With various photos of food popping every second on social media news feeds, it’s even an understatement to say that Filipinos love to eat. Along with this is the ongoing trend to explore just-opened restaurants and be game for their specialty dishes.
This hankering for something new and unique are the defining factors in setting up new dining establishments and new menus and dishes to introduce to the market.
To acknowledge the relevance of emerging trends in the industry, one of the leading culinary arts institution in the country, the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA Manila), in partnership with Courage Asia, gathered food authorities and culinary experts late last year for an international conference entitled “The Future of Food: Business Directions for Hospitality & Culinary Leaders.” It was held at the University of the Philippines Bonifacio Global City campus.
The stellar list of speakers at the conference included Michelin-starred French Master Chef Christian Tetedoie; three-Michelin starred Chef Alvin Leung; Disciples Escoffier International Chairman Master Chef Robert Fontana; Gallery Vask’s Chef Chele Gonzalez; Nicole Ponseca, owner and CEO of Maharlika Filipino Moderno and Jeepney Filipino Gastropub;Filipino Kitchen’s co-founder Maria Natalia Roxas; Slow Food Movement advocate,Chit Juan; and Purple Yam owner and founder of Ang Sariling Atin Culinary Heritage Movement, Amy Besa.
The speakers delved on topics and issues including future trends, sustainability, food security, and pushing for a global recognition of Filipino food among others—addressing students and alumni of CCA.
Here are some take-away ideas from the conference:
1. Embrace being a Filipino
Nicole Ponseca, the person behind New York City-based restaurants Maharlika Filipino Moderno and Jeepney Filipino Gastropub, started advocating the appreciation of Filipino food when her bosses in an advertising agency asked her a question that left her bewildered.
“My bosses would eventually ask me to try to send them to places that serve Thai food. ‘Can you recommend some Thai restaurants?’ So I was like, ‘Yeah, I guess. Wait, you guys think i’m Thai?’ Then I started realizing, ‘you guys have no idea what is Filipino? Who I am, what we are about, what we eat, you may not even be interested in going to my country for tourism.’ So that’s when I kind of had my ‘aha’ moment. No one is doing it the way that I thought it should be done that people could embrace being Filipino, and embrace Filipino food,” she said.
Ponseca was also able to use one negative Filipino trait–hiya (embarrassment)–to make Jeepney Filipino Gastropub successful, and proved that Filipinos should not be ashamed of their culture.
“I thought of my dad. I was so embarrassed of him. Hiya. I was embarrassed at him when he would eat with his hands so I started Kamayan Night,” she said and added she was able to make it successful because she owned who she really was as a Filipino.
Ponseca said aspiring chefs should be proud of Filipino food.
“Yabang. It’s a very very negative word. Yabang is to be boastful, to be overconfident. The exact opposite of this is what kept Filipino food in the shadows. When I say yabang, I want you to reconsider what the word means—which means to be proud of balut, which means to eat with your hands,” she said.
In further embracing being Filipino by pushing Filipino food–and even culture–globally, Natalia Roxas, co-founder of New York-based group, The Filipino Kitchen, has been organizing Kultura Festival.
The festival aims to highlight the best Filipino-American food and arts carefully curated to appeal to those who personally identify with Filipino culture and/or are merely curious.
“At Filipino Kitchen, we took it a little further than just food,” shared Roxas, and added that part of what they are doing is to incorporate fresh ideas into traditional dishes, which then resulted to dishes like kare-kare meat pie, pork belly adobo taco, and kinilaw tacos among others.
During festivals, the group also conducts workshops on batok, a precolonial hand tapping tattoo; baybayin, a Filipino ancient script; and Filipino martial arts.
“We need to look back to our roots and all of these traditions..If we want to push Filipino to the global stage, we need to love what is in our backyard. Buy local, support our farmers. And then you have to make room for yourself to learn traditional ways, and execute it to show your personality on a plate,” Roxas said.
2. Go for slow food.
Social entrepreneur, author, and advocate of Slow Food Movement, a movement a global movement that aims to “prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us,” Chit Juan underscored the importance of heirloom ingredients, farm to table cooking, as well as understanding the seasonality of ingredients in her talk.
“Slow food is actually good, clean, and fair food. When we say good, clean, and fair, it’s actually good food that tastes good. It should be clean of pesticides, fair to the consumer, and fair to the farmer,” Juan said.
Part of practicing the farm to table cooking is connecting the chefs to the farmers, and underscored that it is important for chefs to know how ingredients are sourced for them to understand how to use those produce.
She also encouraged aspiring chefs to use ingredients that are in season.
3. Discover hidden flavors waiting to be discovered.
Purple Yam owner and author Amy Besa in looking for ingredients she would use in her dishes: “I look for the unknown, ignored, undervalued.”
Besa, in her talk, underscored the importance of using local ingredients, discover our land’s hidden flavors, and connecting with farmers.
Citing her recent trip in Batulao forest, where her team foraged, Besa shared her new-found ingredients and how she used the latter to incorporate in her dishes.
“We found different things–flowers,honey, mushrooms, and I called it ‘hidden flavors.’ Only a few people in the periphery who eat them will know them. They are hidden from us and it’s about time to discover them,” she said.
“If you want to preserve something you have to eat it. You give it commercial value. If there’s commercial value, you give a reason for the farmer to grow it, you give farmers to grow our produce, and they don’t have to sell their lands,” she added.
4. Rethink the way you eat. Practice sustainability.
Cristina Carl, owner of Grind Bistro Group touched on the issue of sustainability, and the role of chefs and the food industry to promote it.
According to studies, Filipinos choose to dine out more often than eating at their home. While it may be great for the restaurant industry, it also means restaurants have a responsibility to choose sustainability, to have a positive impact on agriculture, human health, environmental health, small businesses, and the job market as mentioned by Carl.
As an example, Carl said restaurant owners can opt for pasture-raised livestock than those fed with antibiotics or by observing the seasonality of ingredients.
“Restaurants have a big impact on sustainability and it’s very important for the people in the industry–owners, chefs, and people who work for us–to be sure that we really try and look for ways for us to be more sustainable in our businesses because more and more people eat out, which means we are feeding more and more people from our kitchens. They’re looking to us to give them wholesome food, real food, slow food,” Carl said.
Michelin-star chef Christian Tetedoie meanwhile challenged the audience to rethink on how they consume food.
“Excessive consumerism leads to huge amounts of leftovers. We need to eat better and not more and opt for good quality and presentation over quantity,” he said.
5. Engage in chef and farmer collaborations.
Gerardo Jimenez, owner of Malipayon Farms, highlighted the importance of chefs visiting farms and farmers visiting the kitchen in his talk.
“Once a farmer go to the kitchen, so many things are possible. We discovered many things. And when chefs visit the farms, so many things become possible because we really share, we are able to collaborate more.
He also left a call to action for the young, aspiring chefs, “You’re young chefs.If you take the trouble to go to the farms and discover yourselves how it’s grown, the conditions in the farm, so many things become possible, and it also means farmers are able to sell and receive the full price of the produce which makes a difference in the sustainability of the farm.”
First food business conference for 2017
Incidentally, Courage Asia will be holding its first food and beverage conference for 2017 through the outfit’s yearly Top Menu Master Foodservice Conference. This year’s theme is “The Business of F&B Innovation” and will be held on Wednesday, February 1, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Edsa Shangri-la Hotel in Mandaluyong City.
Featured speakers include the industry’s respected thought leaders: Amor Maclang of the GeiserMaclang Communications Group, Gary De Ocampo, CEO of KANTAR/TNS, Miguel Mercado of Ogilvy and Mather, Chef Steven Carl, Co-Owner of the Grind Burger Group, Liquid Chef Kalel Demetrio, Chef Tim Abejuela, Corporate Executive Chef of the Max’s Group, and Margot Torres of McDonald’s Philippines.
For more details: http://www.foodfindsasia.com/TBFBI/