Sunday, July 13, 2014

Starstruck Friday with chefs

Margarita Fores. Jose Luis Gonzalez. Julieta Caruso.

Wow! One of the best ways to end the week is to talk food with chefs. And in this case, I was amid three famous chefs, and I just can't believe that I'd beeen speaking with these people! I best know Fores for Cibo, one of the restaurants I frequent when I'm in the mood for pasta in Makati. And she's also behind Cafe Bola, where cousins, nephews, and I used to eat (again in Makati) before we watched a World Cup match in one of the sports bars many years ago. Gonzalez, on the other hand, is the owner of Vask, a Spanish restaurant at the Fort... a restaurant that I will try out at some stage because I haven't eaten in a resto where the chefs practice molecular gastronomy. Then there's Caruso, the former head chef of Mugaritz, just one of the best restaurants in the world.

Who wouldn't be starstruck, right?

But I couldn't go all fan girl mode because they dropped by IRRI to discuss rice. I had to keep my brain in check; they were there for business and I had to put my game face on. 

I learned a lot from their visit to IRRI. For one, Chef Gonzalez had some Arroz Bomba on him... a  Spanish rice variety that is specially used for paella. This is one of those occasions when I was really excited because I have never seen or tasted Bomba before. I wanted to check if the grains were tasty so I munched on some raw grains. It tastes sweet! No wonder it's famous! I just don't know if it tastes the same when Bomba is cooked in water, the way Filipinos do it.

On the other hand, IRRI staff involved in the Heirloom Rice Project were also there to give information about the different types of rice being grown by people up in the Cordillera mountains. These rice varieties are special because the seeds for planting have been passed on through generations. The Philippine government has, thankfully, recognized the importance of the cultural traditions and of the rice varieties, and is currently helping these isolated farmers preserve the rice terraces and continue producing these highly valuable varieties.

There's a tale behind each rice variety and it is fascinating for me, as a rice eater, to learn more about the history and the cultural perspective of the rice I'm eating. The human story behind each packet of rice adds value and adds richness to the experience of eating the rice. And culinary artists, such as these recent visitors, were surely fascinated as well.

I look forward to being in touch with them in the future and eating in their restaurants! Then, I'll be on full fan girl mode. Yumyum!!