Simply Jessie

Ching M. Alano (The Philippine Star) - October 16, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - They simply love chef Jessie Sinciocos cooking with a passion. Jessie’s menu is star-studded. Batangas Governor Vilma Santos is a familiar face at Chef Jessie Rockwell Club, where she indulges in her favorite Salad a la Vi. Mega star Sharon Cuneta had her mega share of the Goose Liver a la Mega before she declared, “It’s do or diet!” Vice President Jejomar Binay can eat three platefuls of the halaan soup with malunggay in one sitting. Expect something fishy every time Erap Estrada eats at Chef Jessie Rockwell Club — bacalao (salted cod), which he keeps coming back for.  For former Miss Universe Gloria Diaz, chef Jessie created a most beautiful Gateau Gloria, a cake with triple layers of dark, milk, and white chocolate mousses with ganache topping. Kris Aquino’s big favorite is the Pasta a la Jessie (with scallops, prawns, mushroom, asparagus with garlic, paprika sauce done gambas style). There’s Tenderloin a la Aga named after Aga Muhlach who’s a big fan of chef Jessie’s steaks. Another big steak eater is basketball/TV star Chris Tiu, who had his wedding reception at Chef Jessie Rockwell Club where Jessie served, what else, but steak and seabass. National Book Store’s well-loved matriarch Nanay Socorro Ramos simply loves Jessie’s duck adobo. VSR Salad was named by chef Jessie after Gift Gate/Swatch lady boss Virgie Ramos, who loves Jessie’s mesclun greens with prawns, scallops, and mushroom. For the NBS family, chef Jessie also created  Pasta a la Ben Ramos and Miguel Ramos Truffle Omelette. Joe Mari Chan can only sing praises for chef Jessie’s alugbati salad, which he’d eat at Jessie’s resto three times a week.

Surely, chef Jessie’s celebrity clients could fill a book, but Jessie is simply too busy now to sit down and write a book. (Anvil Publishing has been courting Jessie to write a book about her famous clients.)

Jessie simply thought of food as a necessity — something to fill a hungry tummy. “Everybody eats so I have to know how to cook,” says Jessie. “At first, I was not interested in the kitchen because somebody was cooking for us at home. But there were times when the cook would disappear so I had to help my aunt (Lita Sincioco Dy), who raised me starting when I was eight turning nine years old. We’d go to the market together and go home lugging a basketful of things to cook.”

Somehow, somewhere, Jessie, who graduated with a Banking and Finance degree, took another career path. “I learned how to cook from my aunt, magaling siya talaga,” Jessie gushes. “So, I was already cooking at a young age. But when we were sauteeing garlic and onion, I would stay away because I don’t like the smell of garlic.”

Jessie’s Tita Lita taught her how to bake as they prepared to join the Great Maya Cookfest, where Jessie won the grand prize. “We had to concoct an original dessert,” says Jessie. “We did a mango cake with whipped cream incorporated in the sponge. Yes, I can still do this for special occasions.”

After winning the Maya cookfest, she was offered a three-month training in pastry making at Hotel InterContinental. But one month into her training, a member of the staff resigned and she became the first female pastry chef in the history of the local hotel industry dominated by male pastry chefs.

Oui, in Le Souffle, her first restaurant venture, Jessie specialized in French Mediterranean cuisine. “I love Paris, I love French food, but being a Filipina, even if my training was abroad and some of the places where I trained wanted to get me to work for them, I said no, I have to go home to my country,” says the very nationalistic Jessie.

Jessie wanted to make Filipino food known to both Filipinos and foreigners — Filipino food with an international flair.

Ever tried chef Jessie’s alugbati salad? Jessie took the lowly alugbati out of its obscurity, mixed it up with Parmesan flakes and prosciutto, and dressed it with wasabi vinaigrette. “A lot of people couldn’t believe alugbati could be served raw,” an amused Jessie reveals. “To my surprise, even my affluent clients would order alugbati. And to think that people thought of alugbati as just something you added to munggo or as food for the maids.”

Then there’s Jessie’s signature duck adobo with crispy skin. “I really did this for Pael Romualdez, husband of Yvonne Romualdez of Miladay. He loves it so much, binabalikbalikan nya.”

Chef Jessie not only knows her onions; she makes it a point to know just what her clients want to eat and she cooks it for them. But you won’t find many celebrity dishes listed in Jessie’s resto’s menu because they’re just too many.





The articulate Jessie will never run out of stories to tell about her famous clients. “When Gloria Macapagal was president, she celebrated her birthday here at Rockwell, sponsored by her Cabinet members,” Jessie relates. “They ordered a set menu. For dessert, they said her favorite was durian and chocolate. So I made a special dessert for her — I flambeed the durian and mixed it with chocolate souffle. GMA had two servings. Her daughter Luli told me, ‘My God, Jessie, you should have seen my mom sniff your dessert!’”

Recently, Jessie prepared dinner for the Singapore Embassy which feted Singapore’s Minister of Defense. Jessie whipped up some Pinoy pica-picas for the cocktails, consisting of kesong puti canapes and kare-kare on prawn crackers. For the dinner, Jessie made her famous alugbati salad with dulong and tamarind vinaigrette, chicken binakol soup served in coconut shell, and, for the main course, bangus belly stuffed with chopped ginger, shallots, tomato, and wrapped in banana leaves and grilled.

Tita Cory (Aquino) loved Jessie’s savory spinach mushroom souffle. When she started to get sick, all she would eat was her spinach mushroom souffle with a sliver of goose liver.

At Cory’s burial, Jessie served 5,000 pieces of baked pan de sal with cheese, which is now called Tita Cory pan de sal.

Always giving her dishes that personal, unique Jessie touch, Jessie never ceases to amaze our taste buds. If you love chicken adobo, you’ll love even more Jessie’s chicken adobo. Allowing the chicken to sit overnight in its adobo marinade (vinegar, soy sauce, laurel, peppercorn, and lots of garlic), Jessie tops it with kesong puti and a big slice of tomato, and then charcoal-grills it.

These VIPs must love what Jessie’s doing because every time there’s a special occasion in their lives, they celebrate it with chef Jessie.

Governor Vilma Santos-Recto holds her important transactions at Chef Jessie Rockwell Club. “We always prepare a round table for her upstairs, she says our place is lucky for her,” says Jessie.

But you don’t really have to have an occasion to celebrate when you come to Jessie’s resto. Comedienne Mitch Valdes likes spending some “me” time at Chef Jessie Rockwell Club when she’s not too busy.  She comes in between lunch and dinner, sits in her favorite corner, and reads a book while eating. “And she really treats herself,” says Jessie. “She’d order a salad and rib eye.”

The secret to chef Jessie’s success is really plain and simple. “I only use the freshest ingredients, the best that I can find,” Jessie stresses. “If there’s anything I won’t scrimp on, it’s the ingredients. If I find an ingredient better than what I’m using, I will get that. Quality is foremost while price is only secondary. I will use only products of the best quality, because if I don’t, I will only come up with a substandard dish. If I use only the best ingredients, I will come up with the best dish.”

Chef Jessie has started serving high tea at her 100 Revolving Restaurant in Eastwood, Quezon City. (She’s been doing high tea for a long time in Rockwell.) “I do high tea two ways: the traditional high tea with scones, jam, tea sandwiches, pastries; and Filipino high tea which is what else but our favorite Filipino merienda of lumpiang ubod, pancit, puto (puti and pandan), kuchinta, turon, halo-halo, downed with salabat.”

High tea is the best time to enjoy a 360° revolving view of the city at 100 as you wait for the amazing blazing sunset to come into view. Now, with the afternoon tea, there are more highs to be enjoyed at 100.

Asked about her dream guest, chef Jessie is quick to reply: the Pope! “I want to cook for any pope, because popes are the simplest people on earth and I want to find out if my style of cooking would measure up to the Pope’s standards.”

Jessie would love to go back to her first love and put up her own pastry shop. Meanwhile, she has declined offers to do her own TV show. “I don’t want to be obsessed with fame,” she confesses. “Not that I don’t want fame, it’s just that I just want to be an ordinary mortal.”

Simply Jessie! Simply glorious food!

* * *

Chef Jessie Rockwell Club is located on the ground level, Amorsolo Drive, Rockwell Center, Makati with telephone numbers 890-6543 and 890-7630 and cell phone number 09178585466; email rockwell.club@chefjessie. 100 Revolving Restaurant is on the 33rd floor, MDC 100 Building, C5 corner Eastwood Drive, Quezon City with telephone number 962-1016 and cell phone number 09178330797. Top of the Citi by Chef Jessie is located on the 34th floor, Citi Bank Tower, Paseo de Roxas, Makati with telephone number 750-5810 and cell phone number 09178585465. Visit www.facebook.com/chefjessierestaurants.

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