The year is twenty ten for the personal chef

It is imperative that 2009 remain behind us, below us, or whatever. At least for my case, it was not one of the best years. Each and every individual believes in the idea of a perfect circle of life one way or the other. Karma, Yin and Yang, what goes up must come down kind of jazz. Most of the year has been trying, making me appreciate the simple pleasures more. Such as the first time I saw my little Maxine stand proud with chest out after having her first medals pinned on her graduation dress, the afternoons that I get to sleep uninterrupted, the taste of great parmiggiano reggano crystals, spending some moments with Rossana, the smell of my bath liquid soap. Sometimes when I am down in my luck i reflect on what I could have been doing wrong, or what I have not done at all. I can not say if I found myself staring into space, but I remember the times when my shoulders would ache because of stress, because of worries, because of the unexpected. Those moments were not very pleasant, but it did make me and the people around me stronger. And with head up high, I look forward to the coming year with the following resolutions:

Get more outdoor time

Get more kitchen gadgets

Quit smoking

Make new friends

Join more social network clubs (OFFLINE)

Look for and cook more Italian Recipes (at least once a month)

Pay off ALL my debts

Be an expert in Photoshop

Learn Adobe Premiere

Spend more time with Rossana

Spend more time with Maxine

Restaurant hop at least once a month

Save up at least 10% of all my earnings each month

Live within my means

Get The Naked Chef Book

Get the Silver Spoon Recipe Book

Be less critical

Bike more

Drink 8 glasses of water each day

Change toothbrushes every 3 months

Get fluent in German and French again

Travel more

Practice Zen to Done

Calm down

Rev up

Lose the negative people

Be more pleasant

Be firm

Be more flexible
Maintain weight at 165 pounds

Take care of my shoes more

Be adamant in getting the Souped Up Restaurant up this year

Spread the joy

Pray more

Love more

Frown less

Pout less

Have more sex

Be more inquisitive of new ingredients

Spark my curiosity

Feed on my curiosity

Lose myself

Live in the moment

Live in the present

Chuck out the ALL CAPS on my keyboard



Have I missed anything?

A unique gift for Christmas

A few weeks ago I got an email from a woman who wanted cooking classes conducted. After a few queries, it turns out it was for her boyfriend who so loved salmon, bacon, walnuts and chocolate. The good things in life. And she wants a personal chef to attend to it. Some may think this is an underhanded approach for a woman to get the man thinking about settling down (wink,wink), but it is so far from the truth. At least for this couple it was more of giving than expecting.

The other night was the appointed time. I came in a few hours early into a wonderfully appointed kitchen to make the preparations. Knives mounted neatly on magnetic strips against the walls, all manner of pots and pans, a centrally located prep table, and an upright cabinet with all the kinds of spices that I would be so happy to get my hands and nose in. Turns out the family loves food, and cooking food. My client Michiko, turns out to be an avid baker, complete with the prerequisite artisan Kitchen Aid mixer. At 7PM, the couple walk-in. Art, the victimized boyfriend, looks arouond the kitchen, then at the stranger in a chef's uniform, busily messing up the prisitine cooking area. 'For Christmas,' coos Michiko,' I am presenting you a personal chef for private cooking lessons.' If you could paint a picture of his face, like a kid with a brand new toy set on Christmas Morn. He suddenly felt giddy, nervous, and sporting a smile that stretched between the ears like there is no tomorrow. We started the lesson with much anticipation. Art admitted he was a little nervous, but eventually he warmed up to the occassional  advice of 'taste what you eat', 'hold the kniife like this' and ' never trust a skinny chef'.

The Menu

Green Pea and bacon soup


Baklava Salmon with balsamic marinated zucchini and asparagus spears


Mousse au chocolat

The couple are very much in love with each other. And from what I have observed, they are very much in sync with each other. They seem to know each others' movment in the kitchen. And Michiko must have cooked for him several times. As they sat down to dinner, I surreptitiously catch a glance at them as they tasted their dishes, as they savored the rich soup, the savory salmon main course. They quietly ate, probably exchanging sweet nothings out earshot while I cleaned up. I left them very much to themselves after that, as they appeared to be very much into each other and, to me at least, very happy. That is what makes this job so rewarding. I hope I have made a small and significant contribution to their relationship.  As I leave, I recount the day's events, and the dreaded Christmas shopping I had to face in an hour's time. Even though I was faced with the hassle of tired sales ladies and monstrous traffic, I felt content that everything turned out alright over that dinner table. Merry Christmas Art and Michiko.


The kitchen T-shirt, why not?

When I started out in the professional kitchen, the standard issue uniform was made I think of plastic made into strings and then woven together into what would later resemble some sort of chef’s jacket. With the hotel name stitched on, I wore it proudly, strutting my stuff around the kitchen, showing off to all and sundry that I work for the greatest hotel in Manila. Over time the material was, shall we say, grew uncomfortable.

For anyone who knows what the professional kitchen is like, you know where I am coming from. It’s hot, it’s fast, it’s cramped, it’s dangerous. The uniform proved to be a hindrance in most cases while working. The material, being plastic based, or some synthetic crap, absorbs contact heat like anything. As splash of hot oil? 1st degree burn since the burning liquid stays on the jacket. Hot oven blast after opening the door?  Your torso continues to bake up to the time when you lay out the dishes on the buffet. The Hotel school I attended always emphasized the importance of an undershirt. Now I know why. It insulates you from the heat. It absorbs blood and sweat easily. It protects the scraping of cheap polyester material across your backside. And when you are off duty, you still look presentable, since the food splatters have not marred the beauty of the graphic design you so painstakingly had to scour the entire mall for.

I have a few T-shirts. Most of them white, but I do have some cool black ones, courtesy of my girlfriend who used to work for the liquor industry. It does make a difference when working with a comfortable undershirt. A crew neck T-shirt is best. For the stylish, Carson from the Queer Eye suggest a V-neck. Not for kitchen work, though. The V-neck is best prancing around in suit.

I made the following designs, in addition to what is already on store. I am going to make a few prints for my work. This at least makes it special. My own. Made of a great cotton blend, they are flexible,




The designs are simple. Minimalist. Straight to the point. Such as my cooking. What designs do you like? What do you think of the designs above? Some have already made orders. Interested? Leave a comment, please.


Coolest kitchen gadgets

 We all are gadget crazy in one way or another. Be it the latest mobile phone, the the greatest laptop. Cameras, MP3 players, anything to make our life more enjoyable. In my case, I love the gadgetry that comes with cooking. Recently I posted about what I would like to have in my Christmas stocking. I want to have these as well...

Jaws in my Cup! - I'm not much a fan of tea, but this is so cool! Having it bob around, with the fin as an easy handle. the basket is submerged just below the surface to infuse the flavor. Can it play the movie theme? I wish it could.

Got Milk? - the udders tell the story!

Foldable kitchen scale - this would really be conveniently tucked into my knife bag. Not much bigger than a typical spice shaker when folded up, its minimalist design will be a great addition to any culinary arsenal.

Quirky Knife block - The morbidity of this tickles my fancy.

Knife Magnet - This bar would greatly display the precious knives that have been acquired over the years. Stainless steel construction. Can hold 10 knives securley.

Out of this world juicer - easy wash, with strainer. Plus, it is a great conversation piece. the design is a plus for invaders fans.

Fridge Clock. With this twist on the fridge magnet, one can now schedule the varied activities. Quite minimalist.

Do you have a cool kitchen gadget? Post your link here! Leave a comment.


Banana tarte tatin...

This is from my mentor, my god, Jamie Oliver. The recipe turns out a lovely dessert.

This is such a great recipe The thing I love most about it is how simple it is All you need to do is buy some readymade puff pastry split a few bananas in half and get something magical happening in t...

View Original Article


Personal Chef Wish List

Christmas season. A time of giving. A time of sharing. For warm hugs, family time, quality time, differences set aside. And there are people like us who would dream of things, wishing upon a star for a few deliriously fantastical things. What would I like to have stuffed in my stocking?

Microplane grater

Global Chef's 10" Knife

Kitchen clogs from Denmark, size 43

A case of Maldon Salt

Magnetic Digital Day Counter, for when I need to know when to throw it out

KitchenAid Artisan Series, in Hot Rod Red no less!

Jamie Oliver's Flavor Shaker

Reveo Marivac Food Tumbler. Because this thing actually works!

The complete BBC Comedy Chef Series on DVD

Le Creuset Cast Iron French oven in Cherry Red

Chiasso Magnetic Spice Jars. Oh this would be so lovely on the wall, better than a dinky spice rack 

1 GB Dual DVI Video Card. Well, why not soup up my PC?

1 gallon Selecta Ube Ice Cream

Batman Tumbler RC. I want to turn this into a PC

Instead of a wristwatch, a Pop Swatch is convienently readable from my chef jacket sleeve

This blogsite, having URL

A large granite mortar and pestle

500 satisfied users of my Excel Recipe Cost Sheet

Tassos Greek EVO

Mavrodaphne dessert wine from Patras, Greece

A pasta machine, to make lovely raviolis

It's not much of a list, but it is a list. Hmmmm. What is your wish list? 


Personal Chef clients who should never be personal chef clients

Let's call this character Eddie:


Eddie: (Over the phone) Hello, Chef. Can you do an Italian menu for me and six of my buddies this friday?

Personal Chef: That's a bit close. This weekend you mean?

E: I know it's cutting it close. Saw your ad, and I just moved into my new apartment. Wanted to have a housewarming.

PC: Ok. You were lucky I am free that day. It IS the weekend. Here's the menu. (a 2 minute spiel on what is on offer)

E: Okay. Sounds good. Let's do...(makes a selection for a three course dinner)

PC: Good. Here are your booking instructions

E: Can I just give you a check when you get here? It's an office expense.

PC: On the day itself? Let me see...(ranting and raving in silence, seething). Ok

E: Ok then. See you Friday Chef

PC: Friday



Shopping for the three course menu. Not cheap. Guy knew his food.


1700h Set up the ingredients in the new apartment. Prepare the different sauces and dressings. Broil the chops.

1915h Two guests come in. Eddie tells me that's it. Ok. Too much food. Hell, he's paying for it.

1945h 1st course served. Salad. With an interesting dressing. Wiped clean in 8 minutes flat.

2000h Main course. Kitchen is hazy because of the broiling. But the chops were perfect. Sides were equally decadent.

2030h Dessert. With a cup of coffee and a shot of Sambucca. Anybody else coming? I ask. No? Good. I hand Eddie the invoice.

Eddie gives me a check. Check? Dated to be encashed 4 days from now? Eddie, this is not the arrangement.

E: I know. Sorry. Couldn't pull out some cash today

PC: Ok. As long as this is good.

E: It is.


Woke up at 630h. Had a glance at the check hanging on the fridge. Through my groggy eyes, I spy this check is based in Cebu, with a wierd looking account number. That doesn't look right.

900h with the bank. Check is not good. I send a text message to Eddie 'Banks says your check is not good. Please make payment via deposit to my bank account today'. Eddie: 'k'.


Through text messages 'Eddie, no bank deposit. What happened?' 'Sorry, chef. Company accountant ran off with my money. Will deposit this afternoon'


Over the Phone

PC: You deposited only half?!

E: I will get you the money this afternoon.

PC: I used my own money for your dinner.

E: Really sorry, chef. Promise. Will settle today.


Eddie not answering my calls. Text messages not acknowledged.


Lawyer friend threatens Eddie. Expose him as a fraud to his company. Turns out company is bogus too. Lawyer threatens police. (Of course I know his address. I cooked him dinner, didn't I?)

The following month

Eddie finally settles the last few thousands. After countless threats and visitation from the local police.


This schmuck  is who I will call Mel, as in Mal Carne.

Thursday, Via email

Mel: Hello, chef. Can you do a private cooking class for me and my girlfriend? I came by your ad the other day. Would like to avail of your services. These are the dishes we would like to learn. (lists a few selections, high end in fact, taken from the menu on my facebook site)

PC: Would love to. Here is what it's going to cost. I will send you the invoice shortly.

Mel: Can we pay you when you get here? (Why do these people think this is ok when booking for services???)

PC: Sorry. Burned before with practices like that. I hope you understand.

Mel: I know how you feel. had that experience as well. Wil make the payment this afternoon.

PC: Ok. Will send you the invoice with payment instructions.

Friday, Via email.

PC: Hello, Mel. Checked that you haven't made payment yet. Saturday is booked for you.

Mel: Sorry, chef. Got the flu. Can't make the booking.

PC: But I bumped off another booking for you.

Mel: Can't stop the flu chef.

PC: You do understand you cost me lost income on a weekend.

Mel: Sorry, chef. Not my problem.


For other personal chefs and caterers who want these two characters on their blacklist, just email me. I will gladly send you their contact details.

Black Box Recipe Contest Entry #2

A lovely menu cooked up by Sandra Fernandez



Beef and cheese samosas with mango chutney


Main Course

Stir fried chicken with cashew, raisins, and chile drizzled with sweet ginger sauce



Chocolate rice pudding with ancho chile

Do you think this different? Leave a comment....


Black Box Recipe Contest Entry #1

This menu was submitted by Hans Montenegro. Quite timely for the holidays!


Gratinated eggplant with sage


Braised Turkey Breast with truffled sweet potato


Apple Sorbet

 Please provide your comments


The Personal Chef on a Manila Broadsheet

 This is the first time that I got some attention to what I am doing. Manila Bulletin, one of the premier newspapers in the Philippines, has one its more prolific writers, Anna Unson-Price, write about me. ME! and what I do! Nervous as I am, now treading in unfamiliar waters, I am grateful that I got featured. You can read the article here. Hope it will give you an idea on what I do for a living. Not going to use the word 'passion'. Nope. I will not.

And get this. GMA7, one of the major TV netowrks, wants to do a feature. Whoa!


Top Food and Beverage Trends for 2010

 As our past makes up our future, and 2010 is just around the corner, I have gathered what could possibly be the coming trends. These musings and forecasts come from people I know who are well entrenched in the Food and Beverage industry. Thye were kind enough to share their knowledge and experience. These points are not set in stone, as all trends rarely are, but it gives you a glimpse of what to expect after the fireworks die down.


Food network 2.0 - Social networking has made the world a smaller and better place. With Multiply, Friendster, MySpace and with the explosion of Facebook, more and more people are reconnecting. Eventually a lot of chefs, cooks and foodies signed up and started exchanging recipes. It is possible now to share recipes, techniques and information with people around the world. It then follows that  Food Social Networking will be the next best thing. is currently the leader here with over 3 million users. An upsurge into more efficient food and beverage storage will be noticeable in the 2nd half of the year as the summer festivities begin. Grocery shoppers will be dependent on social networking more than advertising to help them to decide on where to buy and where to eat. A kind of social currency, as the blogosphere has anchored itself as a major word-of-mouth avenue. Gourmet and gastronomy will no longer be an exclusive club for foodies.

Frankenfood - With the latest technologies in bioengineering, it is now possible to come closer to that utopia of the perfect food supply. We should be expecting more consistent food crops, and therefore better quality ingredients. But this has its own sets of controversies. On the other end of the spectrum, the nutritional aspect of food production and consumption will definitely be looked at more closely.

Green Advocacy - Consumers are now more than ever aware of the consequences for irresposible production practices. Tree huggers were right all along. Now the rest of us are catching up. We now look for ingredients, products, restaurants and food and beverage manufacturing that translates into environmental resposibility, efficiency and cost management. It is expected the demand for produce that are treated with little or no chemicals, safe manufacturing practices and sustainable production will increase. More emphasis will be put on local produce which do not require huge transportation expenses. With this, we could expect the rise of celebrity farmers making headway in local production, as well as the interest to have a home garden. We would now know more about seasonality, about the importance freshness. There will be a rise in kitchen composting. There will be more restaurants trying to get 'green certified' to attract the growing number of clientele who are environmentally conscious.
Healthy convenience - Convenience stores will be packing more healthy options on its menus. Additional channels of distribution will be evident as more and more are adopting the grab-and-go lifestyle and looking for healthy alternatives. Quick lunches that pack the nutritional punch will be readily available, in environmentally safe packaging! Copy cat competition will have independent and chain restaurants to adopt new menu items that have been top sellers at competitors. Donut shops are now going into the smoothie business. The smoothie bar will now be incorporating gourmet burgers. Cupcakes will be popping up ridiculously in every nook and crany. Soon there will be so much noise, differentiation will muddle out the true identity of the dining experience. Soon the phrase 'jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none' will prosper. Traditional ingredients from Asia are crossing over from food to drinks, bestowing wellness properties.

Back to simplicity - With the recession affecting the globe, what did we discover? Simple sells. Chefs and restaurants now are capitalizing on the power of classic combinations and pure ingredients. Mad Men has tickeled the Baby Boomer's fancy, so expect a return to Mama's home cooking. 'Rustic' will replace 'molecular gastronomy' as the new buzzword. Foodservice operators have been having success with retro menu items—things that people grew up with. From a culinary perspective, however, many operators have been able to add a unique twist to these timeless favorites.

The Offal Truth - In order to control food costs, savvy chefs and restaurateurs are looking at these odd parts to offset the expensive steaks and chops. Expect specials on tongue and oxtail along with beef and pork cheeks, chicken gizzards, tripe, and other innards and odd parts. Oxtail Ravioli? Beef Cheek in red wine reduction?

Tart it up - Restaurateurs are noticing a trend....we need more zing, more pop to what we eat. By next year, restaurant menus will be featuring a balance in sour, salty and sweet sensations, in the form of pickled vegetables, the rise of Ethnic cooking and exotic flavors. Sugar and spice and everything nice will get it's second serving in the spotlight. Extreme flavors will gain ground. Moody Food that make claims relating to improved mood and emotional wellbeing will represent the
next generation of functional products.

Retail therapy - Supermarket Steak sales will surge as the avid diner rediscovers his own dinner table at home. Artisan items such as goose liver pate, pickled vegetables and salad dressings will dominate the grocery shelves, each capitalizing on 'home grown'. Private labeling will bring back the desire for personal. We will see the emergence of the personal chef service against traditional catering services. The decline in restaurant sales means that operators will try to reach the clientele through new avenues, such as selling TGIF Sauces on  grocery shelves.


What are the trends you have observed that may carry over to the new year? Please post.


How to roast the perfect turkey

Whether you are a novice or or a professional chef, roasting the bird can be quite a challenge. God knows how many turkeys turned out to be a...well, a turkey, undercooked or broiled to a crisp. Trial and error, and a bit of luck, has allowed me to discover the little things that contribute to the perfect roast turkey. These are not set in stone, but the tips will help you get closer to an enjoyable Thanksgiving or Christmas eve dinner.


Remove giblets from turkey cavity and wash inside of thawed or fresh turkey well under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels. Season the inside of the bird with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
Place thawed or fresh turkey breast-up on a flat rack in a shallow pan, 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep.
Brush or rub skin with extra-virgin olive oil to prevent the skin from drying and to enhance the golden color. Another way is to apply bacon strips on top of the breasts.
Insert oven-safe meat thermometer deep into the lower part of the thigh muscle but not touching the bone.
Place turkey in the oven.
When the turkey is about two-thirds done, loosely cover the breast and top of drumsticks with a piece of lightweight foil to prevent overcooking the breast.

Use this roasting schedule below as a guideline; start checking to see whether the turkey is cooked about 1/2 hour before recommended end times. Turkey is done when meat thermometer reaches 180ºF (for an unstuffed turkey) and juices run clear when the thigh muscle is deeply pierced

Net Weight (in pounds) Unstuffed (in hours)
10 to 183 to 3 1/2
18 to 223 1/2 to 4
22 to 244 to 4 1/2
24 to 304 1/2 to 5

Do you have more tips on roasting the perfect turkey?


South Beach Diet Pumpkin Pie

This recipe is taken from the South Beach Diet Phase 2 Program


Redolent with warm spices, this creamy treat is enhanced with a delightfully crispy, light crust that tastes deceivingly buttery, though no butter is used. Whipped topping and chocolate shavings make a gorgeous and irresistible topping, if desired.


6 (9" by 14") sheets whole-wheat phyllo dough, thawed
1/3 cup granular sugar substitute
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 large egg whites
1 large egg yolk
1 (12-ounce) can 2% evaporated milk
2 tablespoons sugar-free maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Light or fat-free whipped topping (optional)
Bittersweet chocolate for shavings (optional)

Position rack in middle of oven and heat oven to 350°F. Stack phyllo sheets on plastic wrap or waxed paper; cover with a barely damp towel to prevent sheets from drying out.

Lightly coat 9" pie plate with cooking spray. Lay 1 phyllo sheet in the pie plate. Coat sheet with cooking spray, making sure to spray edges. Repeat with remaining sheets, rotating each slightly in the pan to form a circle. Fold and crimp edges.

Place a piece of parchment or waxed paper on top of crust. Weigh crust down with pie weights or dried beans and bake until edges are lightly golden, about 10 minutes. While crust is baking, combine sugar substitute, cinnamon, ginger, salt, cloves, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer at medium speed, beat pumpkin puree, egg whites, and egg yolk until well blended. Slowly add milk, maple syrup, and vanilla, beating until blended. Add spice mixture and blend well.

Remove pie weights from crust. Pour filling into crust and bake until tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove pie from oven and cool at room temperature to set. Just before serving, top each slice of pie with 1 to 2 tablespoons whipped topping and chocolate shavings (if desired).

Nutritional information
Per serving:
130 calories
2.5 g fat (1 g sat)
19 g carbohydrate
7 g protein
2 g fiber
300 mg sodium


Black Box Recipe Contest

Market Basket. Every chef, cook, foodie loves this exercise! Get a bunch of random ingredients, put them on a pile, then figure out a three course menu from the lot!

Now I pose this challenge to you. Earlier I asked you dear readers ealier in the week to crawl this blog for clues. And the clues are quite simple. It is the ingredients in all the recipes posted. For the Black Box Recipe Contest, gather the ingredients I will be mentioning for the next few weeks, which will build up to the Black Box Recipe. Create your own Three-Course Menu from the Blackbox. Write down the recipes,photograph your dishes, then post it up on my facebook page or the blog site. You can also email your winning recipe for me to post on the blogsite.

The winning menu will be judged by readers' comments as the best menu, earning a great set of Silicone kitchen tools and a COOKIES CUT OUT T-shirt!

Recipes and menu should be original and never been published. Recipes must use only the ingredients mentioned. Creativity in cooking and preparation is encouraged.

Contest Begins 13 November and will run until 16 December. Winner will be posted on Christmas eve. So get cooking! Anybody can join!


Honey! Honey! I Roasted the Turkey!

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and the travel industry is gearing up to get loved ones together to share the feast of Roast Turkey, stuffings, cranberry, talk, family gossip, fueds, dysfunction and reconnecting. Gather around this recipe for a Honey roasted herbed Turkey, adapted from a recipe by Mirj. The twist is within the recipe. Can you tell which it is? Can you tell the difference it makes?

1 12-14kg Fresh Frozen Whole Turkey, thawed (psst...blow in its ear to thaw faster ;) )

500 ml water

100 g rock salt
250 ml Honey

20 g fresh ground black pepper

50 g whole garlic cloves

50 g fresh thyme

30 g fresh sage

30 g fresh rosemary

1 L good chicken stock

2 lemons, juiced

50 ml olive oil

Remove giblets and neck from turkey and reserve to make gravy with. Rinse turkey under cold water, drain well. Blot dry with paper towels. Set aside.

In a large bowl (large enough to hold the large bird), mix salt, water and honey. Mix until thoroughly dissolved. Add ground pepper and half of the chicken stock.

Place turkey in bowl. stir and pour the brine in and around the turkey. Cover with cling film, then let sit in the fridge 10-12 hours.

Remove turkey. Drain well and pat dry. Discard the brine. Place turkey on heavy roasting pan.

Stuff the herbs and garlic into the turkey cavity.

Squeeze lemon juice into the turkey cavity, then throw in the lemon halves.

Coat turkey with olive oil inside and out thoroughly. Then rub some salt and fresh ground pepper inside out.

Add the giblets and neck to the roasting pan.

Roast in preheated oven at 350F for about 45 minutes to an hour. Baste with leftover chicken stock and juices from the pan. Internal temperature should reach 170F. You check this by sticking a thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey, usually the breast, away from the bone.

Remove turkey from oven. Set aside drippings for gravy.

Let rest 15-20 minutes before carving.

To make the gravy.

In a sauce pot, saute 1 whole peeled white onion, a celery stalk, 1 peeled carrot until tender and slightly colored.

Sprinkle in about 2 tablespoons of flour, then stir to distribute evenly.

Pour drippings into the sauce pot.

Bring to boil, then let simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

Pass through a fine strainer. Discard the vegetables and meat.

Return to heat and reduce by one fourth.

Season to taste with some salt and pepper. Serve hot!


Puffy Creamy Pumpkin Cream Puffs



Holloween has come and passed. And we are left with pumpkin coming out of our ears!. Let's feed the rugrats something delectable, something that would extend their fun. This pumpkin recipe will sure to please even the pickiest dracula or ghoul.


120 g butter

225 ml water

pinch of salt

125 g all-purpose flour

4 eggs


Let's make the cream puff shells

Light up the oven. let the heat rise to 425F 220C.

In a sauce pan place water, butter and salt and bring to a boil.

Stir in flour, and with all your might, beat the crap out of it with a wooden spoon until it forms a firm ball. Your upper arms should ache by then.

While still very warm, transfer ball to mixing bowl. beat in eggs one at a time until thoroughly incorporated.

Grease a sheet, then spoon dough evenly spaced on the sheet.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes. This would be the fruit of your aching arms' labor, as the dough should puff up beautifully.

Remove from oven. Let cool, then cut horizontally with a knife. Set aside.


475 ml whipping cream 35%

60 g confectioners' sugar, plus extra for dusting

3 g cinnamon powder 

450 g peeled pumpkin, steamed and pureed


Stuffing, filling, whatever.

In a mixing bowl, Whip cream until thick with a wire whisk. If your arms are still tender from the above work out, an electric mixer would come in handy.

Gradually add the sugar, stirring until well mixed in. Add the cinnamon. Mix again until you are sure it is really incorporated.

Fold in the pumpkin puree. Continue until well mixed into the cream.

Place filling into a piping bag. Pipe the filling into the baked puffs.

Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.

Before serving, dust with confectioner's sugar, then cinnamon powder. This makes it look great.


Mama Mia Minestrone!

Mama Mia Minestrone!


50 ml olive oil

200 g white onion, minced 

150 g zucchini

100 g Red kidney beans soaked overnight

50 g White kidney beans, soaked overnight

50 g fava beans, soaked overnight 

60 g celery chopped

30 g minced garlic

900 ml chicken stock

400 g peeled tomatoes, canned

80 g carrots, diced

20 g minced fresh parsley

20 g minced fresh basil

sprig of thyme

10 g ml dried oregano

salt and fresh ground black pepper 

80 g parmiggiano reggano shavings    

100 g elbow macaroni (or , cooked 8 minutes, frained


Heat olive oil over medium heat in a stock pot.

Saute onion, celery and garlic until transluscent, about 2-3 minutes

Add beans, carrots and zucchini and stir 5 minutes.

Add Peeled tomatoes. Stir to distribute evenly.

Add chicken stock to pot. Bring to boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Let simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring occassionally.

When beans are tneder, add in cheese, and stir to distribute evenly. 

Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Before serving, add in cooked pasta

Serve hot in bowls. Sprinkle fresh parmesan shavings on top, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.


Fresh Tilapia Corn Chowder

Fresh Tilapia Corn Chowder

A great refreshing recipe. Several variations are available, but I find this one that would really hit the spot on a cold autumn afternoon.



60 g bacon

10 ml olive oil

70 g celery, diced

60 g leeks, sliced

60 g white onion, chopped

5 g rock salt

5 g fresh ground black pepper

3 g crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

900 ml fish stock 

200 g potatoes, peeled and diced

300 g corn kernels , canned or fresh

550 g tilapia fillets, cut into bite-size pieces

3 g finely chopped fresh thyme

180 ml half-and-half

1 pc lemon, juiced 

15 g chopped fresh chives (optional)


  1. Chop bacon. Add to stock pot with olive oil. Render the fat, 2-3 minutes

  2. Add celery, leek, onion and cook until transparent.

  3. Add stock, bring to boil, then lower heat to let simmer 4 minutes.

  4. Add potatoes and corn. 

  5. Cook until the potatoes and corn are halfway tender , about 5-7 minutes.

  6. Dump in the fish. Let simmer for about 3-5 minutes, skimming as you go.

  7. Stir in cream. Add lemon juice.

  8. Adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper. To add a little bite, sprinkle in a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.

  9. Sprinkle in the thyme, and let simmer for another 2 minutes.

  10. Serve it stemaing hot, garnished with chives.


This would be good with some crusty bread on the side.


Foodie? Or just suffering from Chef Envy

Due to the proliferation of cooks on TV nowadays, the profession has gained much ground in terms of networking and marketability. A decade ago being a cook was not as glamorous, nor did it encourage the kind of following that a professional cook would enjoy nowadays. A following you say? Yes. A following of such proportions it borderlines on ridiculous, inflating chefs' egos and blowing up the profession to near god-like status. Who are these followers? Anybody who fawns over the chef, who tries to emulate the chef, who got into the profession because they finally found something to be passionate about. Call them chef groupies or adoring fans, and these followers come in many forms, and what comes to mind is that familiar gastrosexual known as a foodie. I have met many foodies in my career, and within that set of food porn fanatics I have discovered the proliferating species that knows next to nothing about food. These individuals suffer an affliction known as Chef Envy. Chef Envy comes in may forms, from the sublime to the downright obnoxious. Some symptoms have been enumerated in this article. Interesting read, because any professional chef would recognize these absurd characteristics. Another article tells of the inane things that would make a gourmet snob. Both articles are funny, insightful, and probably hitting a nerve, culinary or not.
Here are what I think are the top symptoms of chef envy:

Insists that the chef put their grandmother's maple infused sorbet on the menu because they say it is so good.
When at a group dinner, of which a chef is part of the party, the foodie smirks and tells the waiter to ask the chef what they should order. Most professional chefs would be the last to order in a group after deconstructing the menu.
They invest in hundred dollar knives with little or no knife skills.
They follow the chef around in a supermarket watching closely what he puts into his basket, and getting the same.
They invest in chefs' whites, not knowing the importance of material and functionality of these uniforms.
When drunk, they can not tell the difference between foie gras and a Big Mac
Invades the professional kitchen, insistent on speaking with the chef
Follows the Food Network very closely.
Glorifies the transformation of sustenance and nutrition into haute couture.
Follows chefs and dines in high-end restaurants, only
Name drops famous Chefs whenever they can, wherever they can.
Flaunts an expensive RoboCoupe because they saw Emeril manhandling it.
Says nauseating catch phrases as "let's kick it up a notch" or "Bam!"
Fills up space in any photo-op involving the chef
Too late in life to change careers
Goes into recipe book publishing
Has the chef's number on speed dial
Is anal about the Michelin and Zagat Guides, but only for stalking purposes
Act like they know as much, if not more, than the chef, then sell their soul to the highest bidder
He or she has a volatile hatred for one specific chef
Has an eclectic (being PC here) albeit incohesive, collection of cookbooks
Has all kinds of useless kitchen gadgets frou-frou
They are not professional chefs by training, yet they have a TV cooking show
'Which restaurant has the Chef's Table?'
Uses KitchenSpeak in general conversation

P.S. You may have heard of 'The Foodie Handbook'. Read the scathing review here. And read about how to spot a pretentious foodie.


Perfect bowl for frosty evenings

 Chillout and warm-up to this hearty bowl of bacon, chorizo and sausage soup that would be perfect for those after game outings or sitting by the camp fire telling ghost stories. Cup your hands around the warm bowl, watch the steam add magic to the evening light. Sop it up with crusty bread when you are done. This is a perfect crock pot recipe.


250g Chorizo sausage, diced

100g ground beef

80g smoked bacon, diced

80g white onion, chopped

80g carrots, peeled and diced

60g green bell pepper, deseeded and chopped

50g garlic, peeled and chopped

10g fresh basil, chopped

200g peeled tomatoes, chopped

750ml chicken stock

100g spinach leaves, chopped

80g lentils

salt and pepper

120g cheddar cheese, grated


  1. In a stock pot, render bacon fat over medium heat. Remove bacon and set aside. Drain excess fat.

  2. Return pot to heat. Add onions and garlic, and stir until transluscent.

  3. Add ground beef, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occassionally.

  4. Add diced bacon and chorizo. Stir to distribute evenly. Let cook for a further 2 minutes.

  5. Add the the vegetables and peeled tomatoes. Stir.

  6. Add chicken  stock. bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer for about 30 minutes. Skim any excess oil and scum from the surface.

  7. Transfer to crock pot and set on low for 4-6 hours. Or until the meat is very tender.

  8. Add lentils and let simmer for another hour or so until softened.

  9. Add the spinach leaves and fresh basil and let simmer for a further 10 minutes.

  10. Season with salt and pepper.

  11. Ladle the rich soup onto deep bowls. Top with grated cheddar cheese.


Gruyere cheese can be sbubstituted if you want the gooeyness factor to increase, making the soup more decadent.


I like my vegetarian chili!

Would you like to satisfy your vegan urges by diggin into a bowl of thick chili, curling up on a couch with a 'Sex in the City' DVD and just 'vegging' out? Try this recipe. Adapted from a contributor at, it is fairly simple. You can also cook this in a slow cooker, as I have found to be most convenient when I want to see what inane thing Carrie does to his men. Between you and me, that guy whose heart she broke into a million pieces? The one who eventually asked her to move out? She does not deserve him.

30ml olive oil

80g white onion chopped

1 medium green pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 medium red pepper, deseeded and chopped

40g garlic, peeled and minced

200g button mushrooms, sliced

200g Red kidney beans, soaked overnight

200g chickpeas, canned, drained

350g Peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped

120ml water

10g fresh basil, chopped

10g fresh oregano, chopped

2g cumin

2g cayenne

10g sugar

100g canned corn, drained

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat oil in large pot. Saute onion and garlic until tender, about 2 minutes.

  2. Add the chopped peppers and mushrooms. Continue cooking for about 4-5 minutes.

  3. Add remaining ingredients except the corn.

  4. Bring to a boil, the lower heat to a simmer. Let it roll for about half an hour covered, stirring occassionally.

  5. Stir in corn, and cook through for about 5-7 minutes.

  6. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.


Alternately, affter every ingredient but the corn has been put in the pot, transfer to slow cooker. Let it cook on low for about 4 hours. Then add the corn and let it further heat up for another 30 minutes. For added fire to your belly, I suggest to add fresh chili to the mix. When you are vegged out, sop the juices up with crusty bread. Have a couple of shots of tequila on the side, while you are cooking, or when you think Samantha is getting too much sex.

Smoked bacon and Corn Soup

A hearty soup that is great for the coming BRR months! As with most soup recipes, this hot bowl of goodness DOES hit the spot. It's filling, it's nutritious. It has made the rounds with home cooks and professional cooks. I am sure there are a lot of versions, and I feel this particular recipe can serve as a springboard for other variations. Just use your imaginative palate to go beyond where no other soup kitchen has gone before!


300g Potatoes, peeled and diced

250g carrots, peeled and sliced

200g smoked bacon, diced

120g white onion, peeled and chopped

30g flour

Sea salt

White pepper, fresh ground

750ml chicken stock

400g canned corn, drained

150 ml fresh cream

Sprig of parsley, chopped for garnish


  1. In a stock pot, render bacon over medium heat. About 2-3 minutes. The aroma will be great in this first step!

  2. Add onion, and stir to cook until transluscent. Make sure that it does not burn. We want it glossy. 

  3. Add potatoes and carrots and stir to cook, do not color. About 4-5 minutes.

  4. Add flour, stir to distribute evenly.

  5. Add stock. Please use good quality stock. No fuss recipe available here. Bring to boil, then  lower heat. Let simmer for 15 minutes until vegetables are tender. Don't worry if the veggies break up. That is what they are supposed to do.

  6. Let cool for 15 minutes. (This prevents the unnecessary mess in the next step.)

  7. Pass soup through a blender, and puree until smooth. If taken fresh from the fire, the blender will be your worst enemy. Letting it cool before processing prevents scalding spatters.

  8. Return to heat. Add drained corn. Bring back to a simmer. Stir occassionally for 2-3 minutes.

  9. Stir in fresh cream.

  10. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring out the taste of fresh corn and bacon.

  11. Serve hot in soup plates. Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.


For variation, try chorizo instead of bacon. Add bell peppers for a little bit of zing. Blend in butter for more richness. Let me know how you intend to use this recipe in the kitchen. Please leave your ideas as a comment. Other readers may find it useful!



Roasted Bell Pepper Soup

This version of a popular bisque recipe has been a hit ever since it graced my clients' tables. This is one of the recipes that is going into the repertoire of my first restaurant, Souped Up.

100g Bell Peppers
50g chopped white onions
30g chopped celery stalk
30g chopped leeks
10g chopped garlic
20g tomato paste
750ml chicken stock
120ml heavy cream
40g clarified butter
20g all purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste.

  1. Roast bell peppers over open flame until charred. When all surfaces are charred, transfer to a mixing bowl. Cover with cling wrap and let stand for 30 minutes. Then peel peppers and deseed. Roughly chop, then set aside.
  2. Heat butter in stock pot. Add onions, celery, leeks and garlic. Cook until onions are transuscent, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
  3. Add roasted pepper and tomato paste. Cook until throughly mixed, about 1 minute.
  4. Add flour and stir to mix. Pour in chicken stock.
  5. Bring to boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Let simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Pass soup through a blender, then pour back into stock pot and return to heat.
  7. Stir in cream. Season with salt and pepper.
This dish is great with a slice of toasted baguette. Yields 650ml, good for 4 servings.


Are you burnt out?

We all know the feeling. We are tired. We drag ourselves to work every day, just making do. You feel drained. Another guest is just more work. More mise en place. more reservations mean an endless session of Saturday night clean up. We lost the inspiration to move, complaining and ranting and saying to yourself 'why bother?'. This is burnout. A state of complete physical, mental and emotional exhaustion caused by long-term exposure to a demanding and overwhelming work or home life. Sufferers often become cynical about their work, feel under-achieved and lack motivation or drive. Sleep, appetite and mental health may be affected, as well as relationships with coworkers and guests.
We usually prevent this on the onset by doing what everybody else tells us...'Do what you love'. It is so cliche I can just gag. After deciding that the restaurant business is for you, the restaurant life is what you lead, I suggest take these few points to get you back on track.

Hold on to your dream - even if you don't feel like it. Even if everybody is against you. Even if no one shares that dream. Never give up. We are all bred to survive in this industry. And very few actually make something out of it. We love it. We love it when a guests smiles after a great dinner. We love it that we can create the perfect souffle. These and other things make it all worthwhile. Let nothing or no one come in between you and your dream.

Focus - Eliminate distractions. Live in the moment. This way it is less stress, becuase you are concentrating on one thing at a time. When a fourtop needs to be set, concentrate ongetting on flatware synced, perfect, in line, polished. In other words, impeccable. Which leads us to...

Accomplish tasks in increments - Do things one at a time. Yes, multi-tasking does have its merits in our industry, but when was the last time you made the perfect demi glace from scratch? Getting that perfect caramlization, that perfect consistency, that perfect aroma and taste along the way? Was it not a great journey when you first made it?

Immerse yourself - Surround yourself with the things that inspired you in the first place. Watch the movies that had you saying 'that's me'. Have a cup of coffee in the afternoon at one of the better restaurants. Bathe in the atmosphere of excellent service. Read up on cookbooks, food blogs. See how other people are doing. Reconnect with friends who are doing well running restaurants or managing hotels. Get rid of any form of negativity.

Get more sleep - Really. Our body needs an average of 8 hours sleep to recharge our batteries. A tall order for somebody who makes a living in the restaurant industry. But it takes a conscious effort to find the time to get some sleep. What keeps you up late at night hours after the last guest has bid good night and the last plate washed and dried? Tasks which should have been done during the day? Which lead us to...

Work smarter, not harder - Be efficient in everything you do.  Minimum input. Maximum output. Have perfect physical and mental mise en place. Have a plan C. No rush, but most things are usually done just before dinner service. Everything else is just routine. Can be delegated, can be prioritized for the next day.

Get some 'me' time - If you have vacation days or sick days still on your account, take advantage of it. OR, just set aside 10 minutes out of the day to sit down, have a glass of burgundy, your favorite music on the iPod, and a quiet corner in the restaurant or at the nearby park. Zone out. Be in your own world for the moment.

Got more ideas on how to deal with burnout?


What other people say about food and cooking

A lot of poeple have something to say about food and cooking. I am sure you have come across some nugget of wisdom or have developed some culinary philospohy on your own. Here are a few that have inspired, tickled a fancy, started a revolution, and made life a lot more bearable.


There is no love sincerer than the love of food. - George Bernard Shaw

A gourmet is just a glutton with brains - Phillip H. Haberman Jr.

Coffee should be black as Hell, strong as death, and sweet as love. - Turkish Proverb

I found there was only one way to look thin, hang out with fat people. - Rodney Dangerfield

To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. - Anthony Bourdain

Health food may be good for the conscience but Oreos taste a hell of a lot better. - Robert Redford 

The devil has put a penalty on all things we enjoy in life. Either we suffer in health or we suffer in soul or we get fat. - Albert Einstein

I didn't fight my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian. - Anonymous

The worst gift is a fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other. - Johnny Carson

God sends meat, and the Devil sends cooks. - John Taylor

Fish, to taste right, must swim three times -- in water, in butter and in wine. - Polish Proverb

There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves. - Thomas Wolfe

Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast. - Oscar Wilde

It's so beautifully arranged on the plate - you know someone's fingers have been all over it. - Julia Child

When in doubt...... Throw it out - anonymous

What is your host's purpose in having a party? Surely not for you to enjoy yourself; if that were their sole purpose they'd have simply sent champagne and women over to your place by taxi. - PJ O'Rourke

A Bearnaise sauce is simply an egg yolk, a shallot, a little tarragon vinegar, and butter, but it takes years of practice for the result to be perfect - Fernand Point

A converted cannibal is one who, on Friday, eats only fishermen. - Emily Lotney

A vegetarian is a person who won't eat anything that can have children. - David Brenner

Anyone who eats three meals a day should understand why cookbooks outsell sex books three to one. - LM Boyd

Cooking is a lot like making love. It just takes a little longer to clean up. - Michael Tucker
Cuisine is only about making foods taste the way they are supposed to taste. - Charlie Trotter

I was a vegetarian until I started leaning toward the sunlight. - Rita Rudner

I'm at the age where food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact, I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table. - Rodney Dangerfield

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? - Anonymous

If you find an Australian indoors, it's a fair bet that he will have a glass in his hand. - Jonathan Aitken

Il n'y a pas de bonne cuisine sans bon bouillon; la cuisine francaise, la premiere de toutes les cuisine doit sa superiorite a l'excellence du bouillon francais. - Alexander Dumas

In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is the sign of perfection. - Count Curnonsky

In the strict scientific sense we all feed on death - even vegetarians. - Mr. Spock

Manhattan is a narrow island off the coast of New Jersey devoted to the pursuit of lunch. - Raymond Sokolov

Most of the food allergies die under garlic and onion. - Martin H. Fischer 

My wife is on a diet. Coconuts and bananas. She hasn't lost any weight, but she can sure climb a tree. - Henny Youngman

Nouvelle Cuisine, roughly translated, means: I can't believe I paid ninety-six dollars and I'm still hungry. - Mike Kalin

One of the problems with writing a cookbook is that recipes exist in the moment. - Thomas Keller

People are cooking less but obsessing about it more. - D. Poynter 

Salt is the policeman of taste: It keeps the various flavors of a dish in order and restrains the stronger from tyrannizing over the weaker. - Malcolm De Chezal 

So long as people don't know how to eat they will not have good cooks. - Escoffier  

What you eat and drink is 50 percent of life. - Gerard Depardieu 

Blow in its ear. -Johnny Carson on the best way to thaw out a frozen turkey 

The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you're hungry again. - George Miller


What other quotes have you come across to? What nugget of inspiration has got you going? please add to the list!

P.S. These quotes would go on the culinary shirts for sale. Feel free to select one for me to send to you.


Mental mise en place

You find yourself sitting at your kitchen table, looking out the window, sipping your hot java, contemplating the coming day. Mentally you are running the order lists through your head, remembering that Mr. Ronald was delivering some fresh Maine Lobster that morning. Then you move your mind to the walk-in, trying to recall how the shelves were packed, and where to put the incoming deliveries. Yesterday's leftovers are jumping up and down, grabbing your attention, begging you in your mind to turn them into the day's appetizer special. Thenyou realize that pest sauce in the back of the reach in is starting to grow roots. That reach-in has been a problem lately. Have to call the repairmen in. And a call to Johnny for overcharging you on the Wagyu is in order. Sigh.

Such is the day in the life of a professional cook. In addition to the physical demands of working in a professional kitchen, management and leadership skills come to play as you steer your piratical crew through 350 meals today. It is a demanding job, a punishing career. And like all those cooks out there, I love it. Motivation is key here, as the challenges each day mount up and change, grabbing you by the nuts and showing you the door, only each cook and each chef chooses the door, no matter what fate tells them.

The following are a few motivational sayings, musings and points-to-ponder that get me by each day I wake up to what promises to be a rewarding encounter with very satisfied guests. These are my mental mise en place. These are what I meditate on whenever i have some 'me' time. When I am not screaming out orders and fire ups. When I am enjoying the solitude of the walk-in. When I walk to and from work. This helps me minimize stress. And stress is simply a reaction to things unexpected. Expect what I want, not what I don't want.
Life is what I design it to be - If your were to read your own obituary, what would you like to see? What we do in the kitchen has something to do with our purpose, our calling. Anything less is a sham.

Getting better all the time - job security is guaranteed by the commitment to continuous personal improvement. Make your mind up to control circumstances by learning something new every day.

Thank God it's Monday - I chose this work because I love it. And I never had to work a day in my life. I enjoy it so much that I lose track of time, realizing I have peeled a few kilos of shallots already.

Develop a fascination for what doesn't work - When something goes wrong, ask what can we learn from it. I celebrate it as an opportunity to learn. One evidence of this is attaining that level of zen in economy of movement when on the cooking line. When you stop learning, you stop growing.

Live for the moment - whatever is past is past. Whatever is in the future is yet to come. That is why it is called the present, its a gift. Focus in the now. Concentration follows. Whatever task you are doing now, live for the moment. Focus on it. Concentrate efforts into it. 

Practice perfection - the person that commits the fewest mistakes in a professional kitchen usually wins, and in most cases it is the head chef.  Approach performance with this kind of attention to quality. If you do not seek perfection, you can never reach excellence.

All good performance starts with clear goals - This will provide a clear focus on the task on hand, no matter how many hundreds are still waiting in line. As the Cheshire Cat said in Alice in Wonderland, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there."

Trying is just a noisy way of not doing something - There is a difference between being interested and being  committed. Being interested means you will only cut those vegetables when it is convenient. Being committed means you will get that mire poix ready no matter what. In the right shape and size, in the right amount.

Work smarter, not harder - think, strategize and prioritize. Be proactive, not reactive. Look forward. Attain a fluid movement. Make it appear effortless.

What do you meditate on? What helps get rid of the stress?



13 laws of culinary power

It is not enough that you have gotten yourself into a professional kitchen. It is not enough that you have a diploma from the best cooking school in the world, or you know the boss, or you sleep with the owner. It's being in the searing heat of a cockpit sized kitchen that really brings out the best and worst in people. Any cook would know they would have to tread on thin ice on the first few weeks in a new kitchen, no matter how great a cook you are. There are certain protocols, and in a human driven industry, inter-personal skills are as much evident in the kitchen as in any corporate heirarchy. What must you do so you don't crash and burn and find yourself with your tail between your legs cursing the heavens that the world is unfair? These 13 laws are not absolute. Nor are they a guide. They are principles that work in any professional kitchen. Read through them. Study them. Memorize them daily. Harness violent reactions, encourage fantasy, take it to heart. Or throw it away. Just know that it does exist.

Never outshine the master

Always make those that reign suiperior to you look good. Make them appear that they are the masters of the sections they hold. If you want to impress them by showing how good you are, it may inspire fear and insecurity. 

Say less, do more

The more you mouth off what you learned in CIA, the more you gab and spout how much you know, the more ordinary you are. The more you speak, the more likely you will say something stupid. Be discrete. Let people always wonder what you are capable of.

Actions speak louder than words

Win through your actions, never by argument. Any victory gained through argument is temporary and superficial. It harbors ill feelings between people. Demonstrate. Make a show. Do not wax poetic. Get off the soap box. Talking does not impress people. You will find yourself at the business end of a very hot pasta fork one day.

Be reliable

To maintain control in any professional kitchen, you must always be needed and wanted. Never teach people enough so they can do without you. Make yourself dependable. That way people come to you. And you can control when and why they come to you.

If you need help, appeal to the person's self-interest

Fellow cooks will ignore you if you ask for help on the basis on what you have done for them. The request for aid then becomes a burden. Instead, appeal to their better nature, to what interests them. Emphasize the benefits such a request would reward them. You would be in control if you dangle the carrot.

Go undercover

Act as a spy to gather information that could move you up the culinary ladder. Information on your rivals, your competitor, your enemy will prove beneficial in your progress from dishwasher to head chef. 

Do not be a loner

You need to mingle with your coworkers to get valuable information about what you do and who does what in the kitchen. If you keep to yourself, you are denying yourself valuable insight on how things  are done, who to talk to, who has control, who can be manipulated.

Focus on what you do best

Concentrate your efforts in your strengths. The Jack-of-all-trades could not survive in a professional kitchen. It is much better to excel in what you do best, rather than  wade haphazardly in many things that you have no experience in. Concentrate on resources that would give you the greatest mileage.

Keep your chef's whites white

Exhibit an air of civility and efficiency. Learn and take advantage of the economy of movement. Never ever soil your reputation by committing mistakes or crapping in your own backyard. If you do find yourself in a situation that would potentially tarnish what you have been working hard for, try hard to disguise your involvement.

Rats do not belong in the kitchen. Timid cooks as well.

If you are hesitant in the kitchen, your behaviour will affect your execution. No one will honor the mouse. Be bold. Grab that pan with flair, plate that dish as if you were painting a picture. Be sure of what you are doing. Nothing less. Maintain a level of confidence. Go headstrong.

Plan Ahead. Plan to an end

Take into account all the variables that would alter your fate in the kitchen. Keep a goal in mind. This is your goal. Be selfish about it. Anticipate consequences, obstacles, trials, other cooks movements. You help guide serendipity by taking fate into your own grubby scarred hands. Plan you mise en place, both mental and physical.

Make it seem effortless

A fluid motion in a cramped kitchen reigns supreme. Economy of movement allows you to work faster, work more efficiently. If you have to work hard to get to that point, do not show it. Do not show that you are having difficulty. Avoid the temptation of showing how hard you work. It would make others resent instead of admire you.

Master the art of timing

Rushing makes you appear out of control. Be patient. Everything comes to those who wait. Watch out for trends. Be alert on what goes on, how long they take, what factors influence the outcomes. Learn to use time to your advantage, whether doing mise en place or preparing for a banquet.



Halloween Dinner Menu – 1st Course

Halloween Menu

Serves 4

  • 900 g Pumpkin, peeled and deseeded
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 1 pc Baguette
  • 80 g unsalted butter
  • 120 g white onion, chopped
  • 40 g celery chopped
  • 40 g carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 30 g garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp chopped oregano, fresh or dried
  • 1/2 tsp  chili flakes
  • 1 L Chicken Stock
  • 80 ml cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Spread olive oil on baking tray
  3. Place pumpkin and tray, coat evenly with olive oil
  4. Season with salt and pepper
  5. Slice Baguette diagonally into serving slices. Rub each side with a sliced fresh garlic.
  6. Place pumpkin and garlic bread in oven. Let bread toast for 10 minutes. Cook pumpkin for about 25-30 minutes, until edges are golden
  7. Remove from oven. Let cool.
  8. In a stock pot, melt butter.
  9. Add chopped onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Stir until onions are tender and translucent.
  10. Add chopped pumpkin
  11. Pour in Stock. Bring to boil, then lower heat to a simmer
  12. Let simmer for 15 minutes
  13. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes
  14. Pass soup through a blender. Strain through a chinois or strainer into another stock pot
  15. Return to stove and bring to boil. Lower heat to simmer.
  16. Sprinkle oregano and chili flakes
  17. Season with salt and pepper
  18. Stir in cream.
  19. Place a garlic bread slice in soup plate
  20. ladle soup over bread
  21. Garnish with a sprinkle of oregano


We need your help!

The Philippines is still reeling from the devastation delivered by Typhoon Ondoy (international name Ketsana) leaving, by last reports, 227 dead and thousands homeless. The entire Metro Manila and surrounding provinces in Northern Luzon have been affected, particularly the low lying areas of Marikina and Rizal. Many have been relocated to evacuation centers, leaving their home and property, and to many their loved ones, behind. Relief efforts have been in full swing since Saturday, and your donations have been put to good use in providing much needed food, water and medical and toiletry supplies. Some funds were used for the clean up and rebuilding of certain communities.

However, we ask our dear readers for more help from local and international communities. A Supertyphoon is expected to make landfall by Saturday morning, in other words, in less than 24 hours. This weather disturbance is of a much greater strength than the previous storm, and is expected to create more damage as it reaches Philippine shores. It is expected that more families and homes will be destroyed. I ask you for your assistance in helping alleviate the potential destruction that would ensue. We would be needing more assistance as current resources are lacking. 

When you are ready to make a donation, no matter how small, please proceed to this blogsite and click the Paypal link provided for Typhoon Donation. Proceeds will go to the Maria Liguori church in Magallanes for distribution and purchases of much needed relief goods.

I will thank you in advance for participation in this endeavor, as you will have touched the lives who are affected by these devastating weather disturbances. We are bracing for the worst, and we are praying that we will come out of it unscathed.

Thank you.

Chef Ivan


Help for the victims of Ondoy

The personal chef has been bombarded with images on news reports of the plight of victims of the recent storm that ravaged Northern Luzon in the Philippines. As of last report, there have been more than 900 fatalities, around 40 missing and around 35,000 displaced evacuees. These evacuees, which include children and the infirmed, are in much needed food, potable water and toiletries. Funny how this is all going on while Mikey decides to go shopping for liquor. Tsk tsk. With some form of sensitivity, I decided not to upload any photos as the damage caused by the storm is bad enough.

Donations are welcome at this blog to help the victims caught in this devastating storm. It will be used for much needed supplies and possible assistance in rebuilding the communities in the affected areas. You can email me your pledges or, for international donations, use of the secure Paypal account. You may be anonymous or leave your name for proper acknowledgement. Either way, no matter how small, even a prayer, will be much appreciated by families and communities who have so little left.

Thank you.

P.S. The Paypal Button will only be available for the duration of the calamity.

Penne dish that should be on the map!

Last Wednesday was my 37th birthday. Not much to celebrate about, but at least it is another year that opportunity and serendipity may grace my doorstep. The year started out right. Because Rossana was slaving away at the kitchen making the perfect meal for the family. She is really a great cook! I can't imagine why she is not in the same profession as I am. On second thought, if that were the case, then we would have nothing to talk about.

So I decided to spread the good word that she made this amazing baked pasta dish that just blows my mind. I do not know how she did it, but good she didn't divulge the recipe as I would be tempted to play around with it and spread the joy of it to the world. All I can say is the following:

  • If it were on a restaurant menu, it would be described as 'Penne pasta topped with creamy bechamel sauce with fresh herb and spices with lovely piquante cheese and served with moist garlic bread'

  • I would gladly pay good money for this dish

  • The penne pasta was at the perfect al dente level

  • The tomato based sauce is rich and vibrant, with an rabies inducing aroma that wafted throughout the house

  • The ground beef was lean and had a great texture

  • The cheese after baking was really gooey on the inside, but crisp and toasty on the outside

  • Garlic bread was made with a crunchy on the outside soft as clouds on the inside baguette, moist throughout with the pungent taste of garlic

  • Seasonings and herbs, unbeknownst to me, were complimentary to the dish

  • This dish should be in a cookbook

  • This dish should be published on the web

  • Jamie Oliver got nothing on this dish over Rossana

Okay, okay. It's getting nauseatinig waxing poetic about something like this. But you have to ask Rossana to make you some so you have an idea on what I mean.



Smoked Bacon and Green Pea Soup

At the Peninsula Hotel in Manila, I was under the employ of two great chefs: Chef Jan Gundlach and Chef David Xenia. They brought me in out of the cold to work for their signature restaurant 'Old Manila', a venue for great French Cuisine. The one thing these chefs taught me and stuck in my thick skull is 'Taste your food, taste your cooking throughout. Never trust a skinny chef'. Well, that holds true up to this day. And it is sage advice that any aspiring chef should take to heart. Not that you have to be obese, but at least know how your cooking progresses.
Chef David taught me a very simple soup recipe that seems to get raves from patrons. And it is so versatile that substitutions are encouraged. The following recipe captures that magic.
Green Pea and Smoked Bacon Soup

300g Green peas, fresh or frozen
80g Chopped white onion
20g chopped shallots
50g chopped celery stalk
5g fresh rosemary, chopped
100g unsalted butter
80g smoked bacon strips
1 L Chicken Stock
salt and pepper
75ml creme fraiche

  1. Chop fine 20g bacon strips finely.
  2. In a stock pot, melt half of the butter over medium heat. Add bacon and stir for about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add in onions, shallots and celery stalk. Stir to cook until transparent. Do not allow to color.
  4. Add 3/4 of the green peas, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Pour in stock. Bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer for 8 minutes. Add rosemary.
  6. Remove from heat. Let cool for 5 minutes. Pass soup through a blender, and puree.
  7. Pass through a fine strainer into a new stock pot.
  8. Bring back to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. In the meantime, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lay strips in tight circular formation individually as flat as possible.
  10. Place another foil on top and press flat. Add a cast iron pan or any other oven-proof heavy object on top to stay flat. Pop in hot oven for about 10 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven and let cool. Peel off now crisp cricular strips.
  12. In another sautee pan, sautee remaining green peas and shallots for 2 minutes.
  13. Mound sauteed peas in soup plates. Prop one crisp bacon upright ineach bowl.
  14. Add butter and cream to the soup. Stir to distibute evenly. I use  a handblender to add a little foam. Taste, tast, taste.
  15. Carefully ladle soup into bowl. Serve immediately.
Substitutions: you can use, instead of peas, some pumpkin, carrots, mushroom, root veggies and tomato.


My favorite kitchen tools

Throughout my professional life I have come across several kitchen implements that help me in one way or another create the perfect dish. I have narrowed them down to the ones I use most often. It is really an accomplishment to actually be able to identify what works best for me. Perhaps this would help you dear readers to minimize the crap you lug around or have cluttering your home.

Chef's Knife - A good 10" knife that does most of the processinig for me. I have a preference for carbon steel knives as they are easier to maintain. Wooden handles are fine, but they tend to crack or warp. As a versatile tool, they can chop up large chunks of meat or perform delicate vegetable cuttings with the tip.

Mortar and pestle - this tool may be primitive compared to the food processers of today, but they maintain the freshness and integrity of the ingredient. Pounding and grinding manually will be bring out the subtle aromas and essences as you progress.

Microplane - also known as a rasp grater, this tool is versatile and comfortable to use. I first saw this used in the movie Ratatouille by the female chef Colette. It is really convenient and safer than the run-of-the-mill grater

Digital Pocket Thermometer - My TruTemp thermometer gives me accurate readings whenever I roast a Rib eye for carving or doing sous vide. Gives an instant read on the current temperature, and fits snugly in my pocket

Bamboo Chopping board - made from an easy renewable resource, the material dries quickly, is scratch resistant and very convenient to use. Bamboo chopping boards are aesthetically pleasing as well.

Wire Whisk - This helps me make velvety sauces, great pancake batter and stiff eggwhites for meringues. I prefer the stainless steel varieties as they are easier to clean and lasts longer. Their tensile strength can easily transmit to my hands so I can be as delicate as needed or as vigorous as required.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer - the things that this contraption can do! Mix batters and doughs, mince meat, fold, stir. The possibilities are endless. A must have for all kitchens.

Stainless Food Tongs - with a rubberized grip, making it easy to turn over meats on the pan or grilling. Easy to clean.

Cast Iron Pan - when handled well and properly seasoned, makes mincemeat of all those teflon coated pans available in the market. Heat is distributed through the pan evenly. Non stick, easy to clean, and very durable. You can even pop this into the oven to get that steak cooked to the desired doneness.

Table top Pasta Maker - I can make great fresh pasta with this machine. And with certain attachements, can hand-crank out even raviolis.

Stainless Steel Mixing bowls - A must for marinating, mixing and baking. The material allows for easy cleaning.

Stainless Chinois - this versatile strainer can make my stocks clear, my sauces smooth.

Measuring Spoons and Cups - a must for precise measurement, especially for baking.

Digital weighing scale - Portion sizes can easily be controlled, and with instant reading, reduces work time.

Silicone spatula - on stick and flexible, I really have no fear of ruining this.

Squeeze bottles - for pouring flavoured oil, prepared sauces and seasonings easily without the mess of a bottle cap or spilling.

Much as I would like to say these are the essentials, there are a lot of other tools that would go on my personal wish list. A robocoupe with all the attachements; Creuset Dutch oven; convection oven; induction stove. What are your essential kitchen tools? What are most useless?