A les­son on spon­tane­ity from a gra­cious host

As Julie Ale­grado proves, the ba­sic prin­ci­ple of host­ing is to let spon­tane­ity have its way

Cebu Living - - Front Page - JULIE ALE­GRADO

“I have crazy friends, so we nor­mally have crazy din­ners,” says Julie Ale­grado, once she’s done set­ting up a ta­ble where im­mac­u­late white touches meet na­tive ornaments, the ar­range­ment be­tray­ing none of the may­hem she has just im­plied.

At the Blue­wa­ter Marib­ago Beach Re­sort, which Ale­grado helms, the din­ing ta­ble with a view of clear wa­ters, par­tially veiled by thin white cur­tains, may well be your clas­sic car­i­ca­ture of calm. She protests, how­ever. “It isn’t usu­ally like this. Nor­mally, it’s crazy. It’s just le­chon in the mid­dle and we [ eat with] our fin­gers,” she says, laugh­ing. From her un­usual food pair­ings to her spon­ta­neous din­ners by the sand bar, Ale­grado’s charm lies in her can­dor and her pen­chant for all things crazy.

What do you mean when you say you want to be the am­bas­sador of what Filipinos are all about?

If you’re fa­mil­iar with the John en

Marsha se­ries, John and Marsha would give up their bed­room [ when they have peo­ple over]. John would sleep on top of the re­frig­er­a­tor be­cause they’d given up their bed for their guest. That’s very Filipino for me. [ Here at the re­sort,] we do all to make sure that Filipinos are com­fort­able. Filipino is ev­ery­thing from how we treat our guest to how we love our chil­dren.

How of­ten do you host din­ners?

Nor­mally, my host­ing is done by the beach. We take out boats and go to a sand bar. We’d have a feast on the boat— a boo­dle on the boat! The le­chon will be the cen­ter­piece. We’d jump into the wa­ter, swim, go back, and have some more food. That’s how I host nor­mally. You can get this [ usual ta­ble set­ting] in Manila and any­where else, but if you take guests to a sand bar, on a boat, with a boo­dle where you eat with your fin­gers, that’s an ex­pe­ri­ence they won’t forget in a long, long time.

And you pre­pare cham­pagne there like you do here?

Yes, of course! I bring a lot of cham­pagne. That’s my drink of choice. Cham­pagne, bub­bly—I like Hava. I like wines [too]. My fa­vorite now are the Bordeaux wines.

You said you don’t really cook. Do you get some­one to plan the menu?

I don’t cook, but I do play around in the kitchen some­times if I’m in the mood. I in­vented—well, I thought I in­vented it— the chocoron, which is chocolate-cov­ered chicharon. [It came about when] I [was eat­ing the] chicharon in a buf­fet and then started eat­ing the chocolate cake with it, and it tasted so good! I called my pas­try chef and said, “Can we put th­ese two to­gether?” Voila!

What kind of food do you usu­ally serve? Is it all Filipino?

Of course, be­ing Ce­buano, my fa­vorite of them all is le­chon! I love sin­ful food. A good friend of mine set up a health­ier, all- nat­u­ral type of busi­ness: Pili and Pino. We ven­tured into jams, and now we have gra­nolas. I ex­per­i­ment a lot with food. I usu­ally come up with crazy stuff [ even if I] don’t cook. The chocoron was really a hit. The other one, be­fore it be­came pop­u­lar, is ba­con with chocolate. Re­cently, Hu­man Na­ture wanted to do some­thing dif­fer­ent like a trail mix. I dried some rice, puffed it, [ mixed in the]

dilis, the fried fish, and added some beans and [ sliv­ers of ] dried man­goes. It’s the Pi­noy Trail Mix. I think that’s the cra­zi­est thing I’ve done.

What are rules a good host­ess has to fol­low?

If there are vege­tar­ian guests, know their pref­er­ences be­fore serv­ing din­ner—or at least have choices in the menu. Food is really im­por­tant; I have to make sure that the peo­ple around me are en­joy­ing what I serve them. Also, in­vite peo­ple who are fun. If I in­vite strangers, I should know the per­son­al­i­ties of each one. I should know who will get along well with whom around the ta­ble. When ev­ery­one’s hav­ing fun, you’ll be more re­laxed.

What is the per­fect gift for a host­ess?

When peo­ple ask me that, nor­mally I just tell them to come. Their pres­ence alone is a great gift. But if they bring wine along, hey, even bet­ter!

“Filipino is ev­ery­thing from how we treat our guest to how we love our chil­dren.”

AC­TIVE IN THE FOOD AND BEV­ER­AGE DEPART­MENT OF THE RE­SORT, JULIE ALE­GRADO CARE­FULLY PLANS THE MENU OF THE EVENING AND SERVES IN­TER­EST­ING ED­I­BLES LIKE HER TAKE ON SPICY CHOCORON.

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