Barni making a name of her own
DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda (The Philippine Star) - August 19, 2015 - 10:00am

The Alejandro clan (which includes Original Kilabot ng Kolehiyala Hajji, his daughter Rachel, son Ali and nephew Nino of The Voice fame) cannot be doubted when it comes to singing and performing music.

But to this musically-famous family also belongs Barni Alejandro-Rennebeck, sister of Rachel and daughter of Hajji but who has built her reputation in another field: Food and cooking. Barni is a trained chef and the brains behind The Sexy Chef, the food business she started with Rachel back when healthy eating was not even a buzz phrase among the public.

Barni, a graduate of the International School of Culinary Arts and Hotel Management (ISCAHM), and Rachel have just come out with their own cookbook, titled Eat, Clean, Love. The title pertains to sections, or chapters, in the book: “Eat” contains breakfast recipes, healthy Filipino favorites, and low-carb recipes; “Clean” is the section for detoxifying dishes like vegetarian meals and green smoothies; while “Love” contains recipes for kids, comfort food and healthy desserts.

According to Barni — who spent up to a year working on the book with Rachel — they felt compelled to come up with a cookbook because their clients demanded it. “Our clients are long-term, and they’re always asking, “Wala na bang bago?” They always ask for something new, and there’s constant pressure to reinvent ourselves and what we offer,” she says. When the Eat, Clean, Love project was hatched, about a year had passed since their last cookbook, so they felt the time was ripe for another one. “So we started compiling recipes, testing them, and doing the food styling and photography, writing and editing.”

The recipes in Eat, Clean, Love were born out of the sisters’ love for food, their passion for health and wellness, and in some cases, necessity. The last item, Barni developed to deal with the eating problems posed by her daughter Arya, who’s two years old. “I was given a picky eater, and she’s my worst customer,” laughs Barni. “I would make her organic fruit and vegetable purees when she was younger, but when she got older, she started asking for chicken nuggets and french fries. I said, ‘This can’t be happening! I’m the Sexy Chef, and my daughter eats like that!’ That’s when I got into developing healthy versions of the things she likes to eat, like french fries, but made from zucchini.”

One of the requirements their publishers had for the cookbook was that the recipes had to be fast and easy to make, and that all the ingredients be available locally and in groceries (and if not, there had to be substitutes that were readily available). For their Zucchini Fries recipe, for instance, the ingredients include parmesan cheese, garlic powder, black pepper, eggs and refined coconut oil, all easily available.

Arya took to the Zucchini Fries and loves eating them. Barni says that as a mom, “you just try your best and know what’s good for them. Like she (Arya) doesn’t eat rice, so I always have to think of ways to give her good carbohydrates. I think that with kids or anyone, for that matter, the thing is to always introduce something new. You just have to keep trying, because you never know.”

The cookbook also contains coupons and gift cards that can be redeemed for additional values to the readers, such as a P1,500 gift card which entitles the book buyer to a discount on any of The Sexy Chef’s 14-day diet plans. There’s also a coupon for a free Healthy Indulgence dessert for any of their five-day fit meal packages.

With their food business and now the cookbook, Barni has found her niche. She’s not saying ‘no’ to singing — “I was in choir before, and I like singing in a group, but not by myself; I’d sing in the car and in the shower, and I did back-up vocals for Rachel before when I was in a band, but then I realized I wanted to do something different, and this (food business) was it.”

Barni hopes that more people will latch on to the healthy eating habit they’re trying to promote.

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