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Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Meeting the new executive chef

Dr. Nestor Alonso ll - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – The road to become an executive chef is extremely difficult. First, you must have that keen sense of taste and smell. Then, you must have the ability to work with a team with a keen attention to details, learn management skills and possess physical fitness and endurance. Imagine yourself cooking for 5,000 people and you have to be on your feet for extended periods of time, lifting heavy pots and boxes of ingredients and you will understand what I am saying. No wonder that most executive chefs are men!

Quest Hotel & Conference Center Cebu (phone 402-5999, email [email protected]) has a new Executive Chef, Jerry Montenegro Cruz and Marcom Officer Ian Baol invited a select group of media practitioners to the Chef's Table at the Pusô Bistro and Bar.

The opening dish was a salad called Cherry Tomato in Balsamic with French bread topped with Cream Cheese. Cherry tomatoes are now in vogue because it has more flavors compared to our native tomatoes, which are bred with thick skin to withstand rough handling. There is a way to extract the maximum flavor from tomatoes and I have seen this in a video, In Search of Perfection, by Heston Blumenthal. He uses the vine (attachment of fruit to plant) and places it in a bag of puréed tomatoes and sets this in the fridge for an hour. Cooking it, however, destroys the smell.

Soup was Roasted Carrot and Pepper Coulis with Pesto Crostini.  Coulis refers to puréed veggies to form a sauce while pesto is a mix of basil, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil. Crostini is toasted bread with toppings and in this dish, it is pesto. There is a layer of flavors when you taste the soup punctuated by the texture of the pesto crostini and the combination results in a delicious soup.

Main dish was the Roasted Lamb Rack in Vegetable Risotto with Piquant Sauce. It was very bold for Executive Chef Jerry Montenegro Cruz to use lamb because even in this day and age, I have observed 30 percent of Cebuanos do not like lamb and 40 percent do not eat medium rare meat. Best to ask the clients about their preference!

It has been years since I ate lamb served medium rare and this occurred during a La Chaine des Rotisseurs dinner. The Italian Chef/Director of Food and Beverage was from the region of Emilia Romagna and he said that it was their custom to cook it that way. Some members requested the Chef to do a bit more cooking but I ate my portion because of my guiding principle to become a gourmet - taste any food served at least once. Honestly, it was a struggle to swallow it, at that time.

Dessert was Chocolate Hazelnut Lava Cake and my beloved readers know that dessert is not really my forte but during this lunch, it was for me, excuse me, the best dish. There was an element of surprise in my palate to encounter the cold Chocolate Hazelnut and the warm Lava Cake together and if this was a dance number, the pair executed the perfect tango. Simply wonderful!

ATILDE

BISTRO AND BAR

CHERRY TOMATO

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT LAVA CAKE

CONFERENCE CENTER CEBU

CREAM CHEESE

DIRECTOR OF FOOD AND BEVERAGE

EMILIA ROMAGNA

EXECUTIVE CHEF

EXECUTIVE CHEF JERRY MONTENEGRO CRUZ

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