1. Check out the highlights of BusinessWorld High Life magazine’s September 2014 issue at www.highlife.com.ph. Out in stands on Monday.

     

  2. Alain Ducase became the first chef to hold six Michelin stars.

    Matters of taste

    Micky Fenix on Alain Ducasse

    Alain Ducasse could have stayed a bright star in the culinary firmament, seen but unreachable. Instead, he came to the Philippines twice to train students in the art of French cuisine. A partnership between Enderun Colleges and Alain Ducasse Formation et Conseil paved the way for his first visit in 2010, where he shared his cooking philosophy: “clarity of taste, precision in execution, and respect for the product which… means retaining the original flavor.”

    Written in his first American cookbook Ducasse: Flavors of France (Alain Ducasse, 1998), those lessons were born during his apprenticeship under the best French chefs of that time: Michel Guérard, Roger Verge and Alain Chapel. According to the book, it was Chapel who taught Ducasse “reverence for the product” through dishes that “had the appearance of simplicity and a casual grace that belied all the work and technical experiences that have gone into it.”

    Ducasse called this quality “faux simplicity” and demonstrated what it meant at the old Enderun campus in Ortigas. He asked participants to assist in the preparation of ingredients. Vegetables had to be cut in a particular way. Ingredients were cooked separately. Everything came together beautifully as a whole and yet individual flavors remained discernible.

    The experience was a glimpse into the methods of Ducasse and how he keeps the quality of his food constant in his many restaurants, which, as of last count, number 35 in 11 countries. The latest additions are miX in St. Petersburg, Russia and IDAM in Doha, Qatar. In 1998, he became the first chef to hold six Michelin stars when two of his restaurants—Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo and Restaurant Alain Ducasse in Paris—were awarded three stars each by the Michelin Guide. Since then, he has garnered a total of 21 Michelin stars and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy. He has also written several books, among them Alain Ducasse’s Culinary Encyclopedia and Nature: Simple, Sain et Bon, a volume that assembles 190 recipes for “eating well.” 

    'TIME IS SHORT'

    Ducasse grew up on a farm in Les Landes, a department in southwestern France known for its sandy beaches and pine forests. Vegetables were harvested from the family garden, foie gras from the ducks and geese his parents raised—ideal conditions for today’s sought after organic, garden-to-market, regional way of cooking. Ducasse was a precocious boy with a discerning tongue who, at the age of nine, told his grandmother that she had overcooked the harricot vert. He was asked if he wanted to do the cooking. That was the start of Ducasse’s illustrious career. Any chef today would jump at the chance to train with the man who created the Alain Ducasse Formation et Conseil (ADF) in 1999 as a way of transmitting his philosophy.

    Ducasse’s 2010 trip to the Philippines coincided with the graduation of the first batch of ADF students, an event almost eclipsed by the arrival of the man himself. Organizers made no bones of the fact that Ducasse was no ordinary visitor. Specific instructions were issued to photograph him only on his left side. Later, it was revealed that the request had nothing to do with vanity. Instead, it was because Ducasse sustained serious injuries when a Learjet went down in 1984. He was the only survivor. The accident, which happened early in his career, must have contributed to his extraordinary drive and compelled him to write: “Time is short, time is precious and there are many things to accomplish.”

    Ducasse is in his sixties, but his energy is unflagging. He is constantly on the move, flying around the world to visit his many restaurants and schools. During his recent visit to Manila, it was announced that ADF would henceforth be known as “Ducasse Education” and that Enderun Colleges, the first Ducasse Institute in Asia, was launching a new program—a Diploma in Culinary Arts-Chef de Partie—open to those who already have culinary degrees or have worked for two to three years in professional kitchens.

    Ducasse also took time to visit Tuloy Foundation’s street children, who are being trained as culinary professionals by the Ducasse Institute. Tuloy Foundation was founded by Fr. Marciano “Rocky” Evangelista, a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco, a congregation that provides homes and training for disadvantaged children. The Ducasse Institute’s project with Tuloy Foundation dovetails with another charitable effort based in France that trains disadvantaged women, mostly immigrants from Africa, in the art of French cooking. According to Ducasse, two of the women in the program are now working for the French Prime Minister. Amused at the thought, he added that the two women probably never heard of the Prime Minister before.

    Ducasse was, of course, feted at commemorative lunches and dinners—a given whenever a chef of his stature visits. In 2010, Ducasse brought his ADF chefs, Nicholas Navarro and Timothy Briggs, who cooked a formal dinner that included salmon coated with green olive oil dressing and, for dessert, a chocolate bar ganache with gold leaf on top.

    Meanwhile, the 2014 dinner for the Tuloy Foundation program was prepared by Ducasse Ambassador chefs headed by Jerome Lacressonniere and Enderun Colleges’ executive chefs Cheong Yan See and Marc Chapolin. The highlight of the dinner was an auction to raise funds for the Foundation that included Ducasse’s own chef’s jacket, a handcrafted mortar and pestle, and dinners both here (provided by the Ducasse Institute chefs) and abroad (in Monaco’s Le Louis XV and Tokyo’s Beige, Alain Ducasse). Inevitably, conversations at these events are pushed toward Ducasse’s thoughts on Filipino cooking and ingredients. In 2010, the French chef went to Farmer’s Market in Cubao with chef Cheong Yan See, culinary head of Enderun Colleges, who guided Ducasse through a labyrinth of fruits and vegetables, fish and meat, sometimes giving him a taste of products that were, to him, unfamiliar. Ducasse saw a butcher deboning a pig’s head and was surprised by a huge maya-maya (red snapper) jumping from its stall to his feet. Midway, Margarita Fores of Cibo gave the chef his first taste of lumpiang ubod, a Negros specialty that is essentially a spring roll made of coconut pith. He was also treated to local fare, including kilawin, dinuguan, chicken binakol, lechon, pinakbet, bagnet, and adobo. Of the sampled dishes, Ducasse’s favorites were pinais na alimasag (shredded crab cooked in young coconut) and puso ng saging (banana heart cooked in coconut milk).

    BISTRONOMY

    Now a citizen of Monaco, Ducasse is still regarded as a French chef, never mind that he thinks that France is five years behind when it comes to certain trends. Street food, already embraced by Americans, has been snubbed by the French. On the 25th anniversary of the Le Louis XV restaurant in Monaco, 240 renowned chefs—including Denmark’s Redzepi, Australia’s Tetsuya, Japan’s Kanda, America’s Boulod—were invited to create their own versions of street food. All told, there were 350 Michelin stars among the invited chefs, several of whom were trained by Ducasse. During the cook-off, 10 opted use local produce from a Mediterranean market set up in Monte Carlo, giving birth to the term “haute street food.” There are good and bad versions of haute street food, said Ducasse, adding that “haute” merely means skillfully prepared.

    In a visit to South America last year, Ducasse was amazed by the number of people who attended Mistura, a Peruvian cultural festival that recognizes “the hard work that each person plays in the gastronomic chain,” and by the host country’s loyalty to local ingredients and traditional modes of cooking. According to Raymond Sokolov’s Why We Eat What We Eat (Summit Books, 1991), Peru was able to preserve its traditional fare because of its geographic isolation. Cut off from the rest of the world by the Andes, the Indian population in Peru was able to “develop its Creole cuisine in peace.”

    Mistura excites Ducasse because there is enough time to meet with fellow chefs and local producers in order to discuss ingredients and ideas over lunch. “One should spend time meeting people, talking with them and learning,” he said. “Face-to-face talks are something to preserve.” He added that fastfood will never replace a proper meal because it doesn’t lend itself to people gathering “around good food”—whether haute street food or haute cuisine—”and good wine.”

    Ducasse was part of the revolution that traded heavy sauces for the natural flavors of ingredients. He inherited this kind of cooking from his mentors, who are said to be the pillars of nouvelle cuisine. Ducasse put his own spin on this philosophy and created “bistronomy,” a movement that champions the bistro, an intimate restaurant serving moderately priced food. The change can be traced to Restaurant Alain Ducasse in Paris, which was awarded three Michelin stars in 1998. Linda Dannenburg, who wrote Ducasse: Flavors of France, described the menu as “elegant interpretations of pate en croute, canard a l’orange… baba au rhum.” But it is her description of that “Ducasse interpretation” that gives us a better idea of what bistronomy is: “A cuisine that is classic in inspiration but in touch with its times.” 

     


  3. Dishing out the details

    From the pop-up kitchen of Gilbert Pangilinan.

    IMAGES CHIPPY RIVERA

    In between slicing slabs of marbled Kobe beef and dusting plates with saffron, chef Gilbert Pangilinan is also keeping an eye on the dining area, where a subtle pantomime takes place. A slight nod or brief glance, he knows, must bring a waiter to a guest’s side. Without a single uttered word, glasses get filled and plates get taken away.

    Mr. Pangilinan, who co-owns the Neo-Japanese restaurant Kai in Greenbelt 5, is a trusted caterer among the country’s crème de la crème. The catering business is an offshoot of the restaurant—an opportunity Mr. Pangilinan and his partners stumbled upon while the establishment was being built. To make noise about their soon-to-open dining space, they held private dinners for their friends. As word-of-mouth about the restaurant spread, so did news of their private catering service.

    Every event is an elaborate choreography that may involve carrying food in restored English bone china over Makassar ebony floors that should neither be scratched nor dirtied. The Kai team can cater up to three events a day, ranging from a 1,000-person buffet to 400-person sit-down meal to an intimate two-person dinner inside a bedroom.

    At first blush, the process seems like simple science: “They call the office, tell me the details and then we create a menu around their requirements,” said Mr. Pangilinan. He usually deals with wives, whom he classifies into two groups. There are detail-oriented women who dissect everything, including the color of the lightbulbs (yellow is better than white for looking at food). “They want what they want, which is, usually, actually really good,” he said. “We’re very attentive. We listen.” And, at the other of the spectrum, are professionals who leave the decisions to Mr. Pangilinan since they cannot be bothered with the minutiae.

    The chef visits a client’s home and suggests what plates, silverware, and stemware to use, and what flowers should adorn the tables. Sometimes, the staff is requested to prepare meals in the private kitchen but Mr. Pangilinan hesitates since he doesn’t want to get the equipment dirty or risk damaging a stove worth millions. He prefers erecting a pop-up kitchen in the garage or laundry area.

    Setting up a day before the event gives leeway for changing decor, such as flowers. If many of the guests are ladies, every nook and cranny of the house—bathroom included—is filled with rare blossoms worth a pretty penny each. There have been instances where flowers cost as much as the food, which can run up to Php15,000 per lobster-laden plate.

    The menu, of course, is the most important part of the feast. Mr. Pangilinan emphasizes making food as personal as possible. There are thematic book club get-togethers, which he bases on the title of the month. Recently, a magic-themed bestseller was brought to life in a room covered in black with clowns, magicians, and rat-shaped bread.

    "Making food personal" also extends to doing research on individuals. A banker who hired Mr. Pangilinan for a weeklong series of meetings was pleased when guests came up to him to ask how he knew what their favorite food was. It was Mr. Pangilinan’s doing—he insisted on knowing who was attending even if he encountered initial resistance from the banker.

    Catering means accepting the idiosyncrasies of clients, who may have differing opinions about when a wine glass should be filled. Some say glasses should be emptied first, while others prefer to have their glasses perennially topped up without having to ask a waiter. Mr. Pangilinan takes note of these preferences and remembers—no small task given that the vintages are often auction rarities. The Kai team has a dedicated waiter keeping watch, ready to pour at the appropriate moment. “That’s service. You don’t need to talk,” said Mr. Pangilinan.

    In case of disagreements, he has learned to use finesse, or as he puts it: “Even if you don’t agree, you agree—unless you know it will ruin the dinner.” When a downpour threatened to ruin an outdoor event that was weeks in the making, Mr. Pangilinan requested that a tent be erected over the venue. His iPhone weather app was insufficient evidence to persuade a client that, yes, there were rainclouds daring to ruin the party. He asked the boat captain to intercede. Mr. Pangilinan was smart enough to know that a boat captain’s opinion on all things meteorological had more weight than a chef’s. He got his tent with minimal fuss.

    The New York-schooled, Nobu-trained chef loves the dichotomy of his business. Running Kai restaurant is more or less the same every day while catering private dinners comes with many surprises. “It’s more exciting,” he said. PED 

     


  4. Food as art, continued

    A piece of toast as Frida Kahlo. The best thing since sliced bread.

    WORDS SAM L. MARCELOIMAGES IDA SKIVENES 

    Ida Skivenes likes to say that she eats breakfast with 200,000 people. Known as “IdaFrosk” on Instagram, the Norwegian statistician-turned-artist became Internet-famous by treating her toast as a canvas. She regularly posts overhead snaps of quirky compositions made from fruits and vegetables—her colored socks visible at the edge of the frame.

    In her Art Toast Project, she remakes iconic works such as Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Edvard Munch’s The Scream, and Frida Kahlo’s uni-browed self-portrait on pieces of sliced bread. Aside from choosing paintings that she likes, she also considers how recognizable they are and how detailed they are (the fewer details, the better). Everything gets eaten once the photograph is taken and she assures High Life that her breakfast tastes as good as it looks.

    "I’m not the first person to post food art on Instagram but I believe that my work is successful because it appeals to both kids and adults through humor and unusual imagery" she said. "A lot of the other food art out there is more one-sided, particularly the kind meant for kids’ lunch boxes."

    Her Instagram fame changed her life. She quit her desk job analyzing statistics in order to focus on her food art. She’s appeared on talk shows, delivered inspirational talks, and worked on ad campaigns. She also released a book, Eat Your Art Out, in several languages. When she enters a grocery, Ms. Skivenes sees a world of possibility. “I pay much closer attention to colors and shapes and I’m always looking for possible new ideas,” she said. “I see myself as someone who started to play with her food at the age of 28.”

     


  5. Food Fight!

    The costly mistakes

    PHOTOGRAPHY BY KATHY CHUA FOR ADPHOTO 

    FOOD STYLING BY PATRICK AND PATRICIA GUTIERREZ 

    ART DIRECTION BY TIGER

     


  6. Law and hors d’oeuvre

    Cocktail pairing. ‘People don’t drink without eating.’

    WORDS POLA ESGUERRA DEL MONTE

    If wine is to meat and scotch is to cigars, then a cocktail is to never-ending possibility. There are no set rules when it comes to mixed drinks, which can be bitter, sweet, salty, sour, or any and all of those flavors at the same time. In a bar crawl organized by Diageo and a visit to Madison’s Bistro Moderne, bartenders and pub owners presented their approaches to creating the perfect cocktail pairing.

    Sip and munch

    Long Bar in Raffles Makati, styled after Raffles Singapore’s original bar concept, offers signature cocktails and “reinvented pub favorites.” Behind the 10-meter bar, Rian Asiddao mixes drinks and suggests suitable edibles. After pouring the Makati Luxury Sling, a blend of Tanqueray No. TEN, Grand Marnier, Benedictine, and fresh lemon, he urged a sampling of pork rinds rubbed with chili and tamarind.

    "It’s chicharon so it’s for munching. You sip and munch. Plus you don’t need vinegar because of the tamarind,” he said, adding that spicy and salty flavors blend well with the sour/bitter cocktail. Mr. Asiddao, who has competed in and won several bartending events, makes it a point to use gin. Filipinos are, after all, the top consumers of the classic English tipple. Gin is the main ingredient of Long Bar’s Manille Calamansi, a fruity concoction that goes down well with Filipino favorites like chicharon and tawilis.

    "In the Philippines, people don’t drink without eating. The food in this bar takes a bigger role than in other parts of the world," said Joern Schwaiger, director of food and beverage of Long Bar in Raffles Makati. He added, however, that the cocktail will always come first when planning the menu and not the other way around: "We make sure that the selections complement the drinks."

    European classics with a twist

    At Niner Ichi Nana, a Houdini-inspired bar at The Fort, duck is a favorite. Foie gras nuggets and duck fat fries accompanied the Drop of Life (a cocktail of guyabano and calamansi mixed with Ketel One vodka) and the Eurasian (Johnnie Walker Gold Label reserve married with smoke and a refreshing blend of chili and cucumber).

    "When people talk about gastropub food, not a lot of people understand what it truly is," said Niner Ichi Nana co-owner Erwan Heussaff. A "proper" gastropub menu isn’t a collection of international appetizers but a drastic reinterpretation of European classics. Take, for example, Niner Ichi Nana’s foie gras nuggets. No self-respecting European would ever deep-fry foie gras, but to adapt to local taste, Mr. Heussaff’s chefs do just that: after being seasoned with Kikkoman barbecue sauce and infused with pomegranate and sweet chili, the chunk of duck liver is plunged into hot oil. The result: golden foie gras nuggets with a Japanese twist. Meanwhile, duck fat is used for deep-frying Niner Ichi Nana’s fries, giving them a much crispier texture. These fatty duck-based items complement most of the cocktails, which are astringent and citrusy.

    Drinks that are on the sweet side, on the other hand, are paired with dry-preparation foods such as crisp vegetables or salads. The lesson here is that cocktail pairings must balance each other out. “If you have a complicated milky drink, you don’t want a fat-infused dish. You want something more fresh to balance things off, so you order a salad or something with cheese,” said Mr. Heussaff. “But if you have a bourbon drink, or a tart, citrusy drink, then you look for something fatty.”

    'Crazy creative'

    Over at Madison’s Bistro Moderne, executive chef Giovanni Sias has strong opinions about hors d’oeuvres and bar chow. Hors d’oeuvre are bite-sized luxuries, he explained, while bar chow—pizzas, cheese and cold cuts, sausage—are merely things that “support your stomach while drinking.” “Hors d’oeuvre is a more elaborate thing. You work on a tiny thing like this, you put three, four ingredients and decorations. It takes patience to make it nice,” he said. Trained in Bond 45 Italian Steakhouse Restaurant and the prestigious New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, Mr. Sias uses tweezers to create details so minuscule that fingertips just won’t suffice.

    In every hors d’oeuvre menu, the chef makes sure that he balances fish, meat, breaded things, fried things. Dreaming up the particulars is a “crazy creative” exercise: “Doing the same thing is boring,” said Mr. Sias, who has stuffed squid with chorizo and put together a basil panna cotta with tomato sauce. At a competition, he presented a tomato Genoese with eggplant parfait with the intent of creating something so mind-blowing that judges would call him crazy. The parfait was mind-blowing enough to win silver. Until rules are written, bartenders and chefs have the grand opportunity to experiment and go crazy with cocktail pairings.

    INCIDENTAL INTELLIGENCE

    Every year, the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year is chosen among world class bartenders from all over the world, including the Philippines. This year, Great Britain played host to the 2014 Global Final from July 28 to August 1. Visit www.diageo.com to see who grabbed the crown. Long Bar is located at Raffles Fairmont Makati, 1 Raffles Drive, Makati Ave., Makati City. Niner Ichi Nana is on the ground floor of The Globe Tower, 32nd St. corner 7th Ave., Bonifacio Global City. Madison’s Bistro Moderne is on the ground floor of Edsa Shangri-La Hotel, Mandaluyong City. 

     

  7. For full story, visit http://juanxi.tumblr.com/post/94025651386/what-was-your-most-memorable-cup-of-coffee-i

     

  8. Monsieur Poulard, who has worked with cheese—and only cheese—all his life, waxes nostalgic about the sometimes-salty, sometimes-sweet delicacy.

    The cheesiest man on earth. 

    The difference between a “fromagier” and a “fromager.”

    WORDS POLA ESGUERRA DEL MONTE

    After lunch, Gérard Poulard gave bissous to three ladies, three pecks each. Left, right—”In France, we do three,”—left. The ladies bid the gentleman goodbye, blushing and giggling. Monsieur Poulard, who claims he is a hundred years old, still has it.

    The Frenchman calls himself a “fromagier,” which he insists is different from “fromager" (a cheesemaker or cheesemonger). Like a sommelier, a fromagier is an expert on the taste and nuances of le fromage. "I tell the story of cheese," said Monsieur Poulard. On a visit to Sofitel Philippine Plaza in July, the "ambassador of France for cheese" flew in 100 types of cheese—a small sample of the 1,000 varieties he has mastered. His understanding of cheese extends to the chemistry of milk, which he studied for five years in order to appreciate its effect on dairy products.

    Monsieur Poulard, who has worked with cheese—and only cheese—all his life, waxes nostalgic about the sometimes-salty, sometimes-sweet delicacy. “Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese,” writes G.K. Chesterton. “Virgil, if I remember right, refers to it several times, but with too much Roman restraint. He does not let himself go on cheese.” Unlike Virgil, Monsieur Poulard has no such restraint. Be warned: There is a significant amount of cheese in this story.

    HL : What does a “cheese master” do?

    GP : To start, cheese is my passion. The passion for the cheese and why I show cheese to the world—that is the question. In France, we have more than 1,000 kinds of cheese—manufactured, pasteurized, so many. In about a thousand cheeses, I work with 300 to 400 kinds of cheese and I separate these in two, for the season of summer and the season of winter. This time, I present goat cheese, which is for the season of summer.

    HL : How do the seasons affect cheese?

    GP : In France, for summer, the quality of the milk is different. The milk for winter is not so tasty—the flavor and the savor is not the same. In the summer, the cheese is fresh. In winter, you eat Tomme, which is semi-firm with a more robust flavor.

    HL : Who makes these cheeses you present?

    GP : We have the goat, the cow, and the sheep. Now, we have the buffalo. We make mozzarella with cow but the best mozzarella is from the buffalo. You can make cheese from buffalo in the Philippines.

    HL : How about the cheese makers? Fromager?

    GP : In the world, the French cheesemakers are the best. It’s the culture of the French. Every French person likes cheese. After that you have Italy, England, Belgium. In Belgium they have 600 kinds of cheese.

    HL : How did you become a fromagier?

    GP : It’s my creation. I made the name “fromagier.” I looked for a title, and I decided it would be that.

    For full story on Monsieur Gérard Poulard, visithttp://www.highlife.com.ph/Issue/111/The_cheesiest_man_on_earth.php

     


  9. Be our guest, be our guest!

    Art Direction by HADWORKING, GOODLOOKING

    Photography by Jake Verzosa

    Color Correction by Stefan Kruse J∅rgensen

    Food Art by Maricar Sabenorio

    Videography by Melody Pacis Bonus

    Editing by Nina Diaz

     

  10. Check out the highlights of High Life July 2014 at www.highlife.com.ph. Out in stands today.