17/12/2010: FILIPINO COOKING COMPETITION - KULINARYA SHOWDOWN FINALS 2010 SUCCESSFULLY HELD IN SAN FRANCISCO
The final round of Kulinarya Showdown 2010, the first-ever Filipino cooking competition of its kind, was recently held at the City View at the Metreon Center in San Francisco last Saturday, December 2010.
Six contestants, three in the amateur and three in the professional divisions competed in the event which sought to showcase the talent and skill of numerous Filipino American Bay Area chefs.
Mr. Nathan Camba won in the amateur division, and Mr. Edgar Grajo won in the professional division.
Nathan, the youngest participant, in the competition, is a 19-year-old college student from San Jose, California and works as a part-time host at the San Jose Fish Market on Blos som Hill Road. He has an innate passion for the culinary arts - inherited from his mother and her family and has been whipping up various Filipino dishes since he was little.
Edgar presently works as a Hospitality Consultant in various hotels and restaurants. He inspires many culinary students on both sides of the Pacific as Chef Instructor at the
Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, Kitchen Academy in Sacramento and Center of American Studies in Manila. He has also been the Banquet Chef at the Meritage Hotel and Resort for the last five years.
Mr. Camba and Mr. Grajo were part of the six winners in the semi-finals competition and the launching event of Kulinarya: A Filipino Culinary Showdown held in August during the Pistahan Parade and Festival at Yerba Buena Gardens.
The other competitors in the finals competition who were part of the winners in the semi-finals were Clemente Escopete and Ms. Aileen Suzara in the amateur division and Chef Kristela Mendoza and Chef Cocoy Ventura in the professional division.
Clemente Escopete or “Uncle Clem” learned to cook as a young child, together with his other siblings when they prepared family meals. Mr. Escopete is an architect by profession but has a passion for cooking and is the “keeper” of family recipes. Ms. Aileen Suzara is a second generation Filipina-American educator and environmental advocate. She sees food as an irresistible tool for connecting culture and community.
Kristela Nazario Mendoza is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy and an A.O.S. degree holder from Le Cordon Bleu accredited program. She won the “Iron Chef 2010” competition of the Sysco San Francisco Annual Product Show. She currently works as the Executive Chef at Pyramid Breweries in Berkeley, Ca. Cornelio “Cocoy“ Ventura, born in Manila and who now calls Napa Valley “home”, presently operates the Central Reservations department of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group which includes Bouchon Bistro and Ad Hoc Restaurant in Yountville, Ca. He is affiliated with 3-star Michelin-rated restaurant, the French Laundry. The primary focus in his culinary repertoire is rehabilitation and promotion of fine Filipino cuisine, with gravitas and pride that all Filipinos can be proud of.
Unlike the semi-finals, the finals competition required all the participants to cook four dishes on-site. This included an appetizer or a soup, their version of the Philippine “Adobo”, another main entrée, and a Filipino-inspired dessert.
Nathan Camba’s winning menu included “Kangkong“ fingers (appetizer), Chicken Adobo Bikolano (Abodo), Escabecheng Lapu Lapu (entrée) and Ginumis with Langka (dessert).
Edgar Grajo’s winning menu consisted of “Kinilaw na Tuna” (appetizer), Grilled Squid with Adobo Aioli (Adobo), Trio Adobo: Lechon Kawali Adobo, Grilled Adobong Pusit with Adobo Aioli Sauce and Stuffed Chicken Leg Adobo with Lemongrass Rice (main course), and Halo-Halo deconstructed (dessert).
The distinguished panel of judges that had the difficult task of scoring the dishes included Mrs. Tess Paynor, SF Weekly food writer Jun Belen, San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Lynne Bennett, freelance food writer and consultant Nancy Freeman, Academy Café Executive Chef Kelly Degala and Swell Restaurant Executive Chef Thomas Weibull.
As part of their prizes, the winners received roundtrip tickets to the Philippines, deluxe hotel accommodations, and a “Kulinarya” tour of the Philippines. This price package was sponsored by the Philippine Department of Tourism, Philippine Airlines, Intercontinental Hotel, Makati Shangri-La and The Peninsula Manila.
Kulinarya Showdown 2010 not only featured a cooking competition but also showcased a Filipino food and beverage product which was participated in by some of the Bay Area’s Filipino restaurants and food suppliers. It also featured a Christmas bazaar participated by various Filipino exhibitors, entrepreneurs and companies.
Kulinarya Showdown 2010 is an initiative of the Philippine Consulate General and its attached agencies, the Philippine Department of Tourism, the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Center Management Board and the Filipino American Arts Exposition, and other members of the Filipino American Community. It was sponsored by Westfield Metreon, Western Union, Ramar Foods, Silver Legacy and ABS-CBN. Media sponsors included The Examiner, New America Media, Asian Journal, Philippine Headlines, Philippine News and Philippines Today.
Its mission and vision was to heighten the consciousness and deepen the appreciation by the public of the rich culinary heritage of the Philippines, to promote its appreciation in the San Francisco Bay area through the various Filipino restaurants and Filipino food suppliers and to identify the Philippines as a stellar destination in the culinary world.
A souvenir Kulinarya Magazine was printed as a companion piece to this event and to inspire Kulinarya attendees to stay connected to Philippine cuisine. The magazine included recipes of Filipino dishes submitted by the six contestants, as well as a Filipino Dining Guide. Additional copies are available at the Philippine Tourism Office located in the Philippine Consulate on 447 Sutter Street, Suite 507, in San Francisco. They can be reached at (415) 956-4060 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kulinarya Showdown 2010 is a launching event in what is hoped to be a template activity in the coming years in the nationwide advocacy towards appreciation of Philippine heritage and culture through cuisine and tourism.