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In Good Taste

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HEIRS TO CULINARY TRADITION: Solenn and Isabelle

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

But why would you want to, when it’s Solenn Heussaff and Isabelle Daza-arguably two of the hottest young models/actresses in the land right now-manning the stove?

“Taste Buddies,” GMA News TV’s new cooking/semi-reality series, gives a new (and totally wholesome) meaning to the phrase “girl-on-girl action.”

On it, Solenn and Isabelle basically play themselves, but in a fictional situation: two single girls living together in one apartment.  Sort of like “Three’s Company,” but without the pretend-gay third wheel.  Instead, weekly guests (also playing themselves) are invited to sample the culinary delights that the duo whip up in their kitchen.

When they’re not cooking, Solenn and Isabelle are usually lounging in their living room in shorts and tank tops, making the show a no-brainer for the male audience.  (Hey, we’d watch these girls play dominoes.)

But apparently, the show also has a considerable female following for whom the hosts seem to be aspirational role models: two genetically-gifted young ladies with wildly successful careers in the glamor trade who are nevertheless not above fixing themselves an omelet when they’re feeling peckish.  (Except for the fact that they’re impossibly gorgeous, and get paid a whole lot more, they’re just like us!)

The kicker is, the show isn’t that far from real life.  Their real lives, anyway.

“Solenn is my friend and when we’re not working we’re hanging out together and cooking,” says Isabelle.  “We live in the same place, one building away from each other, and we’re always

EAT, PLAY, HOST: Solenn and Isabelle horse around the kitchen

in each other’s houses.  We do the groceries together and we eat the same things.  It’s pretty funny because I think they got the idea from when we would Instagram each other pictures of what we cooked.  GMA News saw that we both like doing that, and it’s pretty cool that they made it into a show.”

The daughter of 1969 Miss Universe Gloria Diaz and businessman Bong Daza, Isabelle has the culinary pedigree, with chefs, gourmands and food writers on both her mother’s and father’s side of the family.  Her grandmother is none other than chef and restaurateur Nora Daza, the doyenne of Filipino cuisine, whose classic “Let’s Cook With Nora” has remained a steady seller since it was first published in 1969.  (Adobo grease-stained copies can still be found in many a Filipino kitchen.)  She also had a cooking show on television, “Cooking It Up with Nora” in the late ’70s and a restaurant in Paris called Aux Iles Philippines.

“The first thing people tell me, apart from me being the daughter of my mom, is ‘I have your lola’s cookbook,’” says Isabelle.  “I’m as proud of my lola’s achievements as I am of my mom’s, because she really made her mark.  Hopefully we can have her as a guest on the show.”

Solenn, for her part, is half-French, which makes her heir to two deep culinary traditions, continental and Asian, although she confesses she’s more partial to Filipino food, counting kilawin, bopis and dinuguan among her favorite dishes.

COMFY PAIRING: Solenn and Belle are childhood friends

The two have actually known each other since childhood.

“Our dads used to be best friends,” says Solenn, whose father, a French navy man from Brittany, met her mother, a Bayanihan dancer, in Cairo, Egypt.  After a year of correspondence, they married and moved back to the Philippines, where Mr. Heussaff became friendly with Mr. Daza.

“Isabelle and I used to have painting lessons together,” she recalls.  “She was a tomboy then and I was shy and also a bit of a tomboy.   We met again only four or five years ago.  My dad said, ‘Don’t you remember Isabelle?’ and I said ‘Parang hindi siya maganda noon, bakit maganda na siya ngayon (She didn’t seem to be this pretty then)?’”

“I went to visit her in Paris, and she was teaching me how to do make-up,” adds Isabelle.  “After that we became really close.  I introduced her to my friends, Georgina [Wilson] and Raymond [Gutierrez], and now we’re all like a barkada (clique)—the Blackberry barkada.”

“The show is so similar to our real lives,” she says.  “In the show we argue but we don’t fight, and we’re like that in real life.  We’ll argue and make fun of each other, but we don’t get into heavy fights.  I’ll cook for myself and she’ll cook for herself, and we compromise.  I guess that’s why it’s so easy for us to come to work, because we’re mimicking our real lives.”

One other thing their fans can take a cue from is the pair’s work ethic.

Solenn studied fashion design and make-up in Paris, and was on track to make her mark in the local fashion industry, working for Lulu Tan Gan’s label, when she was sidetracked into showbiz.

Just a little over two years ago, she was doing Ruffa Gutierrez’s make-up when the actress convinced her to sign up for “Survivor Philippines: Celebrity Showdown.”  Although she didn’t make it to the end, Solenn’s Eurasian good looks made her one of the most popular cast members. Her modeling and showbiz career took off like a rocket after the show ended, with contracts from GMA, Regal Entertainment and even a recording deal with MCA Universal, as well as lucrative commercial modeling and endorsement deals flying her way.

Since then it’s been an endless run of 18-hour days, seven days a week and brutal taping schedules.

Apart from “Taste Buddies,” she also hosts “Fashbook,” a fashion/lifestyle magazine show for the same network, and “Party Pilipinas,” also with Isabelle.  She is also in the middle of shooting “Indio,” a historical-epic series, with Bong Revilla, and two movies: “Sosi Problems,” a comedy, and “Seduction,” a dark thriller, with Peque Gallaga helming.

“I’m a Cancer, so I’m the type who will try anything that comes my way,” she says.  “I always want to learn something new, and I always try to prove people wrong.”

How does she do it and still look fresh from her beauty sleep?

“I’m always taking vitamins, and ’pag may five-minute break natutulog ako (I take catnaps),” says Solenn, who has obviously also been honing her Tagalog language skills.  “Pag may time ako I also try to exercise a little bit.  The waiting hours are lengthy, so I bring my workout clothes to work.”

She says she still has her fashion career to fall back on, although it’s obviously on the back burner for now.

“I hope this continues,” she says.  “You just have to remember to keep doing what you’re doing right, and to treat people right.  Whatever I try that’s new, I always try to do my best.  You have to feel real as a person.”

For her part, Isabelle is also dipping her toe in showbiz waters.  Apart from “Taste Buddies,” she is a regular host on “Eat Bulaga!”  She is also in the middle of shooting her first film with John Lloyd Cruz for Star Cinema.

“It’s my first movie,” she says.  “We’ll see how it turns out.  I still have to get used to acting, because I’m playing a character and it’s a bit more difficult for me.  Working with John Lloyd is different because he’s so magaling (good), and you really have to do your best.”

She continues:  “Hosting’s really what I like to do most because I play myself, and I’m the type of person who likes asking questions and learning about other people’s lives.  I like to make other people happy.” •

photos by Andrew Tadalan


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Tags: Cooking , Food , Isabelle Daza , Solenn Heussaff , Sunday Inquirer Magazine , Taste Buddies , Television

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