One party Caveat serendipitously got into the past holiday season was tendered by a low-profile fashion designer who made it “big time” as one of the very few most sought-after designers of top-of-the line RTW apparel we have now in the country. Pardon, but Caveat is not in the position to reveal his identity.
The food on the table was something else to behold while being serenaded to some select haunting songs of the ever fresh smelling Richard Reynoso and the flawless belting of former Miss Saigon Ima Castro who once reprised much longer the role of Lea Salonga on the West End stage in London.
There was something cool and beguiling in the presentation buffet style set at the newly refurbished turn-of-the century dining hall of Legend Hotel-Pasig which was distinctly a fabulous spectacle of Mediterranean and Asian cuisine. Someone twittered the place is under the new management of an influential lady from the South. Keep that also under wraps.
More than the ambiance, the delightful taste of the entrees were to say the least ennobling to any gourmet even to the most untrained palate like Caveat’s.
Surprised to find out that the genius behind the exquisite de rigueur choices on the table who presented himself most charmingly was an acquaintance, designer Danny Dela Cuesta.
A highly respected cross channel designer among Manila’s elite clientele for over a couple of decades before reinventing himself into a chef of the first order that he is now and a good friend of the party host as well, Danny has dressed up the likes of Tingting Cojuangco, Chona Kasten, Imee Marcos, Gloria Macapagal -Arroyo, Cory Aquino, Kris Aquino, Mary Prieto, Elvira Manahan, Kuh Ledesma, Vilma Santos, Maricel Soriano, Korina Sanchez, and Charo Santos.
To Danny, cuisine and fashion run along parallel lines, and what triggered him to study culinary arts was when he became the first national champion of the Magnolia National Cookfest organized by San Miguel Corporation. He studied under the best culinary tutors at Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine et de Patisserie in London and at the School of Thai Cooking in Bangkok.
Since then he has been engineering recipes, coaching best by means of experiential reality training for culinary enthusiasts, editing magazines and authoring books on cuisine, and catering food for Filipinos yearning for traditional choices.
Asking him the cliché question why Filipino food has not made it to the international scene, his answer sounded like he has defended his doctoral dissertation in the direction with more than high passing grade.
He maintains that our food when presented abroad always fails in the final blind taste-test on scores of authenticity, originality, and food intelligence.
He cites the indigenization of foreign food into the Pinoy kitchen which is highly evident in the name given to every dish. This makes our claim to the authenticity of our native food and delicacies somehow low in authenticity and place of origin.
Based on his years of research, Danny cites the pinakbet (from the original Ilocano term pinakkebbet to literally mean “to shrink and wrinkle”) as the only Pinoy food that was not derived or influenced by another culture even if this has been altered into different variants and version in other parts of the country, even overseas among the OFWs.
In any case, the next time you take to your bittered and bagoong-enriched pinakbet think Filipino. This might just be our passport to the final reckoning in the numerous world food exhibition that we have been failing in the taste-test stages for the longest time.