On Nov. 16, the Food Writers Association of the Philippines (FWAP) will hold its first project, “Toques and Texts,” at the Palm Grove in Rockwell, Makati.
The main event is a merienda buffet featuring five chefs who will do two dishes each using the ingredients in the book “Sangkap: Basic Philippine Ingredients” published by FWAP.
They are Myrna Segismundo (vinegar), Jessie Sincioco (rice), Jill Sandique (coconut), Ariel Manuel (herbs) and Josh Boutwood (bagoong).
A Sangkap Bazaar opens at 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. also at the same venue. Concessionaires include Mr. P’s Pepper Spices and Condiments, mushroom products of NW Cravings, succulents of Living Manila, Cuzco’s Peruvian Empanadas, Don Manuel’s Bangus Sardines, Mr. T takoyaki, honey and vinegar by Dan S, Connie’s Kitchen tuyo in olive oil, Indian blouses and sari by Wendy Maramba, heirloom rice of Marily Orosa’s farmers, Gng. Bukid sugarless nut butters and pastries, accessories by Dawnie Maputi, Mary Jo Mabanta’s gift items, Chef Jessie’s breads and dips, Vegetarian Kitchen fruitcakes and immune boosters, and the award-winning Sangkap book.
Zero waste management
For those with no or very little wherewithal, it’s difficult to know new chefs on the block (here and elsewhere) let alone taste the dishes they cook.
The opportunity to know some of them was facilitated by Angelo Comsti’s Asian Culinary Exchange with a forum sponsored by Nespresso that discussed big words in the food industry today—sustainability, social responsibility, zero waste management.
What the forum speakers did was to define those big words with practices in their kitchens.
Peggy Chan of Nectar Hong Kong whose menu is “plant-based,” the more recent term for vegetarian, says that if you control your inventory, it will make it easier to practice zero waste management. She orders fresh produce every three weeks only.
Quite an eye opener was Chan’s experimentation with the menu sometimes discovered by accident like toasted black mustard and fennel that smelled like Spam. Or her dish of tomatoes that turned out to taste and had a mouth feel of tuna temaki.
Nowie Potenciano of Sunnyside Group in Boracay offers free water for anyone, not only customers in his restaurants, who come with their own containers. That is his way of reducing the use of plastic bottles in that island resort.
His kitchen has also cut down cling wrap use by 60 percent, cutlery is made of starch or wood, and straws are made of reusable metal. The restaurant uses Kitayama beef from Bukidnon.
Myke Sarthou of Talisay Cafe says he uses local ingredients, some of which are not known but are easy to source. He is known to use native spice mixes like pamapa itum (Tausug mix using burnt coconut) and palapa (Maranao condiment made with native scallions or sakurab).
Sustainability can also mean keeping the staff informed and included, and three more chefs gave their views on how to do that.
Mano Thevar of Thevar in Singapore suggested talking during hiring about what the restaurant is and what he, as the chef, wants. And he talks to the staff about problems after service.
Denny Antonino of Papa Bear in La Union hires based on attitude. He says you have to trust and listen to your staff.
Tina Legarda of Bamba Bistro, who complained first about staff not remaining loyal, admitted hiring mainly on skill not loyalty.
Thevar, Antonino and Legarda all agreed that a chef’s life is both mentally and physically tiring.
Practice what you preach
Antonino has had health issues and relocating to the province has lessened the toxic effect of being a chef. Thevar said that it is passion that keeps him going, while Legarda said the job is addicting.
The subject of social responsibility seems to be what Comsti meant when he wrote in his article that chefs are donning the “superhero capes.”
But facilitator Carlo Lim started the session by citing two important chefs, Thomas Keller of the United States and Andoni Aduriz of Spain, who said that a chef’s main work is to provide good food.
And yet Keller did write about his sources like the mushroom lady and his fishmonger in his book, “The French Laundry” (Artisan, 1999), and Aduriz supports the Eat Small Fish Movement, a big marine food sustainability program. They just don’t talk about social responsibility, they also practice it.
Social media has made chefs known throughout the world and it’s easy to gain a following.
Kirk Westaway of Jaan in Singapore believes that chefs can have such “a huge voice” that it should be used for certain causes.
Margarita Fores of Cibo uses that “voice” to promote Filipino cooking abroad including our local ingredients. Amor Maclang of Geisler Maclang Marketing Communications gave practical steps such as knowing your farmers (sources) by name and tapping companies that provide logistic solutions to make farm-to-kitchen reliable and efficient.
Perhaps chefs today should heed Keller’s and Aduriz’s words before aspiring to be “champion of local cuisine” or “food aid missionary.”