Sometime in the mid ’90s, I was invited to judge cooking competitions in Cagayan de Oro, one of the many competitions organized by Cagayan de Oro Hotel and Restaurant association (Cohara) for professionals and students. The title of the event is Kumbira.
Competitions were on table-setting, bartending, flairtending, bed-making, ice-carving, market-basket-making, on-the-spot cooking and many others.
Cohara invited many of us from Manila to judge in these competitions. International standards were used for judging. This event was to prepare the locals for national competitions in Manila.
At the time, there were not that many entries, so the contest was far from perfect. But it got better and better every year.
A few weeks ago, I could not believe how huge the event had become. Back then, it started really small. Today, the largest venue in CDO could hardly fit the event. The celebration lasted four days.
In one of the events, I had to taste 23 entries with a three-course meal each. That’s a total of 66 dishes—from appetizers to main dishes and desserts.
In these competitions, even the judges learn something. I have learned many new ideas, color and ingredient combinations, new dishes, etc. Just by looking at the entries, you could see those that would stand out.
Prizes came in diploma, bronze, silver, gold and gold with distinction. The highest score was given to taste. Criteria also included preparation, presentation, portions, etc.
All the judges had fun and have fond memories. It usually was an eating galore both in the competitions as after.
It is amazing to just sit back and listen when a bunch of chefs, foodies and just simply matakaws get together. There are new ideas flying all over. New discoveries are exchanged and friendships fostered deeper.
In this trip, we were treated to a native restaurant called Kagay-anon, which had delicious healthy dishes, a Thai restaurant and a few others.
One item that stood out was a cheesy sponge made by Missy Bonbon bread shop. It is a chiffon-like pastry with a yema kind of filling and sprinkled with grated cheese.
When I took my first bite, I started to think I should get some for my loved ones. I took four buns home and ended up making my wife Tessa try it but eating the rest myself. It is that good.
The cheesy sponge is something you’ll crave for. But it’s only available in CDO. Owner Joanna has an outlet in Megamall called Bigby’s, but I don’t believe they sell it there. She should.
The annual event has been a success because of the professionalism, friendship and selfless work of the organizers. To me, this has become the most organized and largest culinary event in the country. But the bottom line: They have fun doing it.
The moment the event starts, the organizers become selfless. I’m sure they have their own set of problems, but unlike the bad apple contaminating the rest, here, the bad apple is eased out or is made to voluntarily move out.
Eileen San Juan and her hotel and restaurant buddies started all this. Today, they are seeing the fruits of their labor. Congratulations to Cohara for a very impressive Kumbira 2011!
Wine recommendation of the week: Camelot Cabernet Sauvignon. Available at Titania wine shop in Rockwell. Sampled this amazing wine in Baguio.
Check out Singapore Chicken House in Cubao. I tried an authentic Singaporean chili crab. Amazing! The Singaporean owner just arrived from his country and brought back this delicious recipe. Call 0917-8873885.
Follow me on Twitter and check out the recipes on my blog, sandydaza.blogspot.com.