Anyone who calls himself a chef in these parts, especially if he can’t defend it at Plaza Miranda, should be minced, diced and sautéed in his own lard.
Unfortunately, in a country given to acknowledging the presence of Kagawad X or Lawyer Y during a barangay boodle fight or gay beauty pageant, there are many who do bestow on themselves the self-aggrandizing titles Chef A or Chef B.
Never will they answer to Kusinera C or Cook D, even if all they know is how to boil an egg or, well, boil more eggs.
The practice is rampant among the well-heeled, English-speaking mestizos and mestizas and natives who spend a lifetime talking about and giving out recipes for carbonara as if white sauce is going out of style any minute tomorrow.
You see them on television, mouthing “gospel truth” about the best place to get oregano, when all the viewer–the ordinary Pepe or Pilar–wants to know if he or she should get the
“Original Italian Style” spaghetti sauce or another brand’s sweeter Filipino version.
But you don’t get to watch on the boob tube Aling Conching, whose callos is to die for even if she does not know a single word of Spanish, or Mang Paeng (okay, he’s Ilocano), whose papaitan tastes like heaven, according to hard to please manginginom.
And they are not called chefs.
Chef gives those who have arrogated the title to themselves the undeserved importance that they so craved, when if it is not even clear if they graduated from Ecole this or Ecole that in some European country or wherever as to give them the authority to rule that this crepe is “divine” or that this éclair is “sublime.”
The title raises their market value, especially for the artista types, but also the sosyal as well, with sponsors of TV shows and with movie producers.
Preoccupation with titles is an art in the Philippines, where you see politicians identifying themselves in billboards with emphasis on their initials to draw attention to the basketball court they had built, using taxpayers’ money of course.
Still, when it comes to who the real, not reel, chef is, there is no better yardstick than the ohs and ahs and the burps (excuse us) from the thoroughly satisfied eater of the pancit made by Aling Caridad or the ginatan concocted by Mang Kanor.
As to the dishes (the chefs call them main courses, oui) prepared by the ecole-schooled, well, they are, well, nice.
If you got the ingredients from Italy or France and still your creations are not being praised to high heavens, maybe, you can stop acting like a chef and start being an ordinary kusinero or kusinera instead.