Cook­ing is art

Tempo - - News - Dr. Ra­mon Ri­cardo A. Roque, CESOI, Di­plo­mate

CRE­ATIVE in­di­vid­u­als are ver­sa­tile and they do what­ever is at hand with pas­sion and en­thu­si­asm to reach their goals.

In­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed Chef Claude Tayag is one. He is a painter, sculp­tor, fur­ni­ture de­signer, chef, food and travel writer, restau­ra­teur, and food his­to­rian, and hopes to write soon “an­other chap­ter” of his life – his own food movie. “As an artist, you are a free thinker. Do not put a limit on how you can do [things]”, he said.

Chef Claude fol­lows his heart and turns those pas­sions into suc­cess. His love for arts and cook­ing be­gan in his early child­hood, worked hard to per­fec­tion through the years un­til he reached the sum­mit of his suc­cess.

A self-taught culi­nary ex­pert, Chef Claude’s “hands-on” train­ing and “for­mal ac­cep­tance of the pub­lic” of his cook­ery held him in high es­teem by his col­leagues.

Her­itage has a strong in­flu­ence on his love for cook­ing as he grew up in Pam­panga, the Food Cap­i­tal of the Philip­pines, and reared in a large fam­ily of eight boys. “Can you imag­ine the amount of cook­ing that our mother did?”, he ex­claimed. As the “kusin­era” was al­ways fully oc­cu­pied at times, their mother taught them to be self-re­liant in the kitchen and he be­gan ex­per­i­ment­ing on food in high school.

Known as a “cook­ing per­son” amongst friend-food­ies, Chef Claude cooked for his col­lege bud­dies in the late 70’s. His mar­riage in 1988 to Mary Ann, also a Ka­pam­pan­gan, was the birth of what he called a “per­fect team” which he com­pared to a house – his wife as the “front of the house” en­ter­tain­ing friends and him­self as the “back of the house” cook­ing in the kitchen. As the cou­ple en­joyed en­ter­tain­ing groups of friends and rel­a­tives at home, their hos­pi­tal­ity and sump­tu­ous dishes spread by word of mouth to a net­work of food­ies. Food critic Doreen Fer­nan­dez’ ad­vice was to open their house to the pub­lic even by reser­va­tion only. Bale Datung, mean­ing Wooden House, which he per­son­ally de­signed from scratch and scrap, was fi­nally es­tab­lished in 2000.

Bale Datung show­cases pop­u­lar Filipino dishes from dif­fer­ent re­gions that An­thony Bour­dain came for in 2008. The sim­ple and sub­tle taste of Filipino cui­sine makes it “good as it is” dis­tinc­tive from other in­ter­na­tional dishes. He noted that ev­ery re­gion has its food pro­file ac­cord­ing to lo­cally fa­vored taste – Ilo­cos Re­gion is known for its pa­pai­tan with a bit­ter taste, Pam­panga for its sweet dishes, Bi­col for chili, Cebu for le­chon, Iloilo for Chicken Inasal, to name a few.

“Filipino cui­sine is a sym­phony of fla­vors - sweet, sour, bit­ter, and salty. Just play around those fla­vors, put in dif­fer­ent de­grees, and that’s the ‘linam­nam’”, he said. What is im­por­tant for him is to “keep the essence of the dish, not only the tra­di­tional in­gre­di­ent… may look dif­fer­ent, but that’s the artist in me”. His ad­vice to culi­nary school grad­u­ates, “keep the pas­sion, keep the de­ter­mi­na­tion, show ex­cel­lence in what­ever you do, then you will get no­ticed and pro­moted”.

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