With his brooding good looks, Ricardo Cepeda was destined for a life in the public eye. Before he made his name as an actor in movies like “Una Kang Naging Akin” (2008) and “Kaya Kong Abutin ang Langit” (2009), the 5’9” looker was also a runway model for a time.
His more recent appearances have been on the small screen, including the local adaptation of popular K-drama series “Descendants of the Sun,” which aired on GMA 7 and is now on Netflix.
During his downtime, Cepeda decompresses by cooking in the home he shares with longtime partner and “señora” model, Marina Benipayo. His specialty? Pork adobo.
Cepeda describes his version as “savory, garlicky and smoky.” As a child growing up in Cagayan in the north, he and his siblings would often be asked by their mother to help out in the kitchen. He was the only one who enjoyed the bonding time.
“My parents are from Tuguegarao and it was my mother who started us out on baking. She would make us do simple tasks like sift flour or break eggs into a bowl,” Cepeda told Lifestyle in a video interview.
“We didn’t have helpers then so she was really hands-on when it came to the household chores. She baked apple pies and chocolate-chip cookies at a time when nobody else was doing anything similar. Now, baked goods by home cooks are readily available.”
From his grandfather (“Lolo Cepeda”), he learned how food should taste—the nuances and flavors that can spell the difference between blah and wow. “Lolo was a really good cook.”
Cepeda’s recipe for pork adobo is based on one served in the town of Baggao, but he has since updated it to his liking, giving it a Chinese-style touch with the addition of peeled, hard-boiled eggs.
“When they prepare this adobo for a party or fiesta, the pork is cooked in a kawa (deep pan) for several hours and is served at the table in huge chunks. Each chunk is one serving. You had to cut it up yourself into bite-sized pieces.”
Instead of serving it the traditional way, Cepeda has the pork chopped into smaller portions—similar to menudo—and cooks it for three hours. He buys 5-6 kg of pork from S&R weekly. During potluck parties, it’s always one of the biggest hits.
“My friends would always ask me to bring my adobo to parties so we’d often bring a tray. The funny thing is, when the host would place it on the table, it’s an obviously smaller portion than the one we originally brought. Parang nabawasan.”
As it turns out, the host would surreptitiously set aside some for his family’s own consumption after the party. Last June, Cepeda began selling 10 to 15 tubs of his pork adobo that always sell out. His partner Benipayo (@marina_benipayo) handles the orders. Even with the tubs preordered days in advance, he said he has no plans of cooking more as it would lose its novelty.
“At baka maging parang karinderya na lang (It might become like a roadside eatery),” Benipayo joked. INQ