Latest Stories

Chef Bernard.com–not a website, but Randy Ortiz’s new Filipino comfort food café


DIABETIC FRIENDLY Maja Blanca drizzled with coco sugar

The only time Randy Ortiz ever worked in the food industry was nearly 30 years ago, back when he just got his hotel and restaurant management degree from De La Salle University.

Last Monday, the celebrity fashion designer invited some of his closest friends in the rag trade like Tweetie de Leon-Gonzalez and Rissa Mananquil-Trillo, as well as celebrities like Cristine Reyes and Rayver Cruz, to the housewarming fof his Makati café— “my carinderia,” as he fondly calls it.

Three weeks earlier, Ortiz and longtime friend Bernard Bañares opened the doors of Chef Bernard.com on a quiet side street in Legaspi Village, the culmination of a business partnership hatched only a few months prior.

CHEF Bernard’s hit dish since his modeling days: Baked Stuffed Chicken

Bañares, a professional model in the 1980s, had been living in California for the past 20 years. He is a trained chef and had for sometime been toying with the idea of coming home to set up a restaurant here. On the urging of Ortiz, he finally packed his bags and flew to Manila in April.

“His only condition was, the restaurant shouldn’t be expensive,” Ortiz says. “And I agreed. I see so many restaurants folding up. I didn’t want to set up a place where the food is too expensive that people only come to eat once in a while. That’s also why we chose this place and not a space in the mall where the rents are so high. We’re serving comfort food, food that you want to come back for, over and over. We set it up like a cafeteria. It’s not intimidating. You can come here and relax.”

The business partners settled on a menu that’s predominantly Filipino comfort food, prepared using classic French techniques, owing to Bañares’ training.

Lean menu

LONGGANISA Sandwichmade of lean pork, and with Srirachamayo, grilled bell pepper and pickled onion on ciabatta, served with purple-yam chips

The menu is purposely lean, with familiar fare like pancit molo, fresh lumpia, pork binagoongan, embotido, as well as all-day breakfast meals of longganisa, beef tapa and tocino, all made in-house by the chef.

A fan of Thai cuisine, Bañares also included a green curry dish, and the classic French fare, beef bourguignon, in the offerings. There are also a couple of pasta dishes, as well as sandwiches.

Bañares is a born cook, as Ortiz would describe his friend. He learned his kitchen skills from an aunt back in Jaro, Iloilo, where he grew up. As a young boy, he learned how to debone a chicken without breaking the skin. When he was still modeling, he would bake tarts and pastries, as well as a chicken galantina dish, that were such hits his fellow models would order from him during the holidays.

Chef Bernard.com’s interiors are reminiscent of Randy Ortiz’s ownMakati home, the walls similarly lined with artworks (all for sale) by painter-friend Doltz Pilar.

When he moved to the United States, where he was a furniture entrepreneur, Bañares still occasionally made desserts and cured meats to sell. When the downturn forced him to shut down his furniture business, Bañares decided to answer his true calling and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu’s California campus.

“I knew how to cook,” he says. “I’ve been cooking since I was a boy. But I had to find out what else I could learn.” He wanted to study classic French techniques. “I got yelled at a lot,” he says, grinning. “I was set in my ways. I had a way of doing things, and [these chef-instructors] were telling me that wasn’t the way to do it.”

While he had to unlearn some old habits, he had impressed not a few professors for his kitchen know-how. A strict Italian instructor, for one, was wowed with Banares’ chicken deboning skills.

Pureed sauces

ORTIZ and chef-business partner Bernard Bañares

After graduating, he sought work at a casual fine-dining restaurant in Glendale, whose food he was a fan of.

“I just really liked the food in Bashan,” Bañares says. “I stayed for three months. Of course, I didn’t really get to cook the food, but I wanted to learn how they make it. And what I learned, I’m now applying to my cooking.” Bashan’s website says it uses classic French technique “infusing California, Mediterranean and Asian practices.”

Chef Bernard.com’s pork binagoongan is rendered in its own fat before it’s baked to exquisite tenderness for up to three hours. The bagoong is pureed and glazed on the meat before serving.

Following his training, Bañares’ sauces are all pureed. “I didn’t want to tweak the recipes so much that they become strange or unfamiliar to the Filipino palate,” he says. Most of his dishes are served with rice.


Well-loved chicken

THE FASHION designer-restaurateur with Tweetie Gonzalez,
Makati Mayor Junjun Binay and Rissa Trillo at the housewarming.
Looking on are Ortiz’s close friends Henri Calayag and Jackie Aquino.

Bañares’ well-loved baked stuffed chicken from long ago, enlivened by the distinct flavor of pimiento in the stuffing, is also on the menu.

“When I moved to the States, I was so happy to find a great variety of sausages that I could stuff in the chicken,” he says. “I couldn’t use those sausages here because they’re quite expensive, so I had to adjust the recipe.”

Those who have tried it have been coming back for more. He serves it with a side of mashed camote spiced with ginger, and achara (pickled vegetable) made of grated squash instead of the typical papaya.

(The Baked Stuffed Chicken, as well as other party dishes not on the menu, is available to order.)

Chef Bernard.com is also especially proud of his Thai green curry chicken, which the shy chef says is gaining fans. The quintessential adobo is represented in a sandwich called Chicken Waldorf, and is served on ciabatta with fresh apples and lettuce with aioli and pickled onions. The chef’s homemade longganisa is also served as a sandwich with a side of purple yam chips.

Bañares is particularly proud of his desserts, which include a maja blanca as well as a squash creme brulee. His dense and moist banana bread has a sugar-free version for diabetics like Ortiz. It’s made with sour cream and walnuts, and served  with coco sugar.

WITH SHOW-BIZ couple Rayver Cruz and Cristine Reyes

“What I love the most is baking,” says the chef. “I hope in the future I could make more desserts and my own bread.”

All items on the menu are priced between P120-P320.

Ortiz may not have been in the food trade for three decades, but it’s well known among friends that he’s a foodie and competent cook, and the consummate dinner host.

Chic interiors

Anyone who has been in Ortiz’s chic Makati home would be reminded of it when they enter Chef Bernard.com. The café walls are washed in white and adorned with the paintings of Doltz Pilar, just like the fashion designer’s home.

Two long benches upholstered in dark gray fabric line one wall, complementing the sleek white tables, and the red and white chairs. The chandeliers, two imposing icicle-like fixtures, were sourced from Divisoria.

“See, I told you we didn’t want to spend,” says the designer with a knowing smile.

Chef Bernard.com is a family affair, with Ortiz’s siblings helping out in the operations. The kitchen is Bañares’ sole domain and the fashion designer is careful not to encroach in it. Ortiz isn’t leaving fashion anytime soon; the café is purely a business venture, he stresses.

Since it opened, the café has been the hangout of Ortiz’s friends. On this interview on a rainy Saturday, the painter Doltz Pilar is present for a late lunch, and so is fashion designer Rhett Eala.

“I’ve been holding my meetings here,” says Ortiz. “I tell my friends, ‘Come to my carinderia!’ At least they can’t say I’m robbing them blind since everything is affordable and delicious. I’ve been eating here almost every day, and I haven’t tired of the food.”

Chef Bernard.com is at Unit 1A Greenbelt Radissons, 106 Aguirre St. Legaspi Village, Makati City (at the back of AIM). Call 7519415 local 222, 0922-8335595, 0922-8707228; or City Delivery at 87878. It’s open 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Mondays-Saturdays.


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Chef Bernard.com , dining , Food , Lifestyle , Randy Ortiz

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  3. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  4. No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  5. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  6. The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  7. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  8. Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  9. What has happened to Barrio Fiesta and Singing Cooks & Waiters?
  10. Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  5. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  6. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  7. This is not just a farm
  8. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  9. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  10. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer


  • Santiago: Enrile, Lacson, Reyes plotting massive psywar operation
  • Poe, Cayetano to colleagues: Shun formalities, let’s hear Napoles’ tell-all ASAP
  • Name names, Lacson dared
  • 4.6-magnitude quake hits Surigao del Norte
  • Camilla’s brother dies of NYC head injury
  • Sports

  • Promoters Dela Hoya, Arum in talks for Pacquiao-Alvarez—report
  • Benzema guides Madrid to 1-0 win over Bayern
  • Suns’ Goran Dragic win NBA’s Most Improved Player award
  • Heat go up 2-0, hold off Bobcats 101-97
  • Ronaldo shakes off injury fears to play Bayern
  • Lifestyle

  • This woman ate what?
  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • 12th Philippine Food Expo set at the World Trade Center
  • No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  • The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  • Entertainment

  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Return of ‘Ibong Adarna’
  • Practical Phytos plans his future
  • Business

  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Cost-recovery provisions for affected gencos urged
  • This time, BIR goes after florists
  • Technology

  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • No travel restriction to Mideast, DFA clarifies
  • PH-HK relations repaired, but families of victims still being courted
  • Filipinos in Middle East urged to get clearance before returning
  • PH seeks ‘clearer assurance’ from US
  • China and rivals sign naval pact to ease maritime tensions