Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest — errr — the best chef of them all?
These days, it just isn’t easy to stand out as a chef. Particularly for regional chefs. You can cook the best food but not become known on a national level. You can have the best attitude and display the most ideal standards of professionalism but not get your dream job in the city.
Fortunately for promising chefs from the different regions of the country, there are culinary competitions that, like singing contests to budding singers or reality shows to young and raw talents who show acting potentials, seek to find the best talents among the sea of culinary wannabes and give them the big break that they deserve.
Just recently, Solane, one of the leading brands of liquefied petroleum gas (LPGs) in the country, undertook the task of looking for the next culinary master of the Philippines via the Solane Kitchen Hero Chefs’ Edition. A nationwide cooking competition that aimed to discover a new generation of talented local chefs, the Solane Kitchen Hero Chefs’ Edition left no stones unturned in its effort to find the most promising culinary talents by bringing the competition to them instead of waiting for them to come to the metro to take a shot at the title. The Solane team — led by Isla LPG Corp. chief executive officer Ruben Domingo, Solane marketing manager Valeri Villano, renowned chef and Solane Kitchen Hero ambassador Chef Sau del Rosario, and best-selling cookbook author and Solane Kitchen Hero competition director Nancy Reyes-Lumen — traveled around the country for a series of regional competitions. They found a total of 15 talented chefs, who emerged as the regional winners and competed in the semi-finals, where the top five qualifiers were picked.
The grand finals took place at Eton Centris in Quezon City, where the grand finalists whipped up their best dishes in the final cook-off for the honor of being the first-ever Solane Kitchen Hero.
“Throughout the competition, we were awed by the exemplary dishes we have encountered, as well as the outstanding level of culinary expertise we have seen from our chefs. We said in the beginning that we aim to recognize these chefs who can bring Filipino cuisine to the world stage, and I think we have successfully achieved that,” says Isla LPG Corp. chief executive officer Ruben Domingo.
Hailed as the grand champion of the Solane Kitchen Hero Chefs’ Edition was chef Roseller Fiel II of Region IX. He presented a three-course meal made up of kilawin na baboy with butter-poached lobster, grilled talong, and ampalaya and coconut vinaigrette for the salad; humba Bisaya with brown rice pilaf for the main dish; and dodol with caramel tisa sauce and peanut-ginger brittle for the dessert.
Fiel earned the nod of the distinguished panel of judges led by chef Sau and Reyes-Lumen along with other accomplished food experts and chefs based on the 50 percent featured ingredients and 50 percent originality and creativity criteria of the competition.
For besting four other grand finalists — chefs McRhyan Rodrigo, Jan Daryl Doculan, Marlo Semblante and June Rey Tunog — Fiel took home P100,000, and part of his prize package was a culinary trip to Japan with customized stops at different food and drink destinations.
Supporting the Solane Kitchen Hero Chefs’ Edition were STI as official school partner; Midea as co-presenter; Masflex, Jolly, Jolly Heartmate Canola Oil, Doña Elena and Doña Elena Al Dente as major sponsors; and King Sue, Ajinomoto, Philtranco, Fastcat, Chef’s Garb and National Bookstore as minor sponsors.