state of independence
Embalzoned on her chef ’s jacket, directly above her heart is “I Pope Francis”. The experience of having been chosen to cook for the Pope at the Apostolic Nunciature during his visit to Manila three years ago, has obviously stayed with Jessie Sincioco. Her warm smile, and bright, almost beatific demeanor is as charming as that of Il Papa’s. And her continuing passion for her profession, so apparent when she talked about the dishes she’s prepared for her ongoing showcase at the Manila Hotel, is really quite inspirational.
Chef Jessie’s come a long way from winning the grand prize in the Great Maya Cookfest 35 years ago. That catapulted the young pastry master into the upper reaches of the country’s culinary stratosphere: from the legendary Le Soufflé restaurants to her eponymous establishment at the Rockwell Club. Through it all, she’s remained approachable, never aloof. A most humble and down-to-earth lady who’s regarded with the highest degree of respect, and genuine affection, by her peers in the industry.
Her menu for the “kaBAYANIhan’ food festival at the Cafe Ilang-Ilang, which runs until September 2, is dedicated to the Filipinos who laid the foundation for our country’s freedom. The research that went into the dishes was thorough, of course, and the results are deeply informative and endlessly fascinating. Melchora Aquino, a.k.a. Tandang Sora, the Mother of the Katipuneros, used to prepare a tinola recipe thickened with rice; a historic comfort food that nourished the bodies and lifted the spirits of the revolutionaries. That globetrotting man of the world, Gat. Jose Rizal always loved coming home to his favorite Bistek Tagalog. Those two classics, and more, are elevated with Chef Jessie’s unmistakable touch. It’s a culinary throwback that shouldn’t be missed. And it’s most apt that one of the Philippines’s top chefs, an icon to many, has once again been blessed with an opportunity to honor her heroes.