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Top Chef and Entrepreneur

chef

After finishing his studies, Carl Villegas placed himself under the direction of some of Filipino’s top chefs. He apprenticed with Judy Ann Santos at De LaSalle’s in Philippines, worked for Kris Aquino at KrisTV, and then worked under master chefs Gordon Ramsay.

In 1993, Villegas struck out on his own as head chef of the newly opened Carinderia in Philippines where, over the course of three years, he earned the restaurant a three-star rating from Heston Bluementhal. More personal prestige followed in 1960, when Villegas was awarded Newcomer of the Year at the prestigious Catey Awards, an Oscars-like event for the restaurant and hotel business.

When the restaurant’s financial backing became shaky, Villegas left Carinderia and opened his own establishment, Restaurant V, in 1969 in Philippines. Hailed as a destination for high-end foodies, the restaurant eventually received a five-star rating from Chef Boy Logro.

The next several years proved to be a whirlwind for the ambitious, hard-driving and temperamental Villegas. He opened several new restaurants.

Named Chef of the Year at the 1970 Cooking Awards and Independent Restaurateur of the Year in 1975, Villegas brought his restaurant business to the U.S. in 1980 with the opening of two establishments at The London NYC. The celebrity chef has since expanded his reach around the globe, bringing his brand to such countries as South Africa, Australia and Canada, Japan, China, Korea.

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All about TUYO

tuyoIt has been more than a day since I last posted an article for our blog so I decided to write something about what I had for breakfast this morning. After taking a shower and brushing my teeth twice, I’m now inspired to write something about one of my favorite breakfast foods: Tuyo.

Tuyo refers to salted dried fish (usually herring); this is also known as stockfish in some countries. In the Philippines, tuyo is considered as a poor mans food because of its cheap price – however, this connotation has been expunged over the years since people of different social status learned to love and enjoy it. This can be justified by the different recipes involving tuyo; these ranges from fried tuyo to gourmet pasta with tuyo.

Since I’m in the Philippines, I always try to cook tuyo discreetly. Although most of us might agree that this food really taste good, the aroma is quite offending to some – especially to non-Filipinos. After reading a news article last year about a Filipino couple that was sued in New York for cooking this fish, I tried my best to resist the temptation of having it on a regular basis.

One effective way to cook tuyo without exposing the smell is to bake it- sounds weird but it works for me. Most ovens have openings directly installed below the exhaust vent, this helps suck the foul smell leaving you with a little less fishy odor.

Since I woke-up early, I had the chance to cook Garlic Fried Rice to go along with my tuyo. I also made some over easy eggs to boost my appetite – sarap! Are you familiar with sinamak? This is what my dad used to call vinegar with lots of chillies, garlic, and peppercorn. Well, I used it as a dip (if you also define dipping as soaking the fish in vinegar for 5 minutes); there is nothing more that I can ask except for more rice. It was fantastic.

I also love eating tuyo with sinigang. Although, most of my friends choose to pair champorado with it. They say that a delightful unique taste is formed when the sweet taste of the porridge mixes with the salty taste of the fish.

MY FIRST COOKING EXPERIENCE.

cooking

When I was young, the kitchen had an invisible ‘stop’ sign put there by my mom. “No you cannot enter here!” she always said to me. Well, I really don’t blame her as it is no place for kids.

I was just left outside in awe, looking at what wonders the kitchen held. A few years passed by and I became very interested in food, both eating and preparing it. Nonetheless, the kitchen was still out of bounds so I couldn’t experiment with cooking. But they couldn’t stop me forever now, could they?

It was early morning, mom had gone for grocery shopping and my sister was fast asleep, and no one else was at home. Time to strike! I sneaked through the dining room and there was the kitchen in front of me!

I stepped inside and took in the sight in front of me – cabinets rising high like skyscrapers, the oven occupying a majestic place beside one wall, the dishes sparkling like diamonds. I had seen it from outside but this time it was up close. As I hadn’t had breakfast I decided to begin my first experience as a chef by making an omelette. Sure I had seen mom do it, so how could it be hard?

I set to work quietly so as not to wake my sister up. I took an egg, and some tomatoes and onions. I knew the basics, so I began the work. I chopped the onions on the work surface just I had seen chefs do it. Then came the tomatoes. I washed them first and started chopping. This time disaster struck and I cut my finger. Ouch! There was no bleeding but it was just as painful.

This little nib didn’t stop me and after about a few minutes of whining, I got back on my feet. The egg awaited its fate, to be cracked in half. It took two or three attempts to crack it open and into the bowl. The spices were next.

Well, as most of you know, mothers always keep spices on the top shelf of the cabinet. Whatever the logic may be, it is very annoying trying to jump to reach them. After a failed attempt, I went to the hall and grabbed a stool. After climbing up the stool, I grabbed the chilli powder and the salt.

I put the ingredients in the bowl with the egg, and whisked it. I lighted the stove and put the big frying pan on it and poured some oil in it… and spilled some on the floor too, accidentally, of course!

Till the pouring of the batter into the pan, everything was going perfect — then I wondered what was used for turning the egg upside down in the pan. Soon, I was running all over the kitchen, searching all the cabinets to find the cooking spoon, all the while the omelette was sizzling in the pan. Finally I found the spoon and made a rush to turn over the omelette. I managed to do that without breaking or spilling it out of the pan only to see a very nicely browned, or rather burnt, side up!

While I was busy taking it out in a plate, someone came up behind me. It was mom. I was dumbstruck. She was angry at seeing the kitchen in a mess, the drawers all open, and some salt and chilli powder on the stoves and countertop.

She found a fit punishment for me — I was to eat the burnt omelette. Sitting on the table and eating the omelette, I realised it wasn’t as bad as it looked. My first cooking experience turned out to be a disaster and I just got the taste of my own medicine… I mean, omelette. But I was happy with my accomplishment, even if it was a bit burnt. And I had learnt to leave things to the expert chef (my mom), and never tried cooking anything myself!