One of the most splendid events for the Cebu chapter of Chaine de Rotisseurs took place during the Christmas season with the anniversary gala held at the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel. More than 120 attended the formal event.
Presiding over the event were French Honorary Consul Michel Lhuillier, who is the Bailli Delegue for the Philippines, and his wife Amparito Llamas Lhuillier, Bailli de Cebu. They were exultant for the marvelous mise en scene.
On the red carpet at the hotel lobby stood Hans and Bo Hauri, with Julie Najar, the Marco Polo general manager since Jan. 1. Hans and Bo, with their children Morgan and Austin, tearfully said goodbye to Cebu where they were posted for almost 10 years.
The lobby resounded with classical music as Reynaldo Abellana conducted the Classical Orchestra Young Ensemble, merged with the Ateneo de Cebu Orchestra.
On the other side were members of the Balletcenter company doing pirouettes and balletic attitudes. Among them was Nicolas Pacaña, Balletcenter’s co-artistic director along with Gregory Aaron.
Guests ascended the grand staircase to the mezzanine foyer for cocktails and finger food. Scoring high were those thick, succulent oysters from Canada on tiers of ice.
Weeks before, Michel said, “Nothing but the best on this occasion”; and as always, he was true to his word.
There was a collective gasp as guests filed into the ballroom draped in white silk and sparkling with crystal décor as well as gleaming china, glassware and tableware.
With Michel and Amparito sat Hans and Bo Hauri; Josephine and Federico Borromeo, La Chaine’s Bailli de Manille; August and Marilou Meierhofer, he being the “charge de presse” of La Chaine in Switzerland.
With Teresin Mendezona sat her sister Carmen Campbell, Rosebud Sala, and Michel’s sister Angie Mathieu, escorted by her son Mickey Paulson.
Rafaelita Pelaez came from Cagayan de Oro for the occasion. At her table were Alice Plaza, Joel and Carla del Prado, Shegiro and Komiko Onda and Victoria Hermosisima.
La Chaine’s Cebu treasurer Vivina Yrastorza sat with Marguerite Lhuillier, Carlo Cordaro, Robert and Susan Oliver, Christoph and Virginie Caligaro and Jennifer Milton.
Present were Nestor and Jojie Alonso, as well as Massimo La Magna, plus Winglip and Pinky Chang, Glenn and Honey Loop, Michael and Bethilda Smith, Philip Bodart, Daniela Smal, and Dave and Joy Sharpe with their son Mike.
An exquisite menu was served, for which congratulations and certificates of appreciation were given to the hotel’s executive chef Stefano Varrillo, food and beverage manager Joward Tongco, executive sous chef Juanito Abangan, and Josef Chiongbian, the hotel’s events and promotions manager.
Karen Loren Agustin, Binibining Pilipinas 2001, hosted the evening’s program. She announced each of the dishes in perfect French, and from memory. She also annotated a fashion parade of creations by Dexter Alazas, directed by Raymond Villanueva.
Entertainment numbers livened the evening with operatic diva Izaruri Vidal, Robert and Isay Seña much applauded for their repertoire, and the Mandaue Children’s Choir conducted by Dennis Sugarol.
Standing out, and not only because he is dashingly tall, was Philippe Frugere. He is the general manager of the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel. That is where the next Cebu La Chaine event will take place—the induction gala is set for the second half of March.
Also present were Michael and Joanna Lhuillier, Gregg and Agnes Huettel, Jurgen and Sandra Pesch, Bayani and Racil Atup, Mayen Tan, Mike and Rose Hennessy, Mila Demecillo, Satish Naidu and Richard Uysiuseng.
Rosemary Dakay came with her children Pierre, Meme, BJ and Rere. They sat with Mariter Klepp, Elvira Luym and Marissa Fernan.
Paquito and Zenaida Chua sat with Stella Bernabe, Alliance Francaise de Cebu director Louis Thevenin and Adrien Guerrey, executive chef of La Maison Rose.
The next gastronomic event at the Marco Polo was the 8th edition of Sugbusog, the annual food festival of Cebuano cuisine under the direction of Jessica Avila. This year’s theme was “Pagkaong Inato,” which can translate as Visayan comfort food.
The duration of the food fest available for lunch and dinner at Cafe Marco covered the week previous to and three days after Sinulog. Also during this time was the annual exhibit at the lobby of Santo Niño images blessed by Msgr. Roberto Alesna on opening night.
Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale graced the occasion and enjoyed the special dishes concocted for the event in a setting reminiscent of a barrio fiesta. Aside from the food, there were booths with typical Cebuano delicacies.
Menchit Martinez handled the Julie’s Bake Shop cart which dispensed, among many other things, favorites like Cebu torta and chocolate crinkles. Lara Constantino, the hotel’s director for sales and marketing, just loved the “sorbetes” and the flavored ice candy.
Cebuano food is not spicy, but there was more than spice in the repertoire rendered by Max Surban who composes the music and writes the risque lyrics. Only he can get away with it.
“What next?” Julie Najar was asked, and her ready answer is a Chinese food fest to coincide with the lunar new year that starts on Feb. 19.
Chinese chefs? No, she said, the chefs at the Marco Polo do whip up very good Chinese menus. The Hainanese Chicken on the daily buffet at Cafe Marco is a favorite of many.
Gema Luisa Pido, the hotel’s consultant for Spanish cuisine, said she’s getting ready for the annual “Sabores de España” at the Marco Polo come July.