Everyone can cook well, as long as one puts his heart into it, says Luis Chikiamco, executive chef of Discovery Primea.
He showed the audience how, at a recent cooking demonstration for the culinary elite series of the Maya Kitchen.
A graduate of Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, Chikiamco (this columnist’s nephew—Ed) has had extensive culinary experience in France, Mexico and the Philippines. This has given him the necessary skills and know-how to develop the Mediterranean-inspired menu of Discovery Primea’s restaurant, Tapenade.
Drawing praise from satisfied diners is Tapenade’s salad bar, which features an array of the freshest ingredients: crisp Romaine lettuce leaves, French and Spanish cheeses, a variety of olives, freshly shucked Aklan oysters, as well as raspberries, almonds, hazelnuts, chorizo, salmon, freshly baked bread and a wide choice of salad dressings.
The bold flavors of the Mediterranean are also represented in the à la carte menu, which includes stone-baked pizza, pasta, Moroccan tagine and kebabs.
For the Maya Kitchen Culinary Elite Series, Chikiamco taught participants how to prepare a refreshing melon and mozzarella salad, a mouthwatering rib-eye steak with a garlic and rosemary rub, a flavorful spaghetti dish made with guanciale (cured pork cheeks) and a hearty arroz caldoso, which is like a soupy paella.
Here’s Chikiamco’s recipe for melon and mozzarella salad (measurements adjusted for the home cook) plus tips which he generously shared with the participants.
Melon and Mozzarella Salad
1 c cubed ripe melon
1 red chili (siling labuyo)
1 green chili (siling labuyo)
¼ c lime vinaigrette (recipe follows)
2-4 slices mozzarella di Buffala cheese
2-4 basil leaves
2-4 mint leaves
For the lime vinaigrette:
1¼ c extra-virgin olive oil
2 fresh limes
½ c + 1 tbsp honey
As soon as you’ve cut the melon into cubes, put them in a vacuum sealed bag or in a re-sealable plastic bag. Peel the ginger and slice into thin shavings. Add the ginger to the melon cubes and seal the bag tightly to lock in the flavor. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
Slice the chilies diagonally and pick out the seeds. Set aside.
Make the lime vinaigrette: Whisk together the olive oil, juice of two limes and honey until you get an emulsion. (You can also use an electric blender.) Mixture will be slightly thick.
To assemble the salad: Drizzle one-fourth cup of the lime vinaigrette into two separate salad plates. (Store any leftover vinaigrette in a tightly sealed container and refrigerate for later use.) Unseal the plastic bag containing the melon cubes and the ginger. Discard the ginger. Arrange the melon cubes and mozzarella cheese in the salad plates, dividing equally. Garnish with the sliced chilies, basil and mint leaves and the microgreens (if using). Serve immediately.
Tips from the chef:
After cutting a melon, put the cut melon at once in a vacuum bag and seal tightly to lock in the flavor. If you don’t have a vacuum bag, you can use a re-sealable plastic bag.
When cooking pasta, add salt to the water so that the pasta will have flavor. The Italians say the water should be as salty as the sea.
When cooking steak, season well with salt and pepper.