top chefs have proven that this is not so—and that they are human, down-to-earth and willing to share their recipes and cooking techniques with anyone who is interested—via The Maya Kitchen’s Culinary Elite Series. The cooking class series has also allowed them to show how classic Filipino dishes can be tweaked to transform them from ordinary to extraordinary contemporary creations.
Imagine Chef Gene Gonzalez of Café Ysabel and Center for Asian Culinary Studies (CACS) dishing out a unique adobo dish which he calls Adobo Diablo. While adobo can be cooked in many different ways, with different regions adding their own flair and flavor to the iconic national dish, Chef Gene, through his Culinary Elite Series: Culinary Gems from Old Pampanga, prepared it the Capampangan way. Adobo is usually prepared by adding soy sauce to flavor and darken the broth, but this very practice is considered a culinary crime in many Capampangan households, where a cook who puts soy sauce in his (or her) adobo becomes the subject of gossips. The Capampangan Adobo Diablo is prepared by constant simmering of various meats and deglazing of the pan with stock to come up with a tasty caramelized liquid that gives the meat a deep reddish-brown hue, and the meats are served with the sauce on the side.
Then there’s Chef Jessie Sincioco, who runs her own Chef Jessie Rockwell Club and Top of the Citi and who served His Holiness Pope Francis during the Pontiff’s most recent Papal Visit to the Philippines. She presented Tiger Prawns with Laing during her Culinary Elite Series: Chef Jessie’s Christmas Menu, basing it on the traditional Bicolano vegetable dish made with dried taro leaves, coconut milk, shrimp paste, pork belly fat and chili peppers. The prawns are cut through the back and grilled until half-cooked before being stuffed with laing, then baked and finished off with parsley and sili.
Another celebrity chef who has starred in his own Maya Kitchen Culinary Elite Series happens to be Chef Michael Giovan Sarthou III, also known as Chef Myke ‘Tatung’ Sarthou, who plays around with another big Pinoy favorite—pancit (noodles)! He prepares it the way Caviteños do, making Pancit Pusit by bathing rice noodles in rich squid ink sauce, topping the noodles with vegetables, crushed chicharon, squid rings and kamias slices in his Culinary Elite Series: Chef Tatung Revisits Pinoy Classics. Stressing the importance of using native ingredients, the culinary heritage advocate and Agos chef-owner first sautés the squid over high fire before adding vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce and then the squid ink to the pan. Once it boils, a cup of water is added and the noodles are mixed in. Finally, he sprinkles crushed chicharon and garlic on the noodles for garnish.
Chef Claude Tayag is another culinary heritage advocate and showed this in his Culinary Elite Series: From Kapampangan Palate to an Artist’s Palette—An Update on Four Pampango Dishes. He put a spin on Lumpiang Sariwa by using green papaya as base and also including sautéed tokwa strips and garbanzos to go with the carrots, beans and shrimps in achuete oil. Topped with beansprouts, crushed peanuts, cilantro and a sauce made from sugar, soy sauce, water and cornstarch, the filling is served on fresh lettuce leaves (like lumpiang hubad) or wrapped in lumpia wrapper and fried like traditional pritong lumpia.
To learn from culinary masters such as Chefs Gene Gonzalez, Jessie Sincioco, Myke Sarthou and Claude Tayag, sign up for The Maya Kitchen’s Culinary Elite Series. For more information on the Culinary Elite Series and other course offerings, log on to www.themayakitchen.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 892-1185, 892-5011 local 108 or +639296796102.