CLAUDE AND MARY ANN TAYAG

How Claude and Mary Ann Tayag (with a lit­tle help from An­thony Bour­dain) jump­started the global fame of Filipino Food.

Let’s Eat - - CONTENTS - WORDS BY SPANKY HIZON EN­RIQUEZ

The big­gest culi­nary news of 2008 was the first visit of An­thony Bour­dain to the Philip­pines. It was all very hush-hush in the be­gin­ning, the news shared furtively only by those in the know. Ap­par­ently, the pro­duc­ers of his show, “No Reser­va­tions” were stick­lers for con­fi­den­tial­ity; any leak, any on­line scoop, was quashed im­me­di­ately. But Bour­dain then, as he still is now, was the most prom­i­nent name in world­wide foodie fan­dom, so it was dif­fi­cult to sup­press in­for­ma­tion about his lo­cal itin­er­ary, which in­cluded a trip to Pam­panga, where he would be hosted by Claude and Mary Ann Tayag.

Bour­dain, not sur­pris­ingly, fell in love with sisig (and San Miguel Pale Pilsen) while in the com­pany of the cou­ple, and like­wise fell into a se­ri­ous and lengthy dis­course about the com­plex na­ture of Filipino Food. That con­ver­sa­tion, a deep dive into the in­flu­ences that de­fine the char­ac­ter of our cui­sine, be­came the cen­ter­piece of the episode, which be­came one of the se­ries’ most watched ever. It be­came a bench­mark, and a cat­a­lyst. Sud­denly, our cui­sine be­came part of the global con­ver­sa­tion: ev­ery for­eign food show made fea­tur­ing our coun­try a pri­or­ity, and all the in­dus­try’s renowned in­ter­na­tional per­son­al­i­ties – tele­vi­sion hosts and celebrity chefs alike -- made a pil­grim­age to “Bale Du­tung” in An­ge­les City, where the Tayags, with their wit, hu­mor, and to-die-for de­gus­ta­tions, made ev­ery sin­gle one of the VIPs fall for kare-kare, le­chon, and of course, sisig.

A decade on, Filipino Food is reach­ing peak pop­u­lar­ity in the United States. It’s not the “next big thing” any­more: it is un­equiv­o­cally, The Big Thing. And that can be at­trib­uted, in no small mea­sure, to Claude and his “dar­leng”, Mary Ann, the charm­ing hus­band and wife who first in­tro­duced, and so pas­sion­ately ex­plained and beau­ti­fully demon­strated, Philip­pine Cui­sine to Bour­dain and his mil­lions of fans, ten years ago.

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