As we welcome the holidays, it’s only apt that we catch up with a premier chef to give us some inspiration. At Lifestyle Inquirer, we are long-time admirers of Xavier Btesh. The Manila-based French Mediterranean chef is never without a smile and a new recipe in the kitchen.
Btesh is one of the figures who primarily influences our approach to food, whether you may be aware of it or not. He is known as a chef-consultant for a few of the biggest names in the food industry, including Monde Nissin. Of course, he’s done stints for various food hotspots, from luxury hotels to fine dining locations. In 2017, he launched his cookbook French Kusina, merging French technique and Filipino flavor.
Never stuck in just one thing, Btesh now introduces a new venture, Chocolate X. The only name you need to remember for authentic French chocolate mousse.
My editor-in-chief told me about your French chocolate mousse. What makes it such a rave-worthy dish?
Chocolate mousse is one of my signature desserts. It is from my authentic family recipe, and I mastered it. I use the best French dark chocolate. I stopped adding sugar or butter to it and zero gelatin. I wanted that luscious chocolate flavor with the lightness of the authentic French mousse. Something very comforting but sexy and slightly decadent at the same time.
Can you tell us more about Chocolate X and how it started?
Emily Relucio Lopez was my very first client, I made some for her once, and she loved it so much that she started ordering to send as giveaways. I also made it from my friends Celine Lopez, Monique Madsen, Marcel Crespo, and others who constantly request it. They were also saying, “Sell that, babe,” every time they asked for it. Luckily, my friends are gourmets and major chocolate lovers just like your editor in chief, and here we are, selling dozens a week.
How to best serve and enjoy an order from Chocolate X, especially for those who haven’t experienced it? Are they different ways you can suggest?
Chocolate is a magic emotional ingredient that holds so many facets. You can eat it in so many ways. My clients are mostly all French food and chocolate lovers. Some confessed that they can finish a full tin by themselves in a day. It’s nice also to share as a family treat or as a sexy dessert at the end of a romantic dinner.
We have three main flavors: plain dark, orange dark, and chili dark. You can have it plain or on the side to oomph a fruit salad, or topped with whipped cream, with crepes or waffles, even frozen like ice cream. We also take special orders enhanced with coffee or candied ginger.
Tell us something that most people find surprising about you.
My life is so different in The Philippines from what it used to be in Europe. I’m at peace here and naturally feel at home. I think I was a Filipino in a past life.
How does the chef Xavier of current times differ from the Xavier who started a career in food?
I’m much calmer in the kitchen, and my food is simpler. Like my chocolate mousse, I removed the sugar and the butter from the original recipe to keep only the essence of the chocolate. I now use fewer ingredients and focus on product quality and a few main intense flavors. Less is more with food.
Who is the most significant influence on your understanding of cooking?
Like any chef will probably tell you, and just like most of us, it’s my lola! My Jewish, Iraqi-Syrian grandmother opened my mind, soul, and heart to food and cooking. I love family recipes, and we all have some. They tell our family history. They’re our legacy.
Do you watch TikTok food trends? Have you made any of them? What’s your take on this?
I’m not a massive TikTok follower, but I’ve seen a few recipes. It’s fun, and some recipes work well. I avoid whatever is made with mixes of numerous processed junk food.
I’ve read that you switched to a plant-based diet last year. How has that been?
It showed me a different approach to balancing my menus. I didn’t switch. It’s more taking a path I’ve been following for a while. I banished sodas and processed foods more than ten years ago, and I’m already a massive veggie eater and mostly vegetarian.
Reality TV has taken a new meaning over the past ten years and has become a safe place in quarantine. When you were on the French version of Queer Eye, did you have any idea reality TV would blow up like this?
When I did Queer Eye, reality TV was already super big. There was Big Brother, The Simple Life, and Love Island. In France, we were on Saturday’s prime time for the first European network. What was very different and unexpected back then was the arrival of social media and its echoing impact on reality TV.
What’s something that will never change when it comes to your approach to cooking, food, and dining?
Stay away from process ingredients as much as possible. Always remember that food is linked to love and is all about sharing. Dinning is the essence of pleasure and sharing with family or friends, so always make it special.
Primarily working, chocolate mousse is a perfect Christmas giveaway. And, of course, lots of private clients who want French Christmas menus at home for the holidays.
What are the dishes that you are having for Christmas to New Year? Do you like to have a few staple dishes for tradition’s sake, or do you switch it up every year?
I’m pluricultural, so it’s time to cook my favorite dishes from my French-Mediterranean and Middle Eastern background that we do for special occasions. I also enjoy the very French delicatessen like foie gras, oysters, champagne, and chocolate mousse.
What are your next big projects?
Without a doubt, Chocolate X is my main thing right now, and with Christmas around the corner, orders for giveaways are incredibly increasing. I’m also owner/ partner of The Penthouse Kitchen and Bakery, where we do authentic sourdough bread. We’ll open a pop-up in Rockwell soon, so my hands are full for the few months to come. I’m very grateful for that!
What do you think are going to be the food trends this 2022?
The 2022 trend is healthier food. We’re all aware now that processed foods are a killer both for our planet and the people. We’re going for less meat and more local veggies and seasonal fruits. The hit of the year, I think, is about rediscovering spices and herbs in our recipes, cocktails, smoothies, and my mousse.