A touching tribute of toques sends chef Ed off

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A PORTRAIT of the well-loved chef on display at the wake. PHOTO LOUIE CRUZ

When Noel Silverio died, he was dressed in his chef’s whites. I thought to myself, this is his noble way of leaving the planet in the suit of his culinary service. There ought to be a nice goodbye for such chefs.

Senen Araneta, another chef I knew, also passed away but I didn’t have the chance to pay my respects.

When chef Ed Quimson shocked me with his departure, I said this is it—we have to have some kind of last rites for chefs, and Eddieboy’s wake will be the first to observe it. If fraternities, sororities and professional groups have their final rites for colleagues, why not the culinary world, where Ed’s very open personality and larger-than-life aura would be the perfect reason to gather chefs, cooks and foodies to pay their last respect for him because he was so loved? Many chef friends and his family welcomed the idea.

Much of Ed’s candor and sense of humor are a family trait, and you’ll know why later.

I was inspired by chefs mourning a fellow chef, and the vision of whites haunted me through the night as I was trying to conceptualize the ceremony.

It was with events specialist Tetta Tirona that I collaborated on the mood to be set (solemn), the participants (only chefs, not cooks like me, and must be dressed in their chef’s whites and toques), and the symbol (a toque, since no other profession is symbolized by a toque).

I needed 30 chefs, so we networked on Facebook to reach as many, and so many helped until about 40 chefs confirmed.

And, finally, the ceremony was planned in detail: chefs with their toques would march in two lines toward the center of the altar, where the urn was placed. Beside the urn was a table with a black cloth, and on that table was a very tall toque to represent Ed.

As each chef walked to the front, he or she would lay his toque on the table with Ed’s toque. The table was soon filled with white toques, like a flower arrangement. Teklado music was played, and order was maintained with the help of direk Sony Francisco.

Most of all, the chefs themselves were at their best behavior, serene and respectful. Some said, “They were like angels all in white, about to fetch Ed to bring him home.”

Roll call

SMILEY face drawn on chef Ed Quimson’s toque. PHOTO LOUIE CRUZ

When all the toques were parked on the table, there was silence. And then emcee Tetta started the roll call. As she called each chef’s name, the chef went to the microphone to read a line from Ed’s bio, then proceeded with his or her own tribute. I asked chef Heny Sison to be the first, since she was like a nanay  to Ed.

Heny also represented Katrina Ponce Enrile, another nanay-nanayan of Ed. The baby-faced Ed could charm all women of all ages, even me, mainly because he had baby face and baby fat, which we couldn’t resist!

Heny started by saying his full name, “Eduardo Mathias Gonzalez Quimson.” Already we were tearing. She continued, “Chef Ed was the brother I never had…” (More tears, now flowing.)

Glenda Barretto’s tribute was next, and hers interrupted the flow of tears because she talked of a funny incident with Ed.

When they were in Los Angeles, Ed had to bend down and when he did, riiiip—his inseam tore apart. Glenda gave him her coat to cover his quickly chilling buns.

Each chef gave more tributes, mostly about Ed’s cooking and specifically about paella, his technique and ingredients and cooking secrets. The tributes were a combination of solemn as well as light banter. Gene Gonzalez was eloquent, Redd Agustin waxed romantic about a chef’s last check of the oven and gas ranges, but how the pilot light will always be kept on.

Jaja Andal quoted a Bible verse from Ecclesiastes 3:1: “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven—a time to be born and a time to die… ”

Other chefs were assigned to read e-mailed tributes, such as from Felice Sta. Maria and Pia Lim Castillo. Jason Stacey was nearly in tears as he bid Ed goodbye.

After the tributes, the chefs put on back their toques until only one was left on the table—that of Ed’s.

Tetta called out Ed’s name thrice. No answer, just deathly silence. Heny picked up Ed’s toque, and it was passed to each chef until it stopped in the hands of Bettina, his sister.

Then the family gathered and placed the toque on Ed’s urn. Prayer. Applause.

(Not) the last ‘paella’

So much has been said about the paella whipped up with Ed’s magic wand. The flavor and texture of one he has cooked in his life is just that, magical, and Ed was loved not just for them, but for sharing his recipes and secrets.

ED QUIMSON’S trademark paella was served, of course—prepared by Naci Comfort Food. PHOTO LOUIE CRUZ

Not a few of us have a secret chef Ed technique in cooking, for he never was stingy where his culinary techniques were concerned. For those who wonder whether they’ll ever taste Ed’s Tinola Paella again, fear not: His secrets are in use by all who love to cook paella and try to cook it like he did.

What use would it have been if he took all his recipes and secrets with him, to be interred with his ashes? Today, I’m sure, chef Ed’s paella style will crop up here and there to make him the immortal foodie he was destined to be.

As large in life as he was in death, Ed was celebrated in final rites that were fitting, reverent and moving, reminding us of our own short lives. He never got to the dessert, but what a “feast” of a fruitful and colorful life he lived.

At the ceremony’s end, it was Bettina who spoke on behalf of the family, and she said she never realized how loved he was. An overwhelming wave of emotion, a cocktail of sobs and laughter, filled the room after we applauded Ed.

And so it goes—heaven’s kitchen is now going to be high-calorie.

P.S. These last rites for a chef was the very first ceremony of its kind to be observed. May it not be the last, but may it not be soon. I would like to thank all the chefs who participated—Heny, Glenda, Babes Austria, Gene, Philip John Golding, Tristan Bayani, Cherrie Uy Tan, Jason Stacey, Tom Hines, Bruce Lim, McRhyan Rodrigo, Edward Bugia, Redd Agustin, Jaja, Joy de la Rosa, Day Salonga, Mon Urbano, Kevin Pantaleon, Annie Guerrero, Edith Singian, JP Migne, Trisha Ocampo, Kathy Sion, Manly Bayona, Gilbert Pangilinan, Robbie Goco, Patty Loanzon, Buddy Trinidad, Pierre Ivan Tan and Him Uy De Baron.

Special mention goes to direk Sony Francisco, Tetta Tirona, Cheri Uy Tan, Fina Quimson (who drew the smiley on chef Ed’s Toque) and Marty Quimson (whose idea it was to put that smiley).

Good night, chef Ed. See you tomorrow.

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  • JB

    It was a night to behold, thank you for the effort of putting all the great chefs of Philippine Cuisine in one special moment, in commemorating the great Chef Ed Quimson. Just a note on the Chef Ed’s paella creations served that night, I believe it was prepared by M Catering. Thank you

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