Two international events will highlight culinary professionals from the Philippines.
This January, a team will compete at Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie (World Pastry Cup), a sort of Olympics of the pastry world. And in the first week of February, two chefs will present kinilaw (food cooked in acid like vinegar) at the prestigious Madrid Fusion.
While people have marveled at Filipino sportsmen competing in the global arena, it is as important to know that we can compete in culinary arts.
The World Pastry Cup, the most prestigious pastry competition, is held in Lyon, France, every two years. Lyon is considered the center of cuisine in France and is the site of another important competition, the Bocuse d’Or, the international cooking contest named after French chef Paul Bocuse.
Both contests will be held this month—the World Pastry Cup on Jan. 25-26, while the Bocuse d’Or is on Jan. 26-27.
Madrid Fusion, meanwhile, is an important international gourmet summit in Madrid, Spain, where food industry personalities participate to share new ideas in their field. It’s now on its 13th year. It will be held Feb. 2-4.
We attended the conference and food show four years ago, and it was an exhilarating experience to be in the same place with outstanding chefs and writers, listening to talks on new trends and also traditional techniques and, most of all, knowing about and tasting the food and wines of different countries.
Last Monday was the final practice for the Filipino team competing at the World Pastry Olympics. Bryan Dimayuga (chocolate showpiece), Rizalino Manas Jr. (sugar showpiece) and Vic Cahatul (ice carving) posed with their coaches and their intended entries, which are a secret for now.
After their regular work and without sleep, they practiced for 10 hours, approximating the time given to do showpieces made from a whole block of chocolate, an ice sculpture made from two blocks of ice, and a centerpiece made of drawn and blown sugar.
But while contest entries can astound with their size, artistry and technique, the big scores come from the small creations of pastry, 22 pieces each of chocolate cake, ice cream cake and plated dessert.
Jackie Ang Po of Pastry Alliance of the Philippines (PAP) asked if we could detect the flavors and the texture of the pastries. Glenda Barretto of Via Mare proved her palate is still as sharp as ever when she mentioned chocolate, coffee and lemon in the chocolate cake. Barretto, after all, served as judge in the Bocuse d’Or.
For the Madrid Fusion, Myrna Segismundo of Restaurant 9501 and Margarita Fores of Cibo will present kinilaw, the first time the Philippines will show one of the “cooking” techniques of the country in this international forum.
Finally, we get to show for even just a minute part of our cuisine, a wish I had four years ago after seeing Peru and Singapore do it in 2011.
Segismundo and Fores have been consulting with culinary writers, chefs and traditional cooks on how best to showcase kinilaw, working on a video presentation to contain its history and what it represents in our food culture. They will do these, plus a demonstration, in just 30 minutes.
Sports competitions get a government budget, but these two culinary events have a limited one. The usual reason for the paltry financial support by government entities is that they have little or no money.
Apart from the Department of Tourism, the Departments of Agriculture, Trade and Foreign Service should also chip in, I think. After all, representing the country abroad is both a responsibility and an honor.
Out of pocket
While the World Pastry Cup team is supported with airfare by the organizers of the event—they won a berth in the contest after having been chosen by founder French pastry chef Gabriel Paillasson as the wild card entry in the Asia Pastry Cup in Singapore—their coaches from PAP have to fend for themselves.
PAP’s Penk Ching said team practices, which involve buying ingredients, are paid out of pocket by its members. Many companies have supported them, largely with materials needed, yet she worries about their transportation expenses from Paris to Lyon and back, their board and lodging, and the needed extra luggage weight for materials and equipment.
For the Madrid Fusion presentors, the hotel will be provided by the organizer, and the airfare by the DOT. But their video production, ingredients and whatever will be needed for their demo will have to be out of their own pockets.
The three kinilaw recipes to be demonstrated are fish using the traditional vinegar and fruits like the aromatic suwa and tabon-tabon that help in the digestion of this raw offering; shellfish using vinegar and finished with calamansi; and a meat dish that will be a trendier presentation but is still being developed, according to Segismundo.
While beaches, fiestas and heritage buildings can sell a country, I think it’s better to do it with food—it’s culture in a nice package.